An insulation industry member was told “not to rock the boat” when he warned Australian government bureaucrats about the safety risks inherent in its home insulation scheme.
Insulation Council of Australia and New Zealand (ICANZ) member Peter Ruz has told a royal commission the issue was effectively swept under the carpet by senior bureaucrats devising the insulation scheme.
Mr Ruz felt uncomfortable when he raised the electrocution deaths of three New Zealand installers during a meeting between industry representatives and public servants on February 18, 2009.
“We had been told not to rock the boat during these meetings,” he told the inquiry.
“I was seen to be rocking the boat.”
The NZ men died while using metal staples to secure foil installation in a program similar to the pink batts scheme.
But Mr Ruz said bureaucrats didn’t want to discuss the merits of different insulation products at the meeting because they didn’t want any “squabbles” between insulation representatives.
“We were all discouraged from getting bogged down about talking about specific products,” he said.
Mr Ruz said he also tried to warn bureaucrats about the NZ deaths outside the meeting.
He claims he emailed senior environment department staffer Beth Brunoro and even provided her with photocopies of newspaper articles about the NZ deaths.
The inquiry has already heard how Ms Brunoro didn’t follow up the NZ deaths after she became aware of them, and was unsure whether anyone else in her department had done so.
She also told the inquiry there was never a strong sense that foil should be excluded from the home insulation program.
Former federal environment minister Peter Garrett suspended the use of foil insulation in the program in February 2010, not long after the third Queensland death.
The program was scrapped shortly afterwards.
The inquiry before commissioner Ian Hanger continues.