Today the Government announces its final update about its response to the Report of the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program.
The Program ran from 2009 to 2010. It resulted in the tragic loss of four young men, damage to many existing businesses and houses destroyed by fire.
In December 2013, the Government established the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program led by Mr Ian Hanger AM QC, which reported to the Government in September 2014.
In September 2014 the Government committed to six actions:
• Improving safety in roof spaces;
• Ensuring Commonwealth programmes minimise work health and safety risks;
• Making payments to the families of the installers who died during the HIP;
• Making payments to eligible insulation businesses;
• Conducting a review of government processes; and
• Conducting a review of public service conduct in relation to the HIP.
On 23 December 2014, the Government announced the steps that would be taken to deal with these six areas. Work in each of those areas is now complete or moving to completion.
Improving safety in roof spaces
The Government is committed to addressing safety in roof spaces so that the tragedies that occurred during the HIP do not occur again.
In April 2015, the Council of Australian Governments agreed on a harmonised approach to roof space safety across all states and territories, through appropriate and effective regulation and better awareness of roof space safety for building industry workers, the do-it-yourself market and householders.
After the HIP, the Queensland Government ran a highly effective awareness campaign about safety in roof cavities. As agreed by COAG, Safe Work Australia has facilitated the use of the campaign by all states and territories.
In July 2015 state and territory Ministers updated the Building Ministers’ Forum on current and possible future steps in their jurisdictions to minimise the risks associated with the use of reflective foil laminates in roof spaces.
Ensuring Commonwealth programmes minimise work health and safety risks
A key finding of the Royal Commission was that the HIP did not adequately control work health and safety risks in Australian Government programmes in a way that may have avoided its tragic outcomes.
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that it minimises work health and safety risks.
Safe Work Australia, in response to the Royal Commission finding, developed a Framework which integrates work health and safety in government policy development and implementation.
The Framework is the result of a collaboration of Commonwealth representatives where work health and safety considerations are embedded in the policy development cycle from initiating, planning, developing, delivering and evaluating policy and programmes.
At their December 2015 meeting, Safe Work Australia Members’ agreed that Safe Work Australia should progress the Framework’s inclusion in Commonwealth Government policy guidance documents and develop guides, tools and other user resources to support the implementation of the Framework.
Payments to the families of Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes, Mitchell Sweeney and Marcus Wilson
No compensation can reverse their loss. There is, however, a duty to help assist the families on the long recovery process. The Government acknowledges the pain and loss that the HIP caused the families of Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes, Mitchell Sweeney and Marcus Wilson, who tragically died during the HIP.
The Government has made discretionary payments to the families.
Mr Ian Hanger AM QC assisted the Government with this process, given his familiarity with the families and knowledge of the issues.
Payments to pre-existing insulation installation businesses adversely affected by the HIP
The Government committed to providing payments to businesses adversely affected by the HIP.
The Government engaged Mr Ian Hanger AM QC to assist with a process for determining and making discretionary payments to eligible pre-existing insulation installation businesses.
The application period for the scheme closed on 31 July 2015. Applications are being assessed by Deloitte Australia and Mr Hanger is meeting with applicants if they choose to after those assessments, with payment offers from the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science following.
Payments have already commenced and the payments process is expected to be completed by April 2016. This process is being overseen by the Minister for Industry.
Improving public service processes
The Royal Commission Report made clear many areas in which the Public Service can improve and avoid similar situations arising in the future.
Professor Peter Shergold AC, the former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and a strong advocate of effective public policy implementation, led an independent review of Government processes for the development and implementation of large public programmes and projects, including the roles of Ministers and public servants.
Professor Shergold was assisted by the Australian Public Service Commission, and presented his report to the Government in August 2015.
Professor Shergold identified significant opportunities for the Public Service to improve its systems and processes.
The Australian Public Service’s response to the report will be coordinated by the Australian Public Service Commission.
Secretaries of Departments, through the Secretaries Board, will consider Professor Shergold’s report and his conclusions, with a view to ensuring the Australian Public Service has the necessary capability to design and deliver major policy initiatives effectively, efficiently and safely.
The report is available on www.apsc.gov.au.
Addressing Public Service conduct
The Home Insulation Program Royal Commission Report made various findings about the roles and responsibilities of individual public servants during the Program.
The Australian Public Service Commissioner, the Hon John Lloyd PSM, has, as recommended by Mr Hanger, reviewed the conduct of public servants under the Public Service Act 1999. Mr Lloyd’s report was provided to the former Prime Minister in March 2015.
Mr Lloyd concluded that there was not a sufficient basis for formal investigations of individual public servants to proceed. Professor Shergold considered the systemic lessons identified by Mr Lloyd, and these informed the conclusions set out in his report.
The Australian Public Service has reflected deeply on its failures. It fell well short of the Australian people’s expectations. It is committed to making deep and lasting changes so that such failures do not happen again.