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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2558


Senator BOYCE (Queensland) (11:50): I cannot say it has been educative but it has been interesting to listen to the speeches from the members opposite today, and I include amongst the members opposite the Greens and the interesting contribution from Senator Milne.

I would like first to examine Senator Faulkner's comments in relation to this. He very happily sat there and told us that this rebate scheme had first been introduced by then Minister Turnbull in 2007 and that the Labor government expanded the scheme in 2009, intending to close it on 30 June 2012. It was then that his speech and reality separated. He said that it took four months or so to process rebates, so close it on 28 February and most of the rebates will be paid out by 30 June—as though this were actually the intention.

Of course, perhaps the very beleaguered small business people and manufacturers of Australia should have learned by now not to trust this government when it provides rebates. But to suggest that there is nothing wrong with closing a scheme that was due to run out on 30 June on 28 February is the most ridiculous garbage I have ever heard. It is, I think, not worthy of Senator Faulkner. I thought he had some vague idea of how the business community in Australia worked. I know most of his colleagues do not, and I know that the Greens certainly do not, but I did think that Senator Faulkner had some vague idea about how business in Australia operates. On 28 February, when the announcement was made by Parliamentary Secretary Dreyfus—as Senator Fisher points out, once the shops had closed—did Senator Faulkner genuinely think that there would be no solar hot water installers or solar hot water manufacturers caught by this decision? Did he genuinely think that he would not harm Australian businesses with that decision? 'Of course they'd know that if we said 30 June we really meant 28 February!' It is beyond belief that this could even be put up as some sort of vaguely reasonable suggestion by the other side.

Of course, as Senator Macdonald pointed out earlier today, the first 15 minutes of Senator Milne's contribution would have had you believe that the Greens would support our bill to reinstate the solar hot water rebate scheme, because this is one of the ways to reduce emissions and clean up the Australian environment. But she finished by saying, 'I think it's all a good thing, but I had a little talk to Parliamentary Secretary Dreyfus and he tells me he'll sort it out later.' Whether this scheme is reinstated next year or not—which perhaps is what Parliamentary Secretary Dreyfus has told Senator Milne that he will do—is completely beside the point. There is, as Senator Fisher pointed out, $24½ million in the 2012-13 budget for this program. Perhaps once they have finished playing ducks and drakes with the budget they will use that money to reinstate the program, but we have a four-month hiatus and, as has been pointed out here, during that four-month hiatus sales in this area are going to drop significantly. There will be virtually no movement for the next four months or so.

There are up to 1,800 jobs likely to be lost because of the government's action here. There are 60,000 homeowners who will not have the opportunities they would otherwise have had to have this rebate. Of course, it just goes onto the list of the many, many issues that this government has caused with its untruths and its lies to Australian business in relation to the insulation batts scheme, rainwater tanks, solar panels and green loans. The whole lot have been a serious issue, and I am ashamed that the Greens are not going to be supporting this legislation.