Coalition urges insulation inquiry

A Senate inquiry into the botched home insulation scheme has called for a royal commission to investigate exactly what went wrong.

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The $2.45 billion scheme has been linked with four deaths and more than 170 house fires and was axed earlier this year.

But ministers have never had to front any of the inquiries into the scheme to answer questions.

One of those inquiries was conducted by the Senate, which handed down its report on Thursday.

It concluded there had been a “breathtaking and disastrous waste of more than a billion dollars”.

The inquiry, which was dominated by coalition senators, said a royal commission was the only way to get at the truth.

A royal commission would have greater powers to compel ministers to answer questions and provide evidence.

The report said the scheme ran into trouble because it was rolled out too quickly without enough attention paid to its supposed environmental purpose. The environment department was not up to the job of administering the scheme.

Coalition senators tried to use the inquiry’s hearings to determine who was responsible for the scheme’s failings, and whether any warnings were ignored, but did not appear to find any smoking gun.

Frontbencher Peter Garrett was demoted over the issue but some insiders speculate other ministers were instrumental in the scheme’s flawed design.

Mr Garrett, now the environment protection minister, dismissed the call for a royal commission as having “all the hallmarks of a political campaign”.

“I’m absolutely confident that the measures that have been put in place satisfactorily deal with the issues that have been raised previously,” Mr Garrett told reporters in Melbourne.

In a dissenting report, government senators said the inquiry’s questions had been answered, and hundreds of pages of information had been supplied by government departments.

The main report was a “political diatribe” more than a thoughtful analysis, and there was no need for a royal commission, Labor MPs said.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said despite the goodwill of the community towards energy efficiency programs, the government had unfortunately botched all its programs.