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Rudd backs besieged Garrett

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is standing by his besieged Environment Minister, as the Federal Opposition keeps up pressure over his handling of the home insulation programme.


The Opposition has ramped up calls for Garrett’shead as more evidence emerged the minister was told of significant safety concerns over the 3.7 billion dollar roof insulation program.

Rudd this morning told the seven network that Garrett has acted on advice from federal bureaucrats and regulators to ensure the program’s delivery is as safe as possible.

“I have absolute confidence in the minister,”

“The handling of this very big expansion of insulation has been a huge task,” Mr Rudd said.

“The implementation has been done with the minister, his department taking advice from ministry, from the regulators on the way through.”

Speaking to the ABC this morning, Mr Garrett was repeatedly asked if he will quit.

“We’ve lifted the bar on safety as required”, the minister answered, dodging the question more than once.

‘The prime minster has expressed his confidence in the minister”, he added.

Hockey: Garrett had 13 warnings

Last night, Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey told the ABC that Garrett had received 13 prior warnings about safety problems with his program, as reports emerged that electricians say they formally warned Garrett the metal roof insulation could cost lives months before he banned it.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday told parliament if Mr Garrett was a company directory in New South Wales .. he’d be charged with industrial manslaughter.

Analysts say Garrett has become a political liability for the federal government, yet Rudd is supporting minister and ignoring calls to sack him.

So far, the coalition has failed to produce an unequivocally damning piece of evidence against Mr Garrett but the minister remains a liability for the government this election year.

Mr Rudd’s support might waver if further evidence emerges that suggests the minister should have acted earlier.

Mr Garrett admitted on Thursday his department was told as early as last April that the insulation work could be highly hazardous, with “a high likelihood of serious injury or deaths if risks were not managed”.

“As a direct response, my department moved to develop a comprehensive risk assessment, facilitated by Minter Ellison Consulting, to identify and manage the full range of risks in successful implementation of the project ahead of the full rollout on 1 July,” Mr Garrett said.

During a sustained attack in question time, Mr Garrett insisted he had done everything within his power to address the problems.

When told of the dangers posed by using metal fasteners in the installation process, Mr Garrett said: “I acted in an immediate and in a direct way.”

“I have discharged my responsibilities to the fullest capacity I can muster,” Mr Garrett said.

The opposition will continue to target him after unsuccessfully trying to censure Mr Rudd for not sacking Mr Garrett.

Mr Abbott said the minister had been derelict in his duties for not heeding earlier warnings and had tried to foist the blame for problems on rogue installers.

“This is about deaths of four young Australians flowing from the maladministration of this portfolio by this incompetent minister,” he said.

The furore over garrett has taken the spotlight off ‘bungling’ Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce in his role as the opposition finance spokesman, Mr Abbott said: “(He) hasn’t been responsible for programs that have killed people.”