Opposition calls for insulation inquiry

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt has called for a judicial inquiry into the federal government’s botched home insulation scheme, which he described as “rotten to the core”.

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The axed stimulus scheme was linked to four deaths and a score of house fires.

The commonwealth auditor-general’s assessment of the scheme has found issues of safety and fraud became so widespread that the environment department became overwhelmed by the number of claims being received.

Mr Hunt said the auditor-general was unable to make recommendations about the program because the government had refused to release cabinet papers about its knowledge of the scheme.

He called for a judicial inquiry into the program, saying it was “rotten to the core”. “The auditor-general was prevented from examining the links between the program and the deaths of four young men,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

He criticised the “very narrow” terms of reference of the inquiry.

“The auditor-general was not able to inquire into the heart of the matter, the four tragic deaths associated with the program, and the auditor-general was not in a position to give recommendations given that the program was terminated.

“It is time now that (former environment minister) Peter Garrett should do the honourable thing and resign immediately.

“If not, then Julia Gillard must sack him.” He said the report confirmed that the government had prioritised economic stimulus over safety despite departmental warnings.

“This report is a fatal indictment of ministerial responsibility, of Peter Garrett’s ministerial career and of the tragedies which flowed under the home insulation program from faulty design and arrogant government,” Mr Hunt said.

“It was the decision of the gang of four to put stimulus over safety, which caused fraud, fire, failure on a massive scale and above all else contributed to the possible deaths of four beautiful young men.”

Of 13,808 insulated roofs inspected up to March, at least 29 per cent were found to have some level of deficiency, ranging from minor quality issues to serious safety concerns, the report said.

Mr Hunt said that meant up to 300,000 homes with “dangerous or dodgy” roofs remained unchecked for fire risk.

He said more than $800 million has been set aside for inspections under the home insulation safety scheme in the budget.

“It should be used because it has already been provisioned to protect existing homeowners who are at risk,” Mr Hunt said.