Former environment minister Peter Garrett says he was “gutted” by the first of four deaths under Labor’s home insulation program.
Mr Garrett has told a royal commission the electrocution of Queenslander Matthew Fuller, 25, was a sobering moment for him and others involved in the scheme.
“I was gutted when that happened,” he told the inquiry. “It meant a great deal of attention – additional attention – and focus on questions of safety necessarily took place.”
Mr Fuller died when he pierced an electrical cable with a metal staple while installing foil insulation.
After his death, Mr Garrett said the focus was to prevent further fatalities.
Yet he didn’t immediately ban foil because he was waiting to learn the full circumstances surrounding Mr Fuller’s death.
After the fatality, bureaucrats were getting advice from authorities in New Zealand where three installers died installing foil insulation in 2007.
They then advised Mr Garrett that foil shouldn’t be banned, but failed to include details about the New Zealand discussions.
“I think it (New Zealand correspondence) should have been followed through and brought to my attention,” he said.
Mr Garrett said he also wasn’t advised to order power be turned off in homes while installers were working in roofs before the program’s second death.
Rueben Barnes, 16, was electrocuted while laying batts in a house in central Queensland on November 18, 2009.
Mr Garrett said he was surprised about audits which showed a high level of electrical faults in Queensland roofs.
But earlier he conceded that auditing for the program did not keep pace with the number of homes being insulated.
More than three months into the program, and just two days before Mr Fuller’s death, 432,910 homes had been insulated.
There had only been 467 roof inspections and 220 paperwork audits.
The inquiry continues.