Senator Simon Birmingham has accused Environment Minister Peter Garrett of stalling in a bid to avoid scrutiny over the impact of the Rudd Government’s new means test on solar rebates.
It follows confirmation Mr Garrett instructed his Department to pull out of appearing at today’s Senate Committee first hearings into the impact of the household means test of $100,000 on the solar rebate of up to $8000.
Environment Department officials responsible for the administration of the solar rebates had been scheduled to appear in Canberra this morning but withdrew at the eleventh hour.
“Instead of turning up to confirm industry reports that applications have crashed through the floor, the department advised the Senate committee secretary late yesterday that they would be no-shows,” Senator Birmingham said today.
An email sent to the committee at 6.13pm yesterday by a departmental acting assistant secretary, and tabled today, confirms the late withdrawal was ordered by Mr Garrett:
“The Minister is giving further consideration to the nature and scope of the Department’s submission to the inquiry.
“While that consideration is taking place, the Minister has asked that the Department defer its submission and appearance before the inquiry.”
“The Senate referred this Bill to a committee inquiry back on 25 June, so to suggest the Minister needs more time to consider the nature and scope of a submission is just a joke and is blatant stalling tactics.
“It is simply extraordinary that Mr Garrett would seek to avoid legitimate public scrutiny in this manner. 
“Mr Garrett and Senator Wong have already dodged questions in parliament on the impact of the means test on applications. Now, Mr Garrett is forcing his department to dodge all scrutiny on this matter too.
“We can only assume Mr Garrett is buying time while he works out whether to back flip, back down or back out of his government’s ill considered means test that has seen carbon reduction and jobs lost as millions of dollars in solar business has dried up.
“Mr Garrett infamously said during last year’s election campaign ‘once we get in we’ll just change it all.’
“We hadn’t expected the Rudd Government to be so swiftly changing its own policies, but a change to the disastrous solar rebates means test will be welcomed.”