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Garrett's department faces solar inquiry at last.



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MEDIA RELEASE Senator Simon Birmingham Liberal Senator for South Australia Monday, 11 August 2008 Garrett’s Department faces solar inquiry at last A Senate inquiry today has an opportunity to make the Rudd Government come clean on the impact of its much criticised means test on solar panel rebates, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham said today. Environment Department officials responsible for the rebate program’s administration are scheduled to appear today, after they were an eleventh hour ‘no show’ in Canberra last month on the orders of Minister Peter Garrett. The Department finally lodged its submission late last week, and today will be questioned on its figures indicating application rates have risen despite the introduction of the $100,000 household means test on the rebate of up to $8000. “With Mr Garrett and Senator Wong having dodged questions in parliament on the means test’s impact, questioning the Department is the only way we’ll get to the true facts of the situation. “We want to know, for example: æ What has been the net effect on solar panel installation since the means test was introduced, and the net effect on private investment? æ Is the Government now getting less renewable power generation for its dollar spend due to a shift towards cheaper and smaller systems? æ How many installations does the Government estimate to have been foregone as a result of introducing the means test? æ What monitoring is being done of the means test’s impact on the industry, such as numbers of installers and employed staff, as well as consumer confidence? æ Will the Government guarantee that all eligible applicants will be funded this financial year?" Also appearing today will be several businesses among those to have lodged submissions detailing loss and uncertainty, such as Beyond Building Energy: For example, last week, our company had a call from a woman who was part way through her accreditation as a solar installer, and inquiring about job prospects in the industry, and whether to complete her training. After a call to DEWHA failed to obtain numbers on how long the rebates were left it was not possible to advise this woman whether to complete her training, nor to decide whether we could offer her a job, or should be saving the work we have for existing staff. The recent change to the Means Test caused 15% of already placed orders to be cancelled overnight, or rather after our entire company spent a couple of weeks chasing down every customer to see if the means test applied to them, and getting new forms signed. Mr Mitra Ardron, General Manager, Beyond Building Energy Today’s hearing starts at 9.30am at Mercure Hotel Brisbane, 85-87 North Quay, Brisbane. Further details of the inquiry, including submissions, hearing dates and agendas, can be found at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/eca_ctte/solar_rebate/index.htm. Media contact: Senator Birmingham 0404 807 970