Federation Chamber PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS Renewable Energy

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (19:06): I want to pick up a number of points that the member for Parkes raised. I have also experienced situations where people and small businesses have been affected in the way that has been mentioned, but there are also a lot of other businesses that operate across the economy that will be affected through their transactions with others. But we do not use that as a basis on which to cast aspersions or to effectively denigrate the value of the sector. I am not necessarily saying that this is the case with the member for Parkes, but I have to say as someone on this side of the chamber that there has been a pattern of raising concerns, particularly in relation to anyone that is associated with the renewables sector. The reason I say that is that I have also participated in other debates where we have had those opposite raise concerns—actually, they have been quite long rants—about the wind turbine sector and what has been happening in other parts of the country. As I said in that debate—and I repeat it here, and I do not necessarily liken it to what the member for Parkes has said—I liken it to people saying that, because they drive down the Hume Highway and they might run into a kangaroo, we should take cars off the road. That type of logic does not work.

In this case, the issue of what has happened in the matters that have been raised by the member for Parkes reflects a design flaw in the legislation that sat there for years—a design flaw that was recently addressed by this government but had been introduced by the Howard government. Again, I have to say that these flaws were never addressed by those opposite when they had the opportunity to do so, yet there would be others that use it as a chance to undermine important work that is being done in fostering our renewables sector, a sector that will create up to 1.6 million new jobs.

The way I look at it, the reliance on renewable energy is not just an environmental benefit but an economic benefit as well, and not just because of the industry it creates. The fact of the matter is that it is economically smart to preserve our finite resources as much as we can and find other ways of generating energy and meeting growing energy needs within this country. From my perspective, I see this in rather strong terms as an attempt to basically trash an industry which is valuable to our economy and which has enjoyed bipartisan support since the middle years of the Howard government. It is just as amusing as what we saw today when the Leader of the National Party declared that the coalition would oppose Labor's historic shipping reforms despite their being part of its own platform.

Mr Neumann interjecting—

Mr HUSIC: In fact, as the member for Blair rightly points out, it is their policy. The Leader of the Opposition took this policy to reform Australia's shipping industry to the last election, and it all serves to highlight the game plan of playing the politics of obstructionism. We have reached the spot of ridiculousness—that is, they do not just say no to us; they say no to their own policies. I am certain that the more they play this card the more we will see people waking up to what the member for Warringah is doing.
Let me look at this resolution in particular and put it in the context of my previous remarks. The renewable energy target itself has maintained bipartisan support since it was introduced in 2001. It was a scheme designed to deliver on the government's commitment that the equivalent of at least 20 per cent of Australia's electricity would come from renewable sources by 2020. In June 2010 the government, with the support of the coalition and the Greens, amended the RET scheme to separate it into one that would provide a large-scale renewable energy target and the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme from 1 January 2011, which we are discussing in part tonight. This separation split the pre-existing renewable energy certificates market into two markets—namely, the large-scale and the small technology certificates market. The STCs were created from eligible installations of small scale renewable energy systems, like solar water heaters, heat pumps, photovoltaic panels, micro hydro and micro wind systems, with each STC representing one megawatt hour of renewable energy. The scheme came into effect last year on the back of the support of both coalition parties.

As well as highlighting the politics of obstructionism, the motion emphasises deep divisions, I would say, in coalition ranks as to the RET and to climate change itself. The coalition has inconsistently argued against the generosity of the solar credit arrangements and the safety of the industry. On the one hand it has criticised the sector, and on the other it supports a $1,000 solar subsidy to achieve an additional one million solar roofs by 2020. In the direct action plan the member for Warringah took to the last election, he stated:

Our goal is for one million additional solar energy roofs on homes by 2020, including either solar power or solar water heating systems.

To achieve the goal of one million additional solar energy roofs by 2020, the Coalition will provide an extra $1000 rebate for either solar panels or solar hot water systems. The program would be capped at 100,000 rebates per year and would therefore be capped at a total cost of $100 million per year.

So you have a situation where you have a major political party taking to the election a promise to further stimulate the sector but we have heard nothing of the type of regulatory response that is being called for here or dealing with it. The simple reason is that the design flaw in the system was introduced by those opposite and went on for years without them correcting it until we fixed it in this parliament.

In the spirit of the Leader of the Opposition's caravan of doom, the member for Parkes has come into this place tonight talking down the Australian solar industry and discrediting it as being shonky. He ought to be ashamed of himself, because Australia's solar industry is strongly regulated. State and territory governments have clear responsibility for regulating workplace health and electrical safety standards in relation to solar voltaic systems—

Mr Bruce Scott interjecting —

Mr HUSIC: How come you never stop other people interrupting me but you are interrupting me now? You are getting me worked up.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Chifley will address the chair.

Mr HUSIC: Australia's solar industry is strongly regulated and it has regulations in place to oversight workplace health and electrical safety standards in relation to solar voltaic systems. To be eligible to receive support under RET, small-scale systems have to meet stringent safety standards, including adherence to relevant Australian standards and all relevant Commonwealth, state, territory and local government laws and regulations. In particular, in the case of Well Being Green, which was referenced by the member for Parkes, it was not that the work was substandard; it was an issue where one company was not honouring its arrangements with its partners. This is not something that would be isolated insofar as there would be situations in all spheres of commerce where there would be parties that do not seek to honour what their partners do and the law needs to step in. That is what we have effectively sought to fix up in the reforms that are being brought on by the minister for climate change.

The regulator has inspected and finalised reports for over 3,000 installations, reinforcing the point I just made, and passed on issues of noncompliance to the Clean Energy Council and state and territory agencies for further enforcement. I note that public inspection results indicate that only about four per cent of systems were considered unsafe, hardly suggesting a widespread problem with compliance as has been suggested. My problem with the coalition is that they have gone out of their way to highlight a problem and claim they have got an affinity for the industry, but when it comes to helping out they are nowhere to be seen. There is $500 million ripped out of industry assistance under their plan. They never voted for the steel transformation plan. They sneer at efforts to protect auto workers. They move motions against wind turbines and the sector that is supporting them. And now we have this.

The member for Parkes can talk about financial stress. The only thing that is causing stress is this constant campaign of fear and negativity that is being played by those opposite in trying to undermine confidence in certain sectors across the economy. From my point of view, they have a vested interest in the failure of these industries and the loss of jobs that follows it. The RET has been highly successful in helping households, small businesses and community groups to address or play a part in addressing climate change. Over 500,000 rooftop solar panel systems and over 200,000 solar heat pump water heaters have received support under the scheme since it has been expanded.

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (19:06): I want to pick up a number of points that the member for Parkes raised. I have also experienced situations where people and small businesses have been affected in the way that has been mentioned, but there are also a lot of other businesses that operate across the economy that will be affected through their transactions with others. But we do not use that as a basis on which to cast aspersions or to effectively denigrate the value of the sector. I am not necessarily saying that this is the case with the member for Parkes, but I have to say as someone on this side of the chamber that there has been a pattern of raising concerns, particularly in relation to anyone that is associated with the renewables sector. The reason I say that is that I have also participated in other debates where we have had those opposite raise concerns—actually, they have been quite long rants—about the wind turbine sector and what has been happening in other parts of the country. As I said in that debate—and I repeat it here, and I do not necessarily liken it to what the member for Parkes has said—I liken it to people saying that, because they drive down the Hume Highway and they might run into a kangaroo, we should take cars off the road. That type of logic does not work.

In this case, the issue of what has happened in the matters that have been raised by the member for Parkes reflects a design flaw in the legislation that sat there for years—a design flaw that was recently addressed by this government but had been introduced by the Howard government. Again, I have to say that these flaws were never addressed by those opposite when they had the opportunity to do so, yet there would be others that use it as a chance to undermine important work that is being done in fostering our renewables sector, a sector that will create up to 1.6 million new jobs.

The way I look at it, the reliance on renewable energy is not just an environmental benefit but an economic benefit as well, and not just because of the industry it creates. The fact of the matter is that it is economically smart to preserve our finite resources as much as we can and find other ways of generating energy and meeting growing energy needs within this country. From my perspective, I see this in rather strong terms as an attempt to basically trash an industry which is valuable to our economy and which has enjoyed bipartisan support since the middle years of the Howard government. It is just as amusing as what we saw today when the Leader of the National Party declared that the coalition would oppose Labor's historic shipping reforms despite their being part of its own platform.

Mr Neumann interjecting—

Mr HUSIC: In fact, as the member for Blair rightly points out, it is their policy. The Leader of the Opposition took this policy to reform Australia's shipping industry to the last election, and it all serves to highlight the game plan of playing the politics of obstructionism. We have reached the spot of ridiculousness—that is, they do not just say no to us; they say no to their own policies. I am certain that the more they play this card the more we will see people waking up to what the member for Warringah is doing.Let me look at this resolution in particular and put it in the context of my previous remarks. The renewable energy target itself has maintained bipartisan support since it was introduced in 2001. It was a scheme designed to deliver on the government's commitment that the equivalent of at least 20 per cent of Australia's electricity would come from renewable sources by 2020. In June 2010 the government, with the support of the coalition and the Greens, amended the RET scheme to separate it into one that would provide a large-scale renewable energy target and the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme from 1 January 2011, which we are discussing in part tonight. This separation split the pre-existing renewable energy certificates market into two markets—namely, the large-scale and the small technology certificates market. The STCs were created from eligible installations of small scale renewable energy systems, like solar water heaters, heat pumps, photovoltaic panels, micro hydro and micro wind systems, with each STC representing one megawatt hour of renewable energy. The scheme came into effect last year on the back of the support of both coalition parties.

As well as highlighting the politics of obstructionism, the motion emphasises deep divisions, I would say, in coalition ranks as to the RET and to climate change itself. The coalition has inconsistently argued against the generosity of the solar credit arrangements and the safety of the industry. On the one hand it has criticised the sector, and on the other it supports a $1,000 solar subsidy to achieve an additional one million solar roofs by 2020. In the direct action plan the member for Warringah took to the last election, he stated:

Our goal is for one million additional solar energy roofs on homes by 2020, including either solar power or solar water heating systems.

To achieve the goal of one million additional solar energy roofs by 2020, the Coalition will provide an extra $1000 rebate for either solar panels or solar hot water systems. The program would be capped at 100,000 rebates per year and would therefore be capped at a total cost of $100 million per year.

So you have a situation where you have a major political party taking to the election a promise to further stimulate the sector but we have heard nothing of the type of regulatory response that is being called for here or dealing with it. The simple reason is that the design flaw in the system was introduced by those opposite and went on for years without them correcting it until we fixed it in this parliament.

In the spirit of the Leader of the Opposition's caravan of doom, the member for Parkes has come into this place tonight talking down the Australian solar industry and discrediting it as being shonky. He ought to be ashamed of himself, because Australia's solar industry is strongly regulated. State and territory governments have clear responsibility for regulating workplace health and electrical safety standards in relation to solar voltaic systems—

Mr Bruce Scott interjecting —

Mr HUSIC: How come you never stop other people interrupting me but you are interrupting me now? You are getting me worked up.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Chifley will address the chair.
Mr HUSIC: Australia's solar industry is strongly regulated and it has regulations in place to oversight workplace health and electrical safety standards in relation to solar voltaic systems. To be eligible to receive support under RET, small-scale systems have to meet stringent safety standards, including adherence to relevant Australian standards and all relevant Commonwealth, state, territory and local government laws and regulations. In particular, in the case of Well Being Green, which was referenced by the member for Parkes, it was not that the work was substandard; it was an issue where one company was not honouring its arrangements with its partners. This is not something that would be isolated insofar as there would be situations in all spheres of commerce where there would be parties that do not seek to honour what their partners do and the law needs to step in. That is what we have effectively sought to fix up in the reforms that are being brought on by the minister for climate change.

The regulator has inspected and finalised reports for over 3,000 installations, reinforcing the point I just made, and passed on issues of noncompliance to the Clean Energy Council and state and territory agencies for further enforcement. I note that public inspection results indicate that only about four per cent of systems were considered unsafe, hardly suggesting a widespread problem with compliance as has been suggested. My problem with the coalition is that they have gone out of their way to highlight a problem and claim they have got an affinity for the industry, but when it comes to helping out they are nowhere to be seen. There is $500 million ripped out of industry assistance under their plan. They never voted for the steel transformation plan. They sneer at efforts to protect auto workers. They move motions against wind turbines and the sector that is supporting them. And now we have this.

The member for Parkes can talk about financial stress. The only thing that is causing stress is this constant campaign of fear and negativity that is being played by those opposite in trying to undermine confidence in certain sectors across the economy. From my point of view, they have a vested interest in the failure of these industries and the loss of jobs that follows it. The RET has been highly successful in helping households, small businesses and community groups to address or play a part in addressing climate change. Over 500,000 rooftop solar panel systems and over 200,000 solar heat pump water heaters have received support under the scheme since it has been expanded.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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