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Peter Garrett given no warning installers at risk

ONLY when a young man was electrocuted in a Brisbane roof did former Environment Minister Peter Garrett begin to question the advice he was hearing from his department.

Fronting a Royal Commission into the disastrous home insulation stimulus scheme on Tuesday, Mr Garrett said after the death of 25-year-old insulation worker Matthew Fuller, he was more willing to question advice.

"I always took the advice I was given seriously," Mr Garrett said.

"I did reach a point where I wasn't trustful of all the information I received."

A month after Mr Fuller's death, Rockhampton teenager Rueben Barnes, 16, died in almost identical circumstances.

The former minister said he was given no warning that installers would be at risk.

Mr Garrett's testimony is wedged between former Senator Mark Arbib and ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is to front the commission before week's end.

The Home Insulation Royal Commission is investigating whether the then-Rudd government properly understood the risks of its bungled "pink batts" stimulus program which contributed to the deaths of four installers and up to 100 house fires.

Earlier in the day, Mr Arbib faced a bruising interrogation that wrapped up his second day facing the commission.

In a particularly gruelling encounter, Mr Arbib was quizzed by barrister Bill Potts on behalf of Mr Barnes' family.

Mr Arbib was told that the dead teenager's father was sitting outside the room, watching the testimony on television.

The commission heard the teenager had no safety equipment aside from sunscreen, wore his own "Crocs" shoes and had just three weeks experience in the industry before his death.

Mr Arbib said he had no inkling that people would die as a result of the government's policy.

"You are an intelligent man with a union background," Mr Potts said.

"Being an intelligent man, you must have thought that if we are putting a whole pile of untrained people into roofs, the risk of death or injury must have been a very real risk from the very beginning."

Mr Arbib denied this.

In late 2007, a New Zealand coroner warned of the dangers of do-it-yourself installations after a man was killed as he stapled foil insulation.

Mr Arbib said if he knew of these New Zealand incidents, stringent regulations would have been put in place.

He later agreed the now-notorious pink batts scheme was flawed because the funding attracted the dishonest, was rushed, had lax regulation and was being rolled out by a department with no experience on delivering such a major policy.

Mr Garrett is expected to continue giving evidence to the commission on Wednesday, followed by former prime minister Mr Rudd.

Topics:  peter garrett


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