Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has demoted his environment minister, a former rockstar and Greenpeace board member, after the government bungled a multi-billion dollar home insulation program.
No, I am not quoting from The Onion. This actually happened.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett, former frontman of the iconic Aussie rock band Midnight Oil, was demoted Friday after the government's $2.5 billion scheme to re-insulate Australian homes went up in flames -- literally. The program, designed to reduce carbon emissions, gave out flammable insulation which resulted in over 90 house fires and caused the deaths of four insulation installers. Even worse, Garrett himself had commissioned a report on the safety of the program last April - but he didn't read it for 10 months. Had he deigned to look at it, he would have known that his ministry was issuing a dangerous product. Of course, he eventually cancelled the program anyway, but that comes as little consolation to the families who lost loved ones due to his laziness.
So, now Mr. Garrett finds himself stripped of his energy efficiency portfolio, but for some strange reason he retained his title as Minister for Environment, Heritage and the Arts. Furthermore, the government is using this fiasco to create a whole new "Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency" to handle the mess that they've created.
The only voice of sanity in this fracas seems to be conservative Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who said, "We shouldn't have what amounts to a new department created just because the Prime Minister lacks the guts to just sack the minister who has been responsible for the most monumental administrative disaster in recent Australian history."
I guess not even a rock star can make insulation sexy.