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Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Page: 3186

Senator JOHNSTON (3:40 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Mr President, the Save Our Solar (Solar Rebate Protection) Bill is a Private Senators’ Bill which seeks to overturn the Rudd Labor Government’s decision to means test the Solar Rebate of up to $8000 per household.

The previous Coalition Government raised the existing solar rebate from $4000 per unit to a maximum of $8,000 per unit as a Budget measure in 2007.

Demand for solar panels under the rebate has subsequently tripled.

On 9 May 2007, then Prime Minister John Howard stated on Sunrise that:

“As many households as want it can have it ...”

On Budget night 2008, the Rudd Labor Government issued a non-reviewable Administrative Order which introduced an immediate means test with a maximum threshold of $100,000 income per household as the cut off point to qualify for the solar rebate.

The Rudd Labor Government’s own modelling indicates that this will reduce demand for the rebate by two-thirds. The general industry experience has been in line with the Rudd Labor Government’s expectation of a two-thirds drop in demand.

There are two effects:

  • First, small business has already begun to lose both business and jobs; and
  • Second, as a system generally costs between $15,000 and $20,000 per household, this outlay is beyond the reach of most households.

The decision was in breach of Labor’s election promise to maintain the rebate and there was no consultation with or warning to industry. The decision has created anger within the small business sector and has already led to job losses.

Importantly, it has undermined the Rudd Labor Government’s climate change credentials, its standing with small business and confidence in the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett.

Mr President, it is against this background, that the Save Our Solar Bill has been introduced as a Private Members Bill designed to remove the means test on solar panels by making the Government’s Administrative Order a disallowable instrument.

Mr President, I commend the Save Our Solar (Solar Rebate Protection) Bill 2008 to the Senate.

Senator JOHNSTON —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.