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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 2380

Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (19:30): I rise this evening to speak about the government's cruel and sudden axing of the solar hot water rebate. What we saw yesterday was Pink Batts Mark 2. What we saw yesterday was the government deciding, at one minute to five, that the program would be axed at 5 pm. This occurred without any consultation and without any warning to the industry. The industry was operating on the basis that the scheme would be operational until at least 30 June this year, as the government had promised that it would be. By doing this what the government has done is to say to industry and consumers who were perhaps preparing to utilise the rebate: 'Well, don't believe what we say. You can't trust us. We told you there would not be a carbon tax, and now there is. We told you there would be this support because we needed to do our bit to reduce emissions by having people use the solar hot water rebate.' So they thought it would be a good encouragement for consumers to convert. And what have we seen? Not only have we seen them send out the message that 'we're not really serious because we've cut this rebate' but, quite cruelly, what they have done to manufacturers and retailers is to say, 'When we tell you we've got an industry program, don't trust us. We'll pull out the rug from right under your feet.'

This is yet another example of changing the goalposts midway through a program without consultation and without warning. Take Rheem. I was speaking to them yesterday before they heard the announcement and my office spoke to them afterwards. They have made business decisions, they have got $10 million worth of stock and now the jobs of 1,200 workers at their Rydalmere facility hang in the wind. It is reckless decisions like this that add to poor business confidence and poor consumer confidence.

The government may try to say, 'The opposition is always saying no,' to try to absolve themselves of the responsibility of the role they have had in creating a very negative business outlook. It is these sorts of decisions—and this is yet another one—that add to that. I think it is about time that members like the member for Parramatta should break the silence and be the first one to go and lobby the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision, because it is not good enough for the industry minister to come into this chamber, pretending to know all about industry, and give the arrogant advice from the top of the hill to say, 'Business has got to lift its game. Business has got to start thinking about the national interest, not their own interest.' That arrogant rhetoric is no replacement for real policy and for genuine empathy about how hard industry, particularly manufacturers, is doing it at the moment. We have even heard from the Clean Energy Council, which said in a release today:

This decision will immediately affect sales and will put more than 1200 manufacturing jobs and 6000 installation, sales and back office jobs in jeopardy. This industry has been struggling with the effects of a high … dollar just like the car industry, just like the steel industry and just like other home grown manufacturing industries.

They go on to say:

Cutting this program without warning in the middle of a financial year is yet another example of stop-start policy making that continues to plague the entire clean energy sector. It has given the industry no time to prepare and makes business planning almost impossible.

To compound matters, the parliamentary secretary when interviewed, as was reported in today's Australian, defended keeping this decision a secret from industry when he said:

This is good budget practice, to shut a project of this nature in this way, because what it does is avoid a sudden spike in demand, it avoids budget overruns, it's responsible economic management to do this …

How absolutely remarkable that changing the goalposts and betraying manufacturers and retailers who thought the government was fair dinkum about reducing emissions is supposedly good economic practice. (Time expired)