While the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Scheme has a lot more evidence to examine, today’s evidence from an Environment Department official does not bode well for the former Rudd Government.
In the Hearing, Mary Wiley-Smith, said that she had been contacted by an official from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and asked to undertake a costing and risk analysis of the proposed scheme in two days, without consulting colleagues or the industry.
This raises a number of red flags
- Ms Wiley-Smith reports to the executives in her Environment Department, not to PM&C. Did she act on her own accord, or did she have instructions from higher officers in the Environment Department such as the Secretary?
- Why wasn’t the Department of Finance involved in the costing?
- Why was PM&C designing a program – it is supposed to ensure good process and to coordinate among the line agencies and the central agencies. Did all of the public servants in PM&C decide to throw away good process?
For a program such as the home insulation program, the correct process would go something like this:
- the line department (in this case the Environment Department) would prepare a Cabinet Submission from the Environment Minister with a full outline of the proposal with costings agreed with the Department of Finance
- a regulation impact statement would be agreed
- relevant agencies and the central agencies (PM&C, Treasury and Finance) would be given time to analyse the Submission and provide coordination comments
- the Submission would then be provided to Cabinet Ministers with a clear five days in which to formulate their thoughts
- the Cabinet would consider the Submission.
This process is designed to weed out the crap proposals and ensure there is sufficient scrutiny brought to bear. It is not foolproof, no process can be, but it is orders of magnitude better than the process actually followed.
Now I’m not saying that other governments have not cut corners on processes when it has suited them. But Insulgate is one of many examples of where the Rudd Government and the public service failed the people of Australia.
The senior public servants at the time deserve to be condemned too. They acquiesced to the Rudd bully, as did his ministerial colleagues, and they collectively failed in their duties to the people of Australia. They are all a bunch of cowards, more interested in preserving their office and perks.
Insulgate should never have happened. That it did says a lot about the State of the Service.