Rueben Barnes was among those killed while working on the home insulation program.
Rueben Barnes was among those killed while working on the home insulation program. Supplied

Families of roof insulation victims call for compensation

THE family of Rockhampton roof insulation victim Rueben Barnes is calling for a face-to-face apology and cash compensation from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Mr Rudd on Friday said sorry to the families of the ill-fated insulation scheme but that apology fell well short of expecations.

Bill Potts, who represents Rueben Barnes's father, Murray Barnes, said it was one thing for the Prime Minister to open his heart and mouth but another thing entirely for the government to open its wallet.

"I would think it was a mark of a good leader if he apologised to the loved ones and the families of these young men," he said.

Mr Potts said money would not compensate for the loss of Matthew Fuller, 25, Mitchell Sweeney, 22, and Rueben Barnes, 16.

"However, if there was an offer of payment, it would save the necessity for lengthy and traumatic litigation and a way the government could show it does regret its actions but takes responsibility for the results," he said.

Maurice and Blackburn lawyer Peter Koutsoukis echoed the Sweeney family's desire for a face-to-face apology from the Prime Minister.

"They feel that a face-to-face apology would be more meaningful," he said.

Mr Koutsoukis said his clients would not seek compensation from the government but confirmed the Sweeney family had launched a $325,000 claim against Titan Insulations, the company Mitchell Sweeny was working for when he was electrocuted.

It's also been alleged the former Queensland Government ignored requests from its federal counterparts to hold an inquest into the deaths of three young tradesmen carrying out the embattled Home Insulation Program.

The move delayed an inquest happening until this year - four years after the pink batts scheme claimed its first life.

State Coroner Michael Barnes handed down his findings following the inquest into the deaths of Matthew Fuller, 25, Mitchell Sweeney, 22, and Rueben Barnes, 16.

He found the speed at which the program had been rolled out to stimulate the economy led to a lack of safeguards.

While the Federal Coalition has increased its calls for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to release warnings he received about the botched foil insulation program, it has emerged the former Queensland government did not respond to calls for an inquest.

It is understood the Federal Government wrote to the Bligh government requesting an inquest be held into the 2009 and 2010 electrocution deaths in Logan, Cairns and Rockhampton - but nothing happened. 

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie. Tom Huntley

After further requests from the Fuller, Barnes and Sweeney families through the justice system were dismissed, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie ordered an inquest last year.

He said on Friday that the former state Labor and Rudd governments had a lot to answer for.

"The former Bligh government also sat on their hands once the roll-out of the program started," he said.

"When young Matthew Fuller died, the former Queensland Government was asked to conduct an inquest into the death. The Bligh government did nothing.

"Nothing happened for years until I reviewed the case and used my reserve powers to direct the Queensland Coroner to hold an inquest."

Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said that to her knowledge she did not know the Rudd government requested an inquest immediately following the deaths.

"I would have to check that with the former minister," she said.



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