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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6088

Mr ZAPPIA (3:07 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. Why is it important to provide comprehensive support for the Australian solar industry and how will the renewable energy target provide this support?

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) —I thank the member for Makin for his question. I know that, coming from Adelaide, he has a keen interest in the solar industry continuing to grow there. Getting behind Australia’s solar industry is a crucial part of this government’s strong support for clean energy in Australia. The Prime Minister has already informed the House that we will support the highest ever uptake of solar panels on rooftops right around Australia. We have more than quadrupled our election commitment, with 80,000 installations set to take place from the time that the Rudd government came to office.

We are providing long-term support for solar panels through the new solar credits, which will become effective as of 9 June through the renewable energy target. This means a steady transition for solar businesses who have already got more than a year’s worth of installations in the pipeline. Critically—and for people listening—solar credits will be open to everyone. There is no means test on solar credits. It is open to households, businesses and community groups. Solar credits will not be subject to annual budget cycles. That means long-term certainty for Australia’s solar industry to grow and invest over time.

The government really does understand that we need to build clean energy industries in order to be competitive and we need to have a carbon price through the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme with an expanded solar energy target and solar credits. I think it is important to identify what is at stake at this point in time. Real action on climate change is necessary. Clean energy jobs are necessary. Providing investment certainty is necessary. This is the trifecta of necessary actions to put Australia on a good path to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and building industry. But that is not what we have got from the coalition. We still do not have it. With a history of 12 years of tinkering around the edges, they have failed to embrace emissions trading and they have failed to embrace the renewable energy target. As the Prime Minister noted previously, they outright rejected increasing the renewable energy target in 2004. In response to the Tambling review, the coalition said very bluntly that they ‘will not extend or increase the target’. It could not be clearer than that. That was the position in 2004 from the coalition: they would not extend or increase the target.

Apparently, it is a different story now. I note that the member for Flinders said on 1 May that the coalition would soon announce a ‘more ambitious renewable energy policy’ than the government’s 20 per cent target by 2020. It is very easy to have policies when you do not actually announce them, and this is very similar to what the shadow minister said on 4 February when the coalition lined up to oppose the energy efficient homes plan—the largest rollout of energy efficiency in Australia’s history, the complementary action that is necessary when you are taking real action on climate change. Here the shadow minister said:

… we will come back with more details of an energy efficiency package.

We have not seen that one either. But we should not be surprised, because the coalition have adopted the government’s climate change targets but have got no plan to achieve them. They have got an imaginary energy efficiency policy, an imaginary renewable energy policy and, from what the National Party said today, it looks like we will have an imaginary emissions trading scheme as well. I noticed Senator Boswell in today’s Financial Review has said:

I don’t see how we could put the RET legislation through without the ETS. I do not see how you can support it … because there would be no transitional assistance. None of the EITE industries … would get any protection.

Amen! There is a very clear solution for the National Party, for the Liberal Party and for the Leader of the Opposition: support the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, support the renewable energy target, support the energy efficiency home package, and let us get on with the business of bringing these clean industries that will support Australians in future into this place, which is what Australia so needs.