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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4840

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (21:05): It was no surprise to me, when I had a look at the speaking list for this private member's bill, the Solar Hot Water Rebate Bill 2012 [No. 2], that there was only one speaker from the opposition side on the list from the great state of New South Wales. That is because all of the MPs from the great state of New South Wales are, rightfully, too ashamed to stick their heads up on this matter, in view of what their coalition partners, the O'Farrell government, did with the Solar Bonus Scheme when it closed the scheme on 13 May last year. They know that if they stick their heads up on this matter they leave themselves open to the charge of hypocrisy in championing and advocating in favour of the private member's bill brought to us by the opposition spokesperson today. Clearly, the member for Bennelong is more impervious to those claims than the rest of his parliamentary colleagues. We on this side of the House are committed to increasing the take-up of solar hot water systems and other mechanisms which will enable households to reduce the amount of money they are spending and the amount of energy they are expending on hot water heating and consumption. The reason we are committed to that is that 25 per cent of total household energy consumption goes to making the water hot and keeping it hot. Solar hot water and other similar mechanisms can lead to energy savings to those households of somewhere between 50 and 90 per cent. It is for these reasons that, between 2007 and 2012, through the scheme that the members opposite are trying to reopen, around a quarter of a million households installed solar hot water systems and the like at a cost of around $320 million.

We do have options available to us. One of those is the option that is proposed by the opposition spokesperson. On my rough figures, their one million homes policy, at a cost of around $1,000 per unit, is a billion-dollar program. That adds to the $70 billion in unfunded promises they have already made over the course of the last 18 months, so I guess we are up to $71 billion.

There are two reasons why we should reject this policy proposal. The first is this: it is indiscriminate—it is not means tested. What that means, in effect, is that taxpayers, particularly poor taxpayers, are being asked to subsidise the energy savings and solar hot water systems of more wealthy people. If you want visual proof of this, Mr Deputy Speaker Thomson, I ask you to get in your car and go for a drive around your electorate or the neighbouring electorates, and just count the number of solar hot water systems that you will find in the housing commission suburbs or the low SES suburbs within your electorate and then see the number of solar hot water systems in the more wealthy parts of your electorate. I know that, in my electorate, there is no comparison. There is a lot of shining glass on the roofs of the wealthier parts of my electorate. Many of those newly installed units were paid for as a result of the subsidised system. That is one reason why you might question the proposition put up by the shadow spokesperson.

The second reason is that it is not necessary. There is a very good reason why it is not necessary. If you wanted to replace electric hot water systems with more efficient energy usage options, there are a number of propositions that you could put into place. The first is: you put in place regulations which phased out the use of electric hot water systems. And, indeed, that is exactly what is happening, because in December 2010 all states and territories, with the exception of the Tasmanian government, signed up to a pact to phase out the use of electric hot water systems over the next 10 years, and that means that what we are effectively doing here is creating a market for alternative products. So, if you are really concerned about replacing electric hot water systems with more energy-favourable options, you would phase them out—and that is exactly what is being done.

The second thing you might do is to keep in place the renewable energy targets, which provide around $1,000 for Small-scale Technology Certificates per unit. That is being continued as well. The third thing you might do is to put in place a clear price signal about the need to shift to a low carbon future, and we are doing that. So this proposition is a one-billion-dollar boondoggle—it is unnecessary. (Time expired)