South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham has labelled the last minute withdrawal by Environment Department officials from today’s hearings into the impact of the new means test on solar rebates as disgraceful and contemptuous.
“Does Minister Garrett really have so much to hide that he needs to pull his officials from attending these hearings at the eleventh hour,” Senator Simon Birmingham asked today.
“First, Mr Garrett and Senator Wong dodge questions in parliament on the impact of the means test on applications. Now, Mr Garrett is forcing his department to dodge all scrutiny on the 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 the Rudd Government’s ill considered means test.”
Environment Department officials responsible for the administration of the solar rebates program were scheduled to appear at the first hearings of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts inquiry into the solar rebates means test in Canberra at 9.00am this morning.
“Instead of turning up to confirm industry reports that applications have crashed through the floor, the department advised the committee secretary late yesterday that they would be no-shows,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Despite all their moralising on accountability, the Rudd Government through their non-attendance at this hearing has shown nothing short of total contempt for Senate scrutiny.
“They have also shown their contempt for thousands of people employed in the solar industry, more than 100 of whom have made submissions condemning the imposition of this means test. These concerned Australians will now front an inquiry snubbed by the Government. For them it is a case of one insult after another.”
Companies appearing today have already detailed the negative impact of this measure in submissions to the inquiry:
By placing a means test on the solar industry, not only has it slowed the industry, but has all but stopped people from wanting to install solar on their properties due to the lack of funding now available. The down turn is hurting everybody within this business.
Mid West Solar and Electrical, Cowra
The number of deposits taken has dropped from an average of 5 per week to 2 per week for our company. Solartec was installing 14kW of photovoltaic panels each week in the months leading up to the rebate changes… In the prior 12 months the average installation per week was 10 kW of Photovoltaic Modules. Our average installation is now 2.8kW per week.
Solartec Renewables, Canberra