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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4843

Ms GRIERSON (Newcastle) (21:15): I rise to oppose the member for Flinders private member's bill, which calls on the government to reinstate the solar hot water scheme and appropriate the remaining portion of the 2011-2012 allocation—just another back-to-the-future proposal from a rather sad opposition. It is just a little pathetic to see the member for Flinders put this private member's bill forward, given that we have seen no policies to explain how the opposition intends to reduce emissions or meet the agreed renewable energy target. We have no details, costings or specific policies from the opposition, but apparently the $63.5 million in this bill is going to do a lot of heavy lifting. I do not think so.

I think this is yet another attempt by the opposition to just harp and carp and oppose whatever the government does, without having a framework of policies for members like the member for Flinders to champion or advocate. It is pathetic, and he must find that quite difficult. This bill is put forward by the same person who in 1990 co-authored that award-winning thesis entitled A Tax to Make the Polluter Pay, which stated:

… we have argued that the current regulatory regime for controlling industrial pollution is grievously flawed and should be replaced by a market based waste management system. The key component of this new regime should be the introduction of a pollution tax.

He did say that and, of course, we did do that, because that is exactly what works best. And we agree that we should have a market based scheme that makes the big polluters pay. It is called the clean energy future package, and it is legislated now.

If this bill before the House is some feeble attempt to make the federal Labor government look like it does not support the renewable energy industry then it will not work. We are the party that legislated a price on carbon, delivering a wide range of incentives to renewable industries and households to move towards a cleaner and less emissions-intensive economy. Our package provides the certainty that the renewable energy sector needs to plan their future products, marketing, research and development, and other successful business tools to allow them to get on with building a dynamic and relevant renewable energy industry. The industry knew this scheme was winding up and the opposition knew that this scheme was winding up, but typically they choose to mislead the public rather than tell the truth.

Yes, the program was begun by John Howard in 2007, to be funded until 30 June 2012. On 28 February this year we announced that the solar hot water rebate scheme would end on 30 June 2012. People of course were still eligible to claim that rebate up to the end of that financial year, but you do try to confine expenditure to the budget year, and that is exactly what we did.

The closure of the scheme in any other way would have been irresponsible. It would have encouraged that haste and that last-minute rush that would have certainly put a lot of pressure on that industry as well, and we do not do things that way. Certainly the scheme was successful. It offered rebates of $1,000 for solar hot-water systems and rebates of $600 on heat-pump systems. We did stick to that scheme and we never scrapped any of that policy. It assisted over 250,000 installations, 25,000 more than the coalition government had promised, at a cost of over $320 million. This scheme gave the industry clear support for a designated period—and that is exactly what it was, a designated period—to build the business model and the approach that matched the current technology and demand. But technologies move on, and so this government has moved toward a clean energy future—one that will reduce emissions and will meet our renewable energy targets.

By putting a price on carbon pollution we have created an incentive for households to install more energy-efficient systems and purchase more energy-efficient appliances. We have provided the market mechanisms to make the big polluters make different investment and energy choices—ones that will lead to more efficient use of energy—so they can continue to competitively provide products and services to both the domestic and international markets.

The federal Labor government has provided more support to renewables than any government in Australian history, and we will continue to do so. From July 1, the solar hot-water industry will receive support in four ways: pricing carbon will create a stable, long-term market; the Low Carbon Communities program will provide $330 million to local councils, communities and disadvantaged low-income families to improve their energy efficiency; the $800 million Clean Technology Investment Program will give the solar hot-water industry an incentive to retool and modernise the manufacture of solar units; and towards 2020, through the renewable energy target, consumers can be offered up to $1,000 discount in small technology packages.

At my local level, I am pleased to say that the Hunter Business Chamber was awarded $1.2 million to help small and medium business implement the Energy Hunter—Our Clean Energy Future program. (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.