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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4838


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (20:56): It is always a privilege to speak in this place on matters of significance, especially when those matters relate to legislation because of course the laws we make here form part of the great black-and-white matrix that constitutes the formal operating code of how Australia works.

Unfortunately, there are times when the occasion to speak arises not through some matter of any real significance but rather as part of some kind of political game—and that is the case tonight.

Any argument that the member for Flinders purports to make for the importance of supporting renewable energy is a ringing endorsement of this government's reform program and puts a question mark over his own conduct and the conduct of the coalition on this issue.

The member for Flinders is of course the same person who formerly believed in and argued strongly for the importance of addressing climate change through an emissions trading scheme. This is the same person, who, along with his coalition colleagues, negotiated and agreed to the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, before they broke their word and pursued a path of negativity, pseudoscience and scaremongering ever since.

As the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has rightly pointed out, the closing of the solar hot water scheme, by 30 June this year, has been contemplated and forecast for a number of years and it makes perfect sense for this to occur at the point at which the Labor government's Renewable Energy Target and Clean Energy Future reforms step in to continue to support the solar hot water industry and the households, community organisations and businesses which seek to pursue energy efficiency in that way.

Anyone who ordered, purchased or installed a solar hot water system on or before 28 February remains able to apply for the rebate until 30 June, in keeping with the four-month claim window that has applied throughout this program. It is a program that has underwritten the installation of 250,000 solar hot water systems.

In the same period, about 4½ years, this government has supported the installation of more than 150,000 household solar PV systems. The Howard government, in 11½ years, supported 12,000. In the same period, this Labor government has created the structures and the funding to stimulate unprecedented investment in large-scale renewable energy projects that will be the basis of Australian economic growth, jobs and emission-free electricity in the decades to come.

This includes the recent announcement that the government will provide $10 million to support the commercial scale implementation of Carnegie Wave Energy's promising wave power technology in the ocean adjacent to my electorate.

The fact is that this government has taken a well-founded approach to providing support for renewable energy and energy efficiency. We have acted to support burgeoning industries, to back innovative technology and to create a level playing field for low-carbon or no-carbon energy and manufacturing processes. We have acted to support households in their clear and strong desire to reduce their carbon emissions and to recalibrate the sources on which they rely for their energy.

In the case of household solar panels, we provided rebates that kick-started a home solar PV revolution, literally transforming our suburbs. But naturally and sensibly those rebates were designed to taper off and they have tapered off as private side demand has grown. The Solar Home and Communities rebate was replaced by the Solar Credits scheme and the credit multiplier within the Solar Credits scheme has, in turn, been eased.

When the industry grew and stabilised and the scale of production and the size and consistency of demand, coupled with lower input costs, meant that per unit costs decreased, the government support was sensibly and gradually wound back. Perhaps the best indication of the equilibrium that the government has managed in this case is the fact that the price point at which a standard 1.5 kilowatt system is available to the consumer has changed very little.

In the case of the solar hot water rebate and other energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, this government has designed and delivered policy that sparks innovation to the point where it will be increasingly sustained by private demand market conditions. This is precisely the approach that has delivered the twin hallmarks of this government—namely, world-leading economic management and, at the same time, forward-looking policy reform.

The proposal from the member for Flinders that the government renege on its planned transition from the solar hot water rebate to the various forms of support within the clean energy future package advocates a dangerous move that would open up a substantial and unquantifiable further liability. I would therefore strongly encourage the member for Flinders to cast his eye across the Nullarbor and see how his Liberal colleagues in WA have presided over a $450 million blow-out in their wildly mismanaged solar tariff scheme. Is that what the member for Flinders is seeking to achieve with this private member's bill, the Solar Hot Water Rebate Bill 2012 [No. 2]? The purpose of this private member's bill is wholly and solely to make an issue where no issue exists and it fails to do even that. It cannot be supported.