The former Prime Minister says the public broadcaster's suggestion that he knew about safety risks prior to the roll-out of the home insulation scheme is rubbish, as he prepares for legal action.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on February 1, 2018

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is taking legal action against the ABC, after the news agency released sensitive information about his government’s home insulation scheme.

The public broadcaster obtained a trove of classified files that were reportedly locked in two filing cabinets picked up by a second-hand furniture depot in Canberra.

According to the ABC, the documents span five different governments over a decade and contain explosive national secrets.

The alleged disclosures include:

— The Australian Federal Police lost 400 national security files.
— Top secret defence plans and details on counter-terrorism operations were left in Penny Wong’s office after Labor lost the 2013 election.
Reply: “This is the first time I have ever been made aware of this matter… As a former cabinet minister who participated in national security meetings, a senior member of shadow cabinet and a current member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I always take my responsibilities seriously.” Wong.
— John Howard’s National Security Committee gave serious consideration to removing an individual’s right to remain silent when questioned by police.
Reply: A spokeswoman for Mr Howard told the ABC he did not comment on discussions in the NSC, but pointed out that no such change to the law was made.
— Andrew Bolt was consulted on how best to amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, the same act he was found to have breached in 2011.
Reply: “I was not consulted but was once told what had been decided.” Bolt.
— NBN Co’s secret strategy for negotiating with Telstra over potential investment.
— The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) and Tony Abbott’s own department warned the former PM against releasing confidential cabinet documents to the home insulation royal commission, but he chose to anyway.
Reply: “I did because it is the job of the government not just to passively and supinely accept public service advice.” Abbott.
— Treasurer Scott Morrison agreed his department should intervene in ASIO security checks to try to prevent asylum seekers from being granted permanent protection visas.
— Abbott, Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann considered banning anyone under 30 from accessing income support ahead of the 2014 budget.

Rudd is taking legal action over the ABC’s inference that he, Julia Gillard and two senior Labor ministers were warned of safety concerns associated with the Energy Efficient Homes Package prior to the deaths of four young installers.

The former Labor leader told the Royal Commission he had never been warned of safety risks and would’ve delayed the roll-out if he had.

The report cited by the ABC, is dated April 6, 2009, does warn of “critical risks” but does not specify whether any of these were safety concerns.

“[The Department of Environment] has undertaken a risk assessment which reveals a large number of critical risks for the Energy Efficient Homes Package,” it is said to read.

In a statement today, Rudd argued the document referred to by the ABC was about financial and administrative risks to the program, not safety risks, and rejected suggestions he ignored safety warnings as a “lie”.

“For these reasons, legal proceedings against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have now commenced,” he said.

Rudd also said the document was considered by the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program in 2014.

“Having seen this document, and all other relevant cabinet papers, the royal commission concluded that there was no findings to be made against me.”

ASIO moves to secure files

With safes in tow, Australia’s intelligence body ASIO descended on the ABC’s Parliament House Bureau (Canberra) and South Bank (Brisbane) studios around 1am this morning.

The ABC still currently has access to the safe-stored documents, and negotiations are underway between lawyers for the ABC and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

The PM&C has immediately began an investigation into how the massive breach occurred, and it is understood the AFP is yet to involve itself.

“Whoever was responsible for selling a couple of the filing cabinets, which I think were locked, which must have been heavy with all the papers in them, without checking what was in the filing cabinets, apart from anything else they ought to be found and sacked,” former PM&C secretary Terry Moran told the ABC’s 7:30 program.

“I would probably bring the AFP in to do a major investigation,” he added.

Bill Shorten can only laugh

The opposition leader Bill Shorten joked, at least “the government’s on top of national security”, shaking his head at the absurdity of the situation.

“I can’t believe it happened, I mean all these spies who are meant to be spying on us — they should just be going shopping in second hand furniture stores in Canberra,” he said.

“You shouldn’t be able to find information out because someone didn’t check a set of filing cabinets, then they sold it at a second hand government furniture sale.

“Then apparently these filing cabinets were sitting in the shop for some months, and someone decided to get the drill out to break into this one.

“But at least we’re on top of it — the Government’s on top of national security.”