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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4078

Mr RAGUSE (3:22 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. How is the Australian government supporting solar technologies and helping grow the green economy?

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) —I thank the member for Forde for his question. The Rudd government has delivered more solar panels, more solar hot water systems and more support for solar power than at any time in our history. Part of that commitment was to deliver $150 million over five years for the Solar Homes and Communities Plan, but since the federal budget the government’s commitment to solar homes and communities now totals close to $500 million. This support translates to the highest ever uptake of solar panels on Australian rooftops, ahead of the transition to the solar credits under the expanded renewable energy target. In February, the government boosted the solar hot water rebate to $1,600 and removed the means test previously put in place by the present Leader of the Opposition. Unlike the previous government, this government is fundamentally committed to replacing energy intensive hot water systems with clean solar hot water.  A boosted solar hot water rebate is designed to do one thing exactly—and that is to provide a maximum number of Australian households with a maximum number of Australian jobs. When I was in Perth on 22 April, I visited the Rheem hot water factory at Welshpool. The CEO from Rheem said this about the boosted solar hot water rebate: ‘Firstly, these incentives will address climate change very, very quickly. Secondly, it will stimulate what I believe is a vital Australian industry at a critical time. It will create additional jobs as long as it’s directed towards local industry and local manufacture.’ And that is the government’s intention.

The government is delivering on solar schools, with over 4,000 schools around Australia already registered as part of this $480 million program. In last week’s budget, as the Prime Minister has just pointed out, the government announced an unprecedented investment of $1.365 billion for the Solar Flagships program—solar flagships to create an additional 1,000 megawatts of solar generation capacity. This is imagination, it is innovation, it is the kind of infrastructure that Australians want to see investment in and it is what this government is doing now. It will provide the opportunity for 1,000 megawatts of solar power to be generated in Australia. That will consolidate Australia’s place as a leader in solar technology.

There is no policy in place from those opposite on solar power. We know that the member for Flinders jumped out of a plane to tell us that solar panels were at record lows when solar panels were going to record highs, but we are reaching the point of public policy credibility for the Leader of the Opposition. He does not have a solar policy and, at the same time, he does not have a policy on the CPRS. While we are investing in solar infrastructure, providing Australians with the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, supporting jobs and local infrastructure, the opposition are left in no-man’s-land. It is time they took some action and it is time they looked at the good solar policies of the Rudd government.