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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6595

Mr HUNT (3:07 PM) —I refer the now Prime Minister to her central role as Deputy Prime Minister in the design, approval and delivery of the disastrous pink batts program, which has been linked to four tragedies, 174 known house fires, 1,500 potentially deadly electrified roofs and the installation of dodgy or dangerous insulation in 240,000 Australian homes. Will the Prime Minister apologise to the families affected by this program and will she ensure that every one of the more than one million homes at risk is inspected for safety as a matter of urgency?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for his question. Of course I regret and am sorry for any harm caused or inconvenience or anxiety that Australian families have felt arising from the Home Insulation Program—of course I do. As is well known in this parliament and well known in the community, there were some tragic deaths involving young people that are the province of proper inquiries—coronial inquiries, occupational health and safety inquiries and the like. When any person dies at work, obviously that is a tragedy. We have proper processes to investigate such tragedies and they are in train now.

I say to the member that the government acknowledged, and I acknowledge on the government’s behalf, that this program did become a mess and the government had to act. We did act and we continue to act through the relevant minister to deal with the consequences of this program, including the need for inspections. But what I would also say to the member who has asked the question is that he is well aware that the insulation program was part of the urgent delivery of economic stimulus as we did what had to be done in response to the global financial crisis. These were difficult circumstances: the biggest global economic downturn since the Great Depression. We faced a prospect where hundreds of thousands of additional Australians could have been out of work. I understand from the voting record of the member and the voting record of the Leader of the Opposition that they continue to be and were at the time less concerned than us about keeping Australians in work. But we are driven by a passion of ensuring that we keep Australians in work.

Mr Hunt —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. Is the Prime Minister saying that these tragedies were acceptable collateral damage?

The SPEAKER —The member for Flinders will resume his seat. The raising of a point of order is not an opportunity to raise a supplementary question. The Prime Minister is responding to the question. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD —And of course I can say to the member that that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that we provided urgent economic stimulus because we were deeply and passionately concerned about the circumstances of working Australians and wanted to enable them to have the benefits and dignity of work and the ability to take a pay packet home, to pay their mortgages and provide all of the things that families need for the care of children and for looking after themselves. That is what is drove us to provide economic stimulus.

On the Home Insulation Program, we have and I am prepared to fulsomely acknowledge the major problems with this program that caused the government to terminate it and which means now that the relevant minister, Minister Combet, is dealing with arrangements including the making available of home inspections.