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Thursday, 25 September 2008
Page: 5713

Senator WORTLEY (5:33 PM) —I welcome the opportunity to speak on the matter of the solar rebate. As a member of the Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts, I sat on the recent inquiry into the Save Our Solar (Solar Rebate Protection) Bill 2008 [No. 2]. The terms of reference within which the committee operated were focused, among other related matters, on the impact on the solar industry of the means-test threshold on the solar rebate per household, the effect on the uptake of solar panels on households and the impact on the number of applications for the rebate since the current budget measure was announced.

It is interesting to note that the committee found that, in addition to the government’s extensive range of policies targeting the development of renewable energy industries and, by extension, addressing the climate change imperative, some states and territories are moving towards implementing a feed-in tariff for renewable energy—indeed, the renewable energy bill 2008 is under examination by the standing committee. I mention this today because of the interplay between the issues of the rebate and the feed-in tariff, a term which will become very familiar to those in this place and to the community as the year moves on. To return to the issue at hand, however, I can advise that certain familiar themes emerged from the evidence given. As a result, government senators recommended in the report that the government continue to provide support to households to take up renewable energy and energy efficient initiatives, including through schemes such as the SHCP.

Climate change is one of the greatest social, economic and environmental challenges of our time and the Rudd government is committed to ensuring Australia meets its responsibilities in facing this global challenge. This government remains strongly committed to helping Australians take practical action to tackle climate change, building a strong solar industry and harnessing our abundant solar resources.

So what have we done to advance down this path? In this year alone, the year of the government’s first budget, there will be more Commonwealth funding for solar power and, in fact, more installations of solar power systems than in any other year in Australia’s history. The $100,000 means test for household solar power rebates was introduced to ensure that funding is targeted towards those Australian families who most need assistance with the high upfront costs of photovoltaic systems, and that is exactly what is happening.

Interestingly, the means test has been set at the same level as the existing means test for solar hot water rebates, which was introduced by the previous government under the then environment minister and now Leader of the Opposition. It is significant that since its introduction the demand for household solar power rebates has increased to record levels. This government is committed to assisting Australian households to take practical action on climate change in the transition to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Debate (on motion by Senator McLucas) adjourned.

Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.