Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has started giving evidence at an inquiry into Labor’s bungled home insulation scheme that will breach longstanding cabinet confidentiality rules.
His barrister, Bret Walker SC, on Wednesday argued the former Labor leader would only be able to give a full and frank testimony to the royal commission into the scheme, if he could refer to what happened in the cabinet room.
The commonwealth initially contested Mr Rudd’s bid to give uninhibited evidence, saying it would erode the confidence of current and future cabinets.
But it changed its position on Thursday.
“The commonwealth now supports public ventilation of the redacted portions of Mr Rudd’s statement,” commonwealth lawyer Tom Howe, QC, told the inquiry.
The commission then heard from Malcolm Sweeney, the father of Mitchell Sweeney – one of four young men who died while installing insulation products under the then-Labor government’s $2.8 billion scheme.
Mr Sweeney thanked the commission for trying to find the reasons for his son’s death in February 2010.
It’s four years and three months since Mr Sweeney, 22, was electrocuted laying insulation sheeting at a home in far north Queensland.
“No family should ever have to go what we’ve been through – what the families of Rueben Barnes, Matthew Fuller and Marcus Wilson had been through,” his father said, referring to the other victims.
“As Mitchell’s father it is my great hope that the findings of this commission will go a long way in helping to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
He finished with a message to his son: “I’d finally like to take this opportunity to say … we’ll never stop missing you.”
Mr Rudd’s full uncensored statement has been released publicly.
His statement says periodic reports to the cabinet committee, designed to alert ministers to programs “going off the rails”, stated the pink batts scheme was going to plan even after each of the four deaths.
“I cannot recall any of these reports through until March 2010 identifying that the home insulation program was anything other than ‘on track’,” it reads.