The family of one of four young men who died installing roof insulation may sue the federal government.
The family of one of four young men who died installing roof insulation is considering suing the federal government over Labor’s botched home insulation scheme.
Mitchell Sweeney, 22, was electrocuted when working in a roof in a house at Millaa Millaa, in far north Queensland in early 2010.
A royal commission into the former Rudd Labor government’s scheme delivered its findings on Monday, saying it was a fatally flawed program that was rushed out and sacrificed planning for speed in a scramble to boost the economy.
Commission head Ian Hanger, QC, found the deaths of installers Mitchell Sweeney, Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes and Marcus Wilson were all avoidable.
Lawyer Peter Koutsoukis has told ABC radio the Sweeney family is already suing Mitchell’s employer, Titan Insulations, and that the government should also pay for its mistakes.
“We will, as a result of these findings, be considering adding the government as a defendant to the litigation we are pursuing on behalf of the Sweeney family,” he said.
But he suggested families should not be forced to go through the courts.
“We were also hoping that there would be some recommendation for compensation … that’s not in the report. But it’s quite clear from the report that the government is liable so we do call on the government to compensate the families.”
About 120 insulation companies that purportedly lost around $200 million when the scheme was axed have also joined a class action seeking compensation.
“Our clients had no choice to participate (in the scheme) … after all how could you sell insulation when the government is giving it away for free?” lawyer Mark Farrell told ABC radio.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the royal commission’s recommendations to improve industry safety don’t go far enough and has called on the government to further tighten regulations by introducing new protective legislation.
“The ACTU had hoped the royal commission would recommend the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws which have the potential to change community attitudes around criminally reckless negligence at work and ultimately reduce workplace deaths,” ACTU assistant secretary Michael Borowick said.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he’d spoken to the families of the victims and assured them of a prompt government response to the findings.
“The government recognises there was a manifest finding of fault against the then government of Australia. That is a deep moral responsibility. It’s also a legal duty,” he told the ABC.
He said the families had been reassured the government would make an interim response to the inquiry’s findings by the end of this month, and a final response by the end of the year.
“There are findings in relation to both the families and businesses by the royal commissioner, and we will have to make some serious determinations about how best to help them go forward,” he said.
“(But) also to ensure that the lessons of frank and fearless advice, of due time for rolling out of programs, and of protection of life and limb above all else are enshrined within the very fabric of governance.”