When Greg Combet faced the royal commission into Labor's home insulation scheme he fought back tears in reflecting on the deaths of four young men.
The former climate change minister, responsible for the $2.5 billion scheme in its final days, expressed horror at the ''unscrupulous people'' milking the batts installations and conceded the entire program was ''fundamentally flawed'' from the outset.
His appearance on Friday, a day after former prime minister Kevin Rudd became the first PM called to a royal commission, was the type of theatre the Coalition may have anticipated when it pushed ahead with holding the public investigation at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of $20 million.
But did the political theatre reach its audience? As the final hearings of the royal commission wound up in Brisbane on Monday, Labor Party insiders said it did not.
The government had insisted the royal commission was about learning the lessons of workplace safety and the grieving families of the deceased welcomed a final, exhaustive investigation.
But the opposition believes the process was just as much a ''political witch hunt'' as anything else.
''This was supposed to distract from what they were doing in budget week,'' a senior Labor source said. ''There was a clear political ploy to drag this stuff out to remind people how much they disliked the last government but people seem to have moved on. People are more interested in what this government is doing.''
Coverage of Mr Rudd's and Mr Combet's appearances, as well as former Labor ministers Peter Garrett and Mark Arbib, was swamped by reaction to the first Coalition budget and its lead up.
Watchers at the inquiry, headed by Ian Hanger, QC, said it had unearthed no ''smoking gun'' despite speculation before the hearings that a trail of warnings over the lethal scheme could lead right to the top of the Rudd government.
Instead, ministers and Mr Rudd argued they were in the dark and would have reacted differently if they had known the extent of the dangers. On Monday, Master Electricians chief executive Malcolm Richards said foil insulation should never have been permitted in the scheme given the dangers posed by electrical wiring in the roofs of older homes. Two of the four installer deaths under the program have been linked to foil insulation. Mr Richards said allowing foil to be retrofitted in homes was a ''recipe for disaster'' and his organisation would have advised against it had the body been consulted before the scheme's rollout in July 2009.
Mr Hanger is due to report the royal commission's findings and recommendations on or before August 31.