Page 2009 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 25 June 2008

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It is a credit to the creativity of the left wing environmental movement that they are able to find so many ways for the poor to subsidise the wealthy. They are truly unmatched in this area. Despite the pretensions as being saviours of the poor, in this case, they have come out in favour of a subsidy scheme for the well-to-do with solar generators. Many economists have already pointed out the ways in which open space laws have created artificial land scarcity and driven up the cost of properties, driving poorer people out of areas for well-to-do environmentalists. Here we have yet another policy that will see the poor subsidise the affectations of the well-to-do.

Because of the initial capital costs of investment in renewable energy, the scheme proposed by Mr Gentleman is out of the reach of many ordinary ACT residents. Instead, they will be on the paying end of the scheme. They will see higher electricity prices as a result of the subsidisation, not to mention the increases that were announced only a few days ago. They will see higher electricity prices as a result of the subsidisation of those who are able to afford an initial capital investment of several thousand dollars.

I have spoken several times in this Assembly about my belief that the ACT should adopt a no-regrets environmental policy which focuses on areas in which businesses and other groups can make energy savings to save themselves money. A no-regrets policy approach looks for areas in which we can improve our environment—all members here have said they would like to see more happen—and save money at the same time. It is a means of ensuring that we are scrupulous in our search for economically sustainable environmental policies. I would think that such talk of sustainability would be welcome to other members of the Assembly, but it seems that, when preceded by the word “economically”, it does draw blank stares.

This scheme is fraught with problems. Rather than being designed for economic efficiency and sustainability, it is, instead, a recipe for massive market distortion and rising costs. It is also highly inequitable, and it is a recipe for antagonism, division and pressure group warfare between those who are the beneficiaries of subsidies and those who are forced to pay for these subsidies, which will be the overwhelming number of consumers in the territory. As a result of these problems that I have identified, I am not going to be able to support this bill.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (10.06): I am very pleased today to join this debate, first and foremost to thank and congratulate Mr Gentleman for the work, the effort and the personal responsibility which he has accepted to champion this particular bill. He has put an enormous effort into community consultation through the meetings he has attended, the inquiries he has responded to, the advocacy he has been responsible for and certainly his general and genuine championing of a most significant piece of policy development and legislation.

The ACT government, as members I am sure know, did include in our climate change strategy in action plan 1 for the years 2007 to 2011 as action No 18 an undertaking that we would introduce feed-in tariffs so that energy fed back into the electricity grid

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