Bureaucrats involved in Labor’s botched home insulation program were under the mistaken impression the scheme’s tight rollout date was non-negotiable, a royal commission has found.
But the 300-page report contains few direct criticisms of the actions of former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
During his testimony to the inquiry, Mr Rudd blamed public servants for the program’s rushed rollout.
He accepted ultimate responsibility for the “deep tragedy” of the deaths of four young insulation installers.
The inquiry heard public servants were given just five months to devise the program in early 2009.
Public servants were already working at 100 per cent capacity when given the enormous job, witnesses told the commissioner.
The inquiry also heard staff were forced to work until 10pm and on weekends.
But Mr Rudd insisted the July 1 rollout date could have been changed if any bureaucrat raised serious safety concerns.
“I’m confident in saying the reaction of ministers would have been to say, `This has to be dealt with’,” he told the commission.
“And if that involved a delay, then that would have been the response.”
In his report, Commissioner Ian Hanger QC agreed the formulation and implementation of the program was “unduly rushed”.
He said he was satisfied there was a genuinely held belief, within both the environment department and the office of the co-ordinator general, that the rollout date could not be altered.
He speculated that public servants were unaware of the possibility of an extension.
“… there appears to have been either a miscommunication of that flexibility to DEWHA [Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts] and OCG [Office of the Co-ordinator General] officers or an unwillingness by those officers to ask” the report read.
Mr Hanger also stated that exactly how the July 1 date was reached remains unclear.
He pointed out that no public servant put in writing concerns about the government’s ability to meet the date.
The inquiry report says it was conceived “without proper thought being given to the practicality or achievability of that date”.
Four installers died under the scheme, which Mr Hanger said was rushed out, with planning and safety sacrificed for speed under a stimulus plan aimed at easing the economic pain from the global financial crisis.