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Former Australian PM Rudd sues broadcaster 

Canberra, Feb 1 (IANS) Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Thursday started legal proceedings against the country’s main public broadcaster ABC over a report that claimed he was warned of “critical risks” of his government’s home insulation programme before the deaths of four young installers in 2010.

The ABC’s report was based on thousands of top-secret and highly-classified government documents accessed by the broadcaster after they were left inside filing cabinets sold at a second-hand shop in Canberra.

Rudd accused the ABC of “lying” in the news report in which, he said, it alleged he had ignored warnings on risks to the safety of installers of home insulation, the Australian newspaper reported.

The ABC reported on Wednesday that Rudd and the senior Labour MPs Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner were warned in a report to the Cabinet in 2009 that their national rollout of subsidised home insulation — part of an economic stimulus package — faced “critical risks”. 

The report emphasised that it was unclear if “critical risks” referred to safety concerns.

In announcing his legal action on Twitter on Thursday, Rudd said the risks referred to in the Cabinet documents were financial and administrative matters — not safety risks.

“The risks referred to in the Cabinet documents used in the ABC report refer to financial and administrative risks to the programme for the Commonwealth, not safety risks to workers.”

He said those documents had already been examined by a Royal Commission inquiry.

“The Royal Commission concluded that there was no finding made against me, and in fact that while serving as Prime Minister ‘there was no warning given of the very many problems with the programme’,” he said.

“The report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)… is a lie. The ABC was told of these facts before publication,” Rudd said.

ABC news director Gaven Morris said the broadcaster “stands by the reporting we’ve done”.

The insulation scheme was introduced by Rudd’s government in 2009 as part of a larger plan to stimulate the economy in response to the global financial crisis. It was discontinued in 2010.

The Royal Commission found the scheme’s poor design and implementation directly contributed to the deaths of four young workers from electrocution and hyperthermia in separate incidents.

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