Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1620 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Think about the cost of a solar hot water system compared to a conventional hot water system. Think about the comparative disadvantage a home owner faces when they look at installing solar versus a conventional gas or electricity system. The clear advantage in the short term, in terms of the capital cost, is to go with a conventional electric or gas system. For a family struggling to meet its mortgage payments and to pay the costs and charges they face, installing a conventional gas or electric system makes sense. Whilst everyone knows you recoup the savings in the long term by installing a solar system, the up-front cost compared with a conventional gas or electric system means that going with a conventional gas or electric system is the most sensible thing to do in the short term. When you do not have the cash to invest in the long-term alternative, that is what you do.
The government wants to assist those who cannot afford the capital cost of installing a solar hot water system to get into that form of technology and make savings down the track. We want to get people over that barrier. Far from being middle-class welfare, it is welfare that assists ordinary working families in the ACT who cannot otherwise afford the cost of this type of technology. We are putting the technology within the reach of ordinary working families in the ACT.
For Mrs Dunne to stand up in this place and say it is regressive is not only short-sighted but downright mean. But of course that is second nature to the Liberal Party. It is wrong of Mrs Dunne to suggest that this is a regressive scheme. Far from it.
Mrs Dunne made an appropriate point about making provision for solar hot water systems in ACT Housing. But she misunderstands the intent of the scheme. The scheme never claimed to be a scheme focused on providing these systems within ACT Housing. As members would understand, ACT Housing stock is extensive, and the cost implications such that it is simply not viable for the government to make a commitment to replace all systems in ACT Housing properties with solar systems.
But we agree in principle that this is the way to go. That is why we will be supporting the amended motion, which makes that point. We would like to aspire to doing that. As my colleague Mr Wood pointed out, policies implemented by the previous government make that very difficult to achieve. Loss of design capacity for new developments for ACT Housing properties is one very good example. That loss of capacity occurred under the previous government as a result of their policies and their federal counterparts reducing the amount of money coming in through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. Let us look at those facts in the light of day and understand exactly what is going on.
This is a good policy. The government is committed to implementing it, it has made the investment to implement it, and it is only appropriate that we recognise its benefits to the community as well as appreciating that there is still more to be done in addressing the concerns, rightly raised, in relation to ACT Housing.
MR STEFANIAK (12.14): The first part of Mrs Dunne's motion rightly calls this scheme regressive. Mrs Dunne is concerned to ensure that the people least able to afford it have access to the scheme.