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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 38

Mr MELHAM (4:43 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. Will the minister update the House on how the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan will roll out energy efficiency to Australian homes and support green jobs?

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) —I thank the member for Banks for that question. The fact is that today’s announcement by the Rudd government will produce energy efficiency on a scale that we have never seen in Australia and produce support for green jobs as well. This is a $3.9 billion commitment to energy-efficient homes to provide cost opportunities for householders around Australia, to stimulate those industries which can produce energy efficiency, particularly in ceiling insulation, and to provide additional environmental benefits as well. This announcement is about helping Australians, at a critical time, to meet cost-of-living pressures. It gives them the opportunity to make substantial greenhouse gas reductions and it complements our approach on climate change.

Insulation typically provides the most cost-effective household energy efficiency improvement, so the centrepiece of the Energy Efficient Homes program is the rollout of insulation to some 2.7 million Australian homes. This is about maximising energy savings for households, helping with cost-of-living pressures and providing the opportunity for major greenhouse gas reductions. Through this program, Australian households will be looking at possible savings of some $200 on their energy bills, reducing heating and cooling by as much as 40 per cent. The program also includes rebates of up to $1,000 to install insulation in rental homes. That doubles our previous commitment to the Low Emission Plan for Renters.

We will be ramping up one of the most cost-effective household energy efficiency improvements. We will be increasing the solar hot water rebate from $1,000 to $1,600, and the rebate will not be means tested. Solar hot water is one of the most efficient ways of harnessing Australia’s abundant sunshine and using it to slash home energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a true solar revolution for Australia’s suburbs, taking solar hot water into the mainstream. It is clean, it is green and it is about jobs for Australians.

I heard the Leader of the Opposition say that some of the proposals, and now the announcements that we have made, are controversial. The controversy is why the opposition did not do anything about insulation in all the years they were in government. It was sitting there waiting to be done and they did absolutely zip. The fact is that the Energy Efficient Homes program will support jobs in installation and manufacturing, and the government will work with the industry to ensure that job benefits are maximised. The enhanced solar hot water rebates will also support manufacturing and installation jobs.

I announce to the House that the programs will be available immediately, with interim arrangements for the Energy Efficient Homes program until it ramps up on 1 July. The Nation Building and Jobs Plan shows that the government are committed to energy efficiency as a key plank in our commitment to tackling climate change. But this single measure will do more for energy efficiency in Australian households. It will provide the opportunity for Australian households to reduce their costs, it will provide the opportunity for Australian householders to do something about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it will provide support for green jobs. That is what decisive, real action at this time is all about and that is what we are delivering.