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Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Page: 12434

Mr WOOD (7:30 PM) —I wish to present to the House a petition from certain citizens of Australia, the principal petitioner being Mr Adam Kloppenburg of my electorate of La Trobe. This has been lodged with the Standing Committee on Petitions and has been approved in accordance with the requirements of the standing orders. Through this petition, Australian families who have a shared interest in renewable energy and the environment have conveyed their disappointment over the government’s introduction of a means test on the photovoltaic rebate scheme. The petition urges the government to remove the means test to the rebate scheme and to demonstrate that it is serious about promoting renewable energy as an alternative energy source. I congratulate the 490 people who have signed the petition, and Mr Adam Kloppenburg from Belgrave in particular. This is a fantastic message to the government that Australians, especially those in my electorate of La Trobe, are serious about climate change. Can I also congratulate Greg Hunt, the shadow minister for climate change, environment and water, for pursuing this issue so vigorously.

Hunt, the shadow minister for climate change, environment and water, for pursuing this issue so vigorously.

In this year’s budget, the Labor government decided to impose a means test on the scheme. The means test is set at $100,000 per household, meaning that if two members of a couple each earn $50,000—slightly less than the average wage of $59,654 per annum—they are ineligible for the solar rebate. The means test implies that renewable energy is a luxury item rather than a vital tool in the fight against climate change. A Senate inquiry into the impact of this terrible decision on the solar industry began in July and found that many solar companies were reporting that up to 80 per cent of solar contracts had been cancelled. Sadly, many were required to lay off staff because there simply was not enough work to employ them all.

Earlier this year, I met Trent Mair of Trentleck Eco Power Solutions, based in my electorate of La Trobe. Trentleck are an electrical company specialising in renewable energy. In May this year, Trentleck installed solar panels at Emerald Primary School as part of the community solar project, a fantastic initiative from the Dandenong Ranges Renewable Energy Association to put solar panels on community buildings. Emerald Primary School is doing a fantastic job when it comes to the environment. In particular, I would like to say to Lee Johnson and Lee Fuller: keep up the good work. This project was the brainchild of the President of the Dandenong Ranges Renewable Energy Association, Peter Cook, who was actually my former school teacher for environment and the outdoors.

This project will prevent over six tonnes of CO2 from escaping into our earth’s atmosphere each year and has been so successful that this Friday Trentleck is installing more panels on Emerald Primary School’s roof. Trentleck, like many solar panel installers across Australia, have noticed a reduction in the rate of solar panel uptake since the government’s decision to introduce a means test. Trentleck have been fortunate enough to withstand this downturn, but many other solar panel installers have not been so lucky.

By far, the biggest loser in this appalling decision is, sadly, the environment. With many average-income families now excluded from the rebate, fewer families—especially in this economic downturn—will take up solar power, meaning that we will have to continue relying on coal for energy. The government claims to be committed to addressing climate change; however, their actions speak far louder than their words. If the government is truly committed to reducing global warming, it will overturn its decision to impose a means test for the photovoltaic rebate scheme.

The petition read as follows—

To The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of the undersigned Australian citizens, whom share an interest in Renewable Energy industry and the Environment, draws to the attention of the House the Government's recent introduction of a means test to the Photovoltaic solar rebate scheme, limiting the eligibility of the rebate to households with a combined income of up to $100,000

The announcement has found many solar installers losing business due to cancellations of customers who no longer qualify for the rebate. We fear that without the incentive of the rebate, the industry will continue to lose business, resulting in lost jobs, lack of investment, development and uptake of new solar technologies. We believe this in turn will cause solar technology to lose its current status as a viable form of alternative energy, impairing us from reducing our dependence on greenhouse gas intensive, fossil fuel based energy production.

We therefore ask the House to reverse the aforementioned changes to the rebate scheme. As an alternative, we propose that the rebate amount be increased to $12,000 for families of a combined income of up to $100,000, offer a rebate of $8,000 to those of a combined income of above $100,000 and increase the available period of the rebate, to make solar electric systems accessible to all Australian families.

If the Government is serious about moving into a sustainable future by reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependence, creating a future for small business, its workers and Australian families, this announcement is saying otherwise.

from 374 citizens

Petition received.