Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he will not appear before a Senate inquiry into the scrapped home insulation program.
A Senate committee is trying to establish what went wrong with the $2.45 billion scheme which was axed after it was linked to the deaths of installers, house fires and allegations of rorting.
The committee has asked Mr Rudd, the minister formerly responsible for the scheme Peter Garrett, the new minister responsible Greg Combet, and Employment Participation Minister Mark Arbib to appear. They have all refused.
Mr Rudd’s office says Question Time is the appropriate place for ministers to answer questions on the issue.
“That is the place to question ministers, not stunts like the Opposition’s party-political inquiry,” a spokesman for Mr Rudd said.
Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher, who chairs the environment references committee, says the response “gets a laugh out loud from the committee chairwoman”.
“The Australian people would find that response … offensive,” Senator Fisher said.
“It is dismissive of the fraud, the fires, the accidents, the fatalities that have happened.”
Senator Fisher says the Coalition-dominated committee has not been able to get satisfactory answers from bureaucrats so they wanted to go straight to the top.
The committee would consider its options after Mr Rudd and the ministers refused to appear, she said.
Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says the Prime Minister should appear before the Senate inquiry.
“This is not like any other government failure of the last 30 years, there has been a huge human impact,” Mr Hunt said.
“The Prime Minister should appear to explain what the Government knew and why they made the decisions and why they ignored the warnings.”