A senior public servant says he was treated “unethically” while devising the former government’s home insulation scheme.
A senior public servant who described Kevin Rudd as “scary” in satirical presentation slides says he was treated unethically while devising the home insulation scheme.
Federal environment department assistant secretary Kevin Keeffe told a royal commission in Brisbane on Monday it was unethical for bureaucrats not to warn him that his business model would be dumped at a meeting attended by senator Mark Arbib.
But Mr Keeffe had to defend his own actions when the inquiry was shown a series of slides he made for a presentation to environment department staff in September 2009, two months after the scheme’s rollout.
The first described former prime minister Rudd, former co-ordinator general Mark Mrdak and then environment minister Peter Garrett as “some scary people”.
“When I say scary, they were key stakeholders we had to manage,” Mr Keeffe told the inquiry.
There were also slides about “scary numbers”, “scary timelines” and “scary stakeholders” in relation to the home insulation scheme.
Earlier, the inquiry heard how Mr Keeffe was furious to learn at a March 31, 2009, meeting that his business model for the program had been dumped.
He said he should have been warned before the meeting attended by Mr Arbib, Mr Mrdak and staff at the co-ordinator-general’s office.
“It’s not the done thing in public service culture for a central agency to not give someone at my level a heads-up this is going to come,” Mr Keeffe told the inquiry.
“To have it delivered to you on a plate is unethical.”
Mr Keeffe was still fuming after the meeting, and fired off emails to others in the department.
“I’m past slow smolder (sic). Seriously cranky,” one email read.
“Still cranky at being put into unwinnable position where blame flows our way,” another said.
Before the scheme’s July 1, 2009, introduction, the environment department’s regional brokerage model was switched to a more centralised one that allowed for the participation of smaller installation businesses.
The scheme ended up being swamped by low-skilled workers who required only a general safety induction before entering ceilings.
Mr Keeffe said he pushed for installers to be trained but was overruled because the government was more concerned about job creation and stimulating the economy.
Training for installers was scaled back to include only supervisors, but Mr Keeffe said it was always his expectation that anyone entering a roof would have to first complete a five-day training course.
He also told the inquiry he didn’t expect installers in Australia to die, despite fatalities occurring in New Zealand.
Four installers died in Australia, including two who were using metal staples to secure foil insulation.
Three New Zealand installers died using the same practice in 2007.
The inquiry before commissioner Ian Hanger QC continues.