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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5609

Mr IRONS (9:36 AM) —It was interesting to hear the member for McMillan speak about his Girl Guides. On the weekend I attended the relaunch of the 1st Bentley Scout Group in my electorate; however, I rise to speak about my visit last week to the Solahart factory in Welshpool, the industrial precinct in my electorate of Swan. As an ex small businessman, I always enjoy learning about the enterprise risks and rewards of our Western Australian businesses as I am sure the member for Cowan does, another good member from Western Australia.

Solahart is now the leading manufacturer of solar hot-water systems in Australia and the world—a true success story for Perth and Western Australia. Solahart’s origins date back to 1901 when two entrepreneurs began manufacturing tanks and sinks for the pioneering community. Back in 1953 the company first started developing ways of utilising the sun’s energy, and today Solahart boasts a record of having manufactured over a million hot-water systems which have been installed in over 80 countries earning export dollars for our state and our country.

I had the opportunity to meet with workers on the manufacturing floor of the Welshpool factory. The factory is impressive, and the workers obviously are highly skilled. The work is on a rotational basis, so they gain a skill at various points around the factory and become multiskilled. It is impressive to see, and the factory takes an obvious interest in upskilling them in as many areas as possible. I was told how the company plans to expand in the near future—from 175 to 220 workers—creating more jobs for the local economy.

Whilst companies such as Solahart have a good record in the area of solar energy, unfortunately the government’s performance on solar energy has been disappointing. I spoke recently in the chamber about the government’s failure to shortlist any of the eight Western Australian projects submitted under the Solar Flagships program, despite all having the backing of the WA government and despite five projects being progressed in Queensland. We are of course also aware of the sudden scrapping of the solar panel rebate in June last year which caused chaos in the industry in WA for companies that already had orders in hand.

Companies such as Solahart show that Australian renewable energy businesses can be successful if given a chance to succeed and some certainty. We should take note of this and give our renewable energy industry every possible opportunity. The government needs to lift its game in this respect. I hope local businesses in my electorate of Swan such as Solahart continue to employ local people and as such have a positive impact on the community.

On Saturday night I also attended a quiz night for the Esther Foundation, which I have spoken about in this place before. We recently ran a golf day in support of the Esther Foundation with the support of companies like Plan B, Mechanical Project Management and Envar. We were able to raise a sum of $20,000 for the foundation which will go to bringing beautiful young women back into our society as good young people contributing to society.