A few words on Bernard Keane’s rant against Four Corners for its coverage of the botched pink batts program “Lethal Miscalculation”.
Keane accused us of “cherry picking” the facts — to whit — ignoring the findings of the former bureaucrat Allan Hawke’s report into the home insulation scheme so that we could make a story about government bungling, when, according to Keane, the real story was that environment minister Peter Garrett had been cleared of wrongdoing. (see his story Peter Garrett is exonerated and nobody cares)
Trouble is Keane is not right, far from it.
As executive producer Sue Spencer told Crikey last Friday, we thoroughly examined the Hawke report just days before we went to air. We concluded that it supported our story, so we posted it on our website.
Hawke said the aims of the $2 billion program were to stimulate the economy and insulate homes, he observed: “any objective assessment of the HIP will conclude that, despite the safety, quality and compliance concerns, there were solid achievements against the program objectives.” In other words — despite the fact that upwards of half a million homes will have to fixed at enormous cost, despite the fact that the fraud was “simply alarming” (Hawke again), and despite the fact that four young men died, the economy was stimulated to the tune of $1.2 billion.
Our whistleblower pointed out that Garrett’s department knew that turbo-charging an unregulated industry with $2 billion and not regulating it would make an unsafe industry more unsafe. Senior bureaucrats were advised that under these circumstances fraud would be rife, that people could die.
This prescient advice was ignored. We know now that the auditing and inspection regime — despite claims by Senator Arbib that it was “robust” and minister Garrett it was “significant” — were window dressing. By September when more than half a million homes had been insulated, only 172 roofs had been physically inspected by a grab bag of Medicare staff, departmental bureaucrats and other “inspectors”.
When Hawke noted that Garrett had responded in an appropriate and timely manner following advice from his department, once can only ask what on earth was going on in the culture of DEWHA that bullied this fearless advice coming through the ranks? And more importantly, why didn’t Garrett know what was going on in his own department?
Wendy Carlisle’s next story The Spilling Fields about the Montara and Gulf of Mexico Oil Spills, will be broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Background Briefing on Sunday July 4 at 9am.