Bill offers help to ailing solar power industry

The Federal Opposition seems determined to force the Rudd Government to overturn its solar panel rebate means test, citing crippling effects to sales of rooftop solar systems around the country.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said the Coalition would introduce a private member’s Bill later this month calling for the means test to be axed. He said it had brought the alternative energy industry to its knees.

“This is environmental and financial lunacy and it’s also an attack on a very important industry that’s in its infancy in Australia,” Dr Nelson said.

Prior to the federal election last year, Labor campaigned on a platform of assistance for the Australian solar industry, accusing the Howard government of neglecting vital business opportunities in the sector.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says solar module retailers face a bleak future if the means test – which limits the $8000 solar rebate to households earning under $100,000 per year – stays in place, and that the government can easily afford to continue the $8000 rebate scheme.

“So they’ve saved about $50 million a year,” he said.

“That’s money which was budgeted for climate change, was in there for climate change, and was in there for a small visionary Australian industry.”

Mr Hunt has accused Environment Minister Peter Garrett of failing to recognise the damage caused by means testing solar power systems. He urged Mr Garrett to overturn the decision.

“This can be turned around overnight – Mr Garrett bought them to a cliff, he can bring them back from the cliff,” he said.

“Reversing the rebate decision right now will lead to an immediate change in the fortunes of the solar industry.”
Last week Greg Hunt parachuted from a plane to demonstrate how the solar industry was in “freefall” because of the solar means test.