Mother’s lingering questions as Rudd called to testify on pink batts

Mitchell Sweeney wasn’t like most other kids, his mum Wendy recalls.

“He was always looking out for other people, even from a really young age. When he was in year three or four, we went to a parent-teacher conference and we found out he’d never finished an assignment,”  she said. 

“It came out that his mate next to him had trouble with his assignment, so Mitchell took it on for him and finished it. That’s why he didn’t finish his own work on time.”

She says the same generosity carried him through life until it was tragically cut short in February 2010. 

Mitchell, then aged 22, was electrocuted in the roof cavity of a home in north Queensland while working with reflective foil laminate, under what was also known as the pink batts scheme.

The Federal Government program worked to install insulation in Australian homes. 

Eight years on and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, under whose leadership the scheme was executed, has been called to give evidence at a class action in Victoria.

The lawsuit is seeking over $150 million in damages from the Commonwealth of Australia after the scheme came to a halt in 2010. 

Mrs Sweeney says she supports the move and hopes to see it spread to other states. 

“I think those businesses have every right to sue the government. I know a lot of them were forced out of business. It would’ve had a huge effect on them and their family,” she said. 

“It’s had that ripple effect, starting with us as the family and continuing outward.” 

Class action barrister Jim Delaney QC said less than 70,000 homes were retrofitted annually before the scheme. The plaintiffs claim the government promised to fit 2.2 million homes in two years.

The royal commission into the Home Insulation Program found lives would not have been lost had the scheme been properly rolled out and designed. 

“I just don’t understand why four boys had to lose their lives for them to get the message.” 

While no formal date has been set, Mr Rudd isn’t expected to give evidence in court until the end of the month. 

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