Government preparing home insulation scheme compensation options

Environment Minister Greg Hunt will oversee the response to the insulation royal commission. AAP/Lukas Coch

The Abbott government will appoint an outside expert to report on the lessons to be learned from Labor’s home insulation scheme, as it also prepares options for compensating families and businesses.

Delivering an interim response to the royal commission report into the scheme, which saw four deaths, Tony Abbott said Environment Minister Greg Hunt would recommend someone to address the issues identified in the report that related to the role of government.

The expert would “examine the role of ministers and officials in the development of policy and the delivery of programs to see what lessons can be learnt”.

It was necessary to go outside government and the public service to get the needed objectivity, he told Parliament.

Employment minister Eric Abetz, who is Minister Assisting for the Public Service, will consider how best to assess the report’s findings about public servants “against the Australian Public Service’s code of conduct”.

Royal Commissioner Ian Hanger found many of the programs’ shortcomings were the fault of senior managers in the public service.

They did not provide candid advice to ministers; there was a lack of expertise in the subject matter which resulted in inaccurate and poor advice; and there was a failure to provide leadership and assume responsibility for the program.

Abbott said the government was not embarking on a witch hunt.

But it had to be recognised that the program had been a failure of bureaucracy and a workplace failure as well as a political failure. “All of us should learn from this failure because … there will be times in the future when governments believe that urgent action is required, but even urgent action has to be prudent, cautious and wise.”

Abbott said he would raise at the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments the commissioner’s recommendations to improve safety in roof cavities; and other safety issues also would be examined.

The government will also look at options to compensate the next of kin of those who died. The families should know that government “won’t walk away, that government accepts responsibility and will do its best to make amends”. He had also asked ministers to develop options to compensate those with pre-existing businesses who were adversely affected by what happened with the scheme.