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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 4664

Energy Efficiency


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryDeputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:11): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. I refer the minister to statements made in the government's Clean Energy Future campaign that households should switch from electric to solar hot water. Does the minister stand by the government's claim that this will save money?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:11): The government has engaged in a campaign to ensure that households have a range of options they can look to to reduce their energy usage. That is a sensible thing to do. Regardless of what your views might or might not be on climate change, one would have thought it was sensible to give households information, should they require it, so they can choose the best options for them to reduce their use of energy, thereby ensuring that they can reduce their electricity costs from what they might otherwise have been and save money. I remind Senator Scullion that support for that sort of system was bipartisan in the context of the renew­able energy target discussions. I remind him that his party—and certainly Mr Hunt, with whom he might not agree—has previously indicated a great deal of support for the solar industry and so, if the senator is suggesting that somehow the opposition no longer is supportive of solar, perhaps he could indicate what the change in opposition policy is.

The approach we have taken in relation to climate change has been to lay out a comprehensive plan that puts a price on carbon as the most economically efficient way to move to a clean energy future, that invests in renewables and also ensures households have the information they need to make changes to their energy consumption if they so wish. I also remind Senator Scullion of this fact: his party shares the position of the government in terms of the reduction by 2020 of five per cent. The difference is, its plan costs more and it will cost Australian taxpayers more.


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryDeputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:13): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister explain why the government's housing program SIHIP is removing solar hot water systems and replacing them with electric systems in refurbished houses and installing electric systems in new houses? Does the govern­ment not believe in its own claims or is this just another example of the government botching another one of its programs?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:14): I am not the minister to whom that question should be addressed. As the senator knows, that program resides in Minister Macklin's portfolio, from recollection, and I think the question should properly have been addressed to Senator Arbib. It is unfortunate that the opposition remain so lazy when it comes to preparing for question time that they cannot ask the correct minister the question. Really one should not be surprised by their laziness because you see it when it comes to their economic position and their economic policies. Mr Hockey has belatedly realised the price tag on all of Mr Abbott's promises.

Senator Scullion: On a point of order as to relevance, Mr President: the question I asked I prefaced by indicating that the minister was responsible for the Clean Energy Future campaign and in my supple­mentary question I asked her specifically whether the government believes in its own claim, which she made in her first answer, and whether or not this is another example of the program. She has made no attempt at all to answer any part of the question.

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order. Senator Wong has nine seconds remaining to complete the answer.

Senator WONG: As I said at the outset, if the senator had asked the correct minister about the SIHIP, which is what he asked about, he might have got an answer.





Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryDeputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:16): Mr President, I ask a further supple­mentary question. This question is well within their portfolio ambit. Is the minister aware that electric hot water systems use the most electricity in the average house? Can the minister explain how low-income earners will be able to pay for the increases in their power bills resulting in the double slug of the removal of their solar hot water heating and the introduction of the government's carbon tax?


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:16): I am very happy to answer the question about low-income households because on this side we have a very clear plan as to how to assist low-income Australians to deal with the impact of a carbon price. We have laid them out: tax cuts for every Australian earning less than $80,000 a year, tax cuts which you will wind back. You are going to have to go to the next election with a policy of increasing taxes for all Australians, unless you are prepared to come in here and tell us how you will fund them. I would suggest, Senator, that may be a long time coming.

Let us remember, we on this side will be reducing income tax, increasing the pension, providing assis­tance to self-funded retirees with our policy. On that side we have an unfunded policy to add to the $70 billion black hole—more economic illiteracy.