House debates

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Prime Minister

Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

3:11 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage) Share this | Hansard source

I second the motion. Let me be clear from the outset that under every principle of Westminster government the environment minister deserves to go. We have a government that is in denial about 1,000 electrified roofs, a government that is in denial about the tragic human consequences of a program and a government that is in denial about at least 13 different warnings from credible authorities. That is why this minister deserves to go. These results came about directly because of a program which was put in place, which was not audited, about which there were warnings and about which the key things were ignored.

Let me set out very briefly, so the House knows, the 13 different occasions on which this minister ignored his fundamental duties. The duty of a minister and of a government is to protect their citizens, not to endanger them. On 9 March we know that the CEO of the National Electrical and Communications Association warned the minister in a direct letter, which was only dragged out of him yesterday, that there were real and inherent risks. Beyond that, in March of 2009 EE-Oz, the union trainers, wrote to the minister’s department. They also warned of dangers. They also warned of the need for action. On 2 April, in something which was not acknowledged today in the minister’s statement, the South Australian Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Gail Gago, also warned about risks under his program in terms of human safety.

Most damningly, in an item which was neglected from his answer yesterday, on 29 April there was a teleconference between state and territory fair trading agencies which warned about the program being effectively unregulated and which protested at the risk of loss of human life. But it goes beyond that. On 18 May there was a media release by Master Electricians Australia entitled ‘Insulation scheme prompts timely fire safety warning’. And there were more warnings. On 16 June the Western Australian government warned of the fire dangers of roof insulation and warned more generally of real risks under the program.

15:14:34 On 16 October in a letter from Master Electricians Australia to Mr Garrett, not acknowledged previously prior to today, we know that the minister was warned of the risk of death—‘further fatalities’ were the exact words—if the program was not withdrawn for foil batts. There was no qualification: withdraw the program for foil batts or face the risk of ‘further fatalities’. That was a tragic warning, and that foresight was ignored with fatal consequences. We know also that on 16 October, Master Electricians Australia put out a press release to that effect, again not acknowledged today in the statement.

On 20 October, Master Electricians Australia met with the minister. On 23 October, the National Electrical and Communications Association warned of the dangers of fire and other risks in installing insulation. In 27 October, there was an all-industry meeting with his department—again warnings were given. On 4 November, there was a meeting with the department between the National Electrical and Communications Association. Then on 18 November, the New South Wales Labor minister for emergency services and consumer affairs referred to ongoing fire safety concerns around poorly installed installation.

Throughout this process, as the minister was silent, as the minister was inactive and as the minister was passive in the face of the most prominent warnings a minister of the Crown could receive, the opposition made it clear that there were real issues. We called for an Auditor-General’s inquiry on 26 August last year, before any lives were lost. We called for an Auditor-General’s inquiry on 27 August last year, before any lives were lost. We called for an urgent and comprehensive Auditors-General’s inquiry on 28 August last year, before any lives were lost—and again on 7 September, again on 6 October and again on 10 October, all before a single life was lost.

This is a minister who had forewarning not just once, twice, or three or four times, but on 13 occasions. He had approaches from us on multiple occasions. This is a minister who failed the Australian public in the most derelict way who must go and who has breached every Westminster principle of responsibility, and the Prime Minister must be censured for failing to do the right thing. (Time expired)


No comments