Two of the Government’s leading climate change policies are looking fatally flawed because of the inaction and indifference of Environment Minister Peter Garrett, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Senate Budget Estimates last night revealed that no progress had been made since the election on implementing the Government’s $300 million Green Loans policy and that no modeling was undertaken into the decision to means test solar rebates.
“Mr Garrett announced the Green Loans program during the election campaign promising it would provide low interest loans of $10,000 to 200,000 households,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“His own program now appears too hard for Mr Garrett to actually deliver.
“Despite budgeting $300 million for Green Loans, the Government is unable to confirm who will provide the loans, what the average loan will be, what will happen if people are unable to meet repayments or how much the program will cost to administer.
“Senator Wong has been forced to confess about the embarrassing lack of progress in relation to the programs administered by Mr Garrett:
“I think the difficulty we have here is that … this is a budget decision, funding’s been allocated … the Government’s not yet released the guidelines for this program, and a great many of these questions do go to guidelines which … as yet have not gone to the Minister for approval.”
                                    Senator Wong, Senate Budget Estimates, 28 May 2008
“With all the difficult climate change policy matters already stripped from Mr Garrett’s portfolio we can only wonder what he has been doing these last six months if not working on these programs.”
Departmental officials also revealed that despite briefing Mr Garrett in February on the increasing popularity of the solar rebates program, no work was undertaken to establish the incomes of participating households prior to the introduction of the means test.
“12,000 households have received solar rebates since this program was introduced – a quick and simple survey of them could have saved the Government from destroying a valuable program and threatening the viability of the solar energy industry.
“A disease of inaction is spreading across Mr Garrett’s portfolio. It’s time the Prime Minister took action to prevent further failings in his Government’s environmental policies and any more harm to the renewable energy sector.”