Page 2003 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 25 June 2008

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What we have today in this bill is a modest start at the very expensive end of the realm and, while we should not criticise Mr Gentleman for his measure, what we do need to do is criticise the government for its comprehensive failure to address so many of the other things.

The report of the previous Commissioner for the Environment pointed to the fact that the ACT is a huge consumer of electricity, much higher than anywhere else in the country; I think Dr Foskey used a figure of about 40 per cent. My recollection is that it was not that high, but it is considerably higher than anywhere else. We live in a climate which is cold in winter and hot in summer and we have very badly designed houses for the climate. We spend a lot of money on heating and cooling in our houses and as a result of this we are producing many more greenhouse gas emissions than are our fellow citizens in other states and territories.

We should be addressing this by better building design, by doing something to retrofit the houses that we already live in, to make them better, more pleasant and cheaper for people to live in, and those flow-on benefits could be part of an increasing momentum towards more greenhouse gas reductions.

We have seen the green bank scheme, which was pooh-poohed by the Chief Minister but, interestingly, is now proposed to be introduced by the federal Labor government. It is also in some way being introduced in the solar schools program in terms of the capital supplementation which is being offered to non-government schools, which is exactly modelled on the green bank scheme the Liberal Party took to the last election but was pooh-poohed by the Chief Minister. I am glad to see this backflip. It is a small backflip from the Stanhope government and I hope to see more.

My real problem with Mr Gentleman’s bill, which was pointed to by Dr Foskey, is not the lack of goodwill and not the lack of intent but that this is a piecemeal approach. Earlier this evening we had a debate about the national gas bill, about the importance of harmonisation of the gas laws. We have a national energy market for gas and electricity.

I am pleased to see the approach taken by the Liberal Party and the Greens in the federal parliament, where Greg Hunt, the shadow minister for environment and climate change, and Bob Brown have collectively moved towards a national inquiry into a feed-in tariff. If we are going to have a feed-in tariff, it should be as part of a national energy policy, as part of our harmonised energy electricity and gas program. This is where it should be so that, irrespective of where one lives, there will be the same approach, and we would have the capacity to look at some of the refinements that Dr Foskey has highlighted as necessary to have a fully effective process.

But, at the same time, we have to look at the models of capital support for renewable energy sources. It is a huge shame, a disgrace and a matter that we should be particularly concerned about, that the federal government at the last budget introduced a means test which effectively cut a huge number of people out of the market for PV cells. I had an opportunity to have dinner this evening with a group of people who work in the solar industry, some of whom are in business in the ACT trying to sell solar rays, and they told me about how their business has fallen because of the thoughtlessness of the Rudd government and Peter Garrett’s proposal for a means test.

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