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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 February 2010) . . Page.. 684 ..


In April 2009, the South Australian minister issued a warning about the program. Yet some 10 months later, our minister claims not to have been briefed, nor that his department has any documents. At best, this is pure incompetence by Mr Corbell and a clear failure not to fulfil his duties under the ministerial code of conduct. The “don’t know, don’t care” approach he has been living on for the last 12 years that he has been in this place is finally coming undone. At worst, he knew and consistently failed to act. He is only interested in covering up rather than tackling this serious issue.

This motion will go some way to making up for the ACT government’s lack of action so far. It will ensure that Canberrans are aware of the dangers of poorly installed insulation and ensure affected homeowners can have an inspection of their insulation for safety. Also, it calls on the government to develop actions and detail what action they have taken in relation to this program.

We have heard Mr Rudd tell us that Mr Garrett is a first-class minister. I have heard no such defence of Mr Corbell from Mr Stanhope.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (8.39): The word “weasel” comes to mind when you hear the speech that Mr Corbell just put to this place. He tried to accuse the Leader of the Opposition, and his words were “in some bizarre way”. The only bizarre thing here this evening is Mr Corbell’s behaviour. Everyone else in Australia, including Kevin Rudd, understands that something went wrong with this program. But not Mr Corbell.

Mr Corbell—Mr Corbell the Attorney-General, Mr Corbell the minister responsible for regulatory services, Mr Corbell the emergency services minister—is probably the only person in Australia tonight who does not think that something went wrong and who is willing to say to his federal colleagues, his Labor mates, “You got it wrong.” They did, Mr Corbell. They got it wrong. And they got it wrong to a degree where almost 100 houses have been destroyed and four lives have been lost, because the federal minister ignored 21 warnings.

Let us look at the role of Mr Corbell since the story broke. Let us remember that on the morning the story broke, the minister was not shy to put Andrew Barr up to answer the allegations, to talk to the story. He was not going anywhere near it. We had Mr Barr cough up the fact that at least three homes in the ACT have been lost. From talking to firies, I would understand that there are probably more, but at least three fire cause determinations have gone to the coroner to say that these homes were lost, probably because of insulation batts.

We have a minister with no meetings, no documents and apparently no memory. It does go to the heart of the argument about ministerial responsibility—about “when you know, you have to find out”. Indeed, when you tell the Assembly something, you have to have it based on fact. We had a minister who stood up and said: “No briefings. No documents.” If you had only listened to the news that morning, you would have known that Peter Garrett was saying, “I signed an MOU with all the states.” Unless we are writing the MOUs in the air with sparklers, there was at least one document. The minister should be aware of it. But no: “We will not take responsibility for anything. I was not told. I am not responsible.”


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