8 June 2008

Means test devastates solar panel industry and costs jobs

In an extraordinary move, Dean Mighell, Victorian state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, has written to the Liberal Party expressing his support for their efforts to have the Labor government reverse the means test for solar panel rebates. They have been joined by the Greens in their condemnation of the policy which is devastating the solar panel industry and has resulted in job losses.

The previous Howard government introduced a rebate of up to $8,000 for the installation of solar panels. In the last Budget, the Labor government imposed a means test that restricts the rebate to households earning less than $100,000 a year.

The explanation offered by the Labor government for this monumental act of fiscal foolishness is ludicrous. On ABC radio, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said "This was a program that was very popular, it was a program that was overheating." In reality, we are witnessing a prime example of Labor's economic mismanagement that has resulted in workers losing their livelihoods. Many businesses in the solar panel industry have reported losing up to 80% of their contracts and have had to lay off employees.

Last year when Labor was in opposition, Mr Garrett and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced their policy on solar panels on the premises of Solartec Renewables, a family business located near Canberra. Mr Rudd made the following statement:

"We need to boost renewable energies in general. Solar is the most greenhouse-friendly energy available on the planet and, therefore, we just need to take some practical steps to make it possible for as many families as possible to invest in this."

Since the last Budget, the means test has ruined Solartec Renewables. They have lost $500,000 worth of orders and have had to terminate the employment of three of their staff.

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