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Doorstop interview Sustainable Industry Research Centre, Adelaide
17 April 2009
GARRETT: It is terrific to be here at the University of [South Australia] to announce the launch of this important Sustainable Industry Research Centre and to hear particularly from the industry itself the impact the Government's policies are having on building a successful and vibrant solar industry in Australia and also the potential for increasing employment and increasing deployment of solar, not only here in South Australia, but right around the country.
The Government's commitment to solar is one which is very strongly reflected in the $3.9 billion that we have committed in the Energy Efficient Homes plan. This will be the largest roll-out of insulation, ceiling insulation, for Australian homes; the largest roll-out for domestic solar hot-water systems; and the contribution that solar hot water systems make in terms of a householder's capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to lower energy costs is a significant one.
So I was particularly pleased to hear from Rheem and their recognition that the kind of research that Wasim and his colleagues will undertake here will be of very good use for the industry as it continues to build up.
And particularly pleased already to let you know that we already have 10,000 applications for the rebate for solar hot water under the Energy Efficient Homes plan. That is a phenomenal level of interest and a desire for people to get solar hot water onto their roofs. This is going to be an extremely successful and active program. And the fact that we have some 10,000 applications up already on solar hot water - more than we have incidentally on the ceiling insulation program where we have around 7,000 applications at last count as I was advised.
So what does this say? This says that the Government's measures in terms of bringing forward a stimulus package are the right measures to have at this time. And in particular, have the opportunity to continue to build employment, growth in local industry and especially see us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs over the longer term.
JOURNALIST: Does the Government have some sort of target when it comes to households using solar energy?
GARRETT: We'd like to see up to 300,000 households through the Energy Efficient Homes plan take up solar hot water. I think there is no doubt that over time we will see more and more households getting into solar hot water because the technology continues to improve, the economies of scale that are now in place because of what this Government has committed in terms of the program means that manufacturers have a confidence that they can go out and start producing larger volumes into the marketplace. And remember this is an Australian-originated, Australian-located and Australian-driven industry. It is one of the great Australian manufacturing industries - our solar hot water industry. And whilst there are other players in the market, the fact that the Australian component in solar hot water is a significant one.
JOURNALIST: Ideally what sort of developments would you like to see coming out of something like this project here?
GARRETT: I think transmission issues, in terms of making sure that the solar energy that is collected has the capacity to sort of get a lot of heat in the system. They are looking at the actual launch ... that we had in place here, how resistant are our panels to actual weather events, that sort of development.
It's all about getting the maximum out of the materials that you are using. The only way that you can do that is to have a research centre of this kind. And Wasim and his colleagues have significant expertise in this area and I am sure that the science that they bring through will really help industry develop better more effective and more efficient technologies in solar hot water domain.
JOURNALIST: How is your daughter?
GARRETT: My daughter is fine.
JOURNALIST: Did she overdose on drink? [INAUDIBLE]
GARRETT: All I want to say about those matters that have been reported in the media about my daughter, Grace, are that she was drinking with friends at a hotel. She was admitted into a hospital in Sydney as consequence of that drinking. As a 19-year-old I think she recognises that that was a mistake. That the tests that were done on her were very clear - there was too much alcohol in her system. She was discharged a couple of hours later. And she is well and she is resting at home.
JOURNALIST: Do you have some sort of message to young people who are shocked by this, that your daughter ...
GARRETT: It is a family matter and obviously we have had some discussion about it with her. I think she recognises and understands that it is something that was a mistake on her part. I am glad that she is well. I don't propose to add anything extra to that.
JOURNALIST: Is this one of the aspects of politics that disappoints you, that your family does get drawn into the public domain?
GARRETT: I think the fact of the matter is that I am the one that is the Minister for the Environment. I am the one that stood for political office. I know that there is a public interest in our families, but it is a family matter. I am pleased that (a) she came into the hospital and she was quickly discharged. It is a matter around alcohol, something which we are all experiencing, we are all used to. We'll have some discussions about it but I think we'll leave it at that.
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter. The West Australian government has ticked off on the Kimberley gas project. Will you be ticking off on it?
GARRETT: There are a number of important steps in the chain that remain in relation to the Kimberley gas project. Yes, it is good to see that there is an agreement that has been struck between the KLC, the West Australian Government and Woodside, but the environmental assessment process still has some way to go. And I must say again that my expectation is that that won't be concluded until 2010 and we will make sure that we comprehensively and rigorously have an assessment which deals with the environment of the region and the potential impacts on matters of national environment significance that a hub of this kind might have. So the assessment is underway. My expectation is that state officials and Commonwealth officials will continue to work closely. It is a strategic assessment. It is the first of its kind that has been embarked upon between the Commonwealth and any state, and I want to see it concluded satisfactorily. But it has some way to go yet.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any opinion on Ross Garnaut's evidence to the Senate inquiry yesterday about ... casting doubt on the emissions trading scheme?
GARRETT: I think Professor Garnaut has made a valuable contribution to our understanding about climate change and emissions trading generally. He has put his views to the Senate. But it is the Government that brings forward the policy and it is the Government will continue to say to the Senators that a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is recognised as being a highly necessary tool in the task of reducing emissions, and doing it with a price in the marketplace. We will continue to remind Senators of that. We recognise Professor Garnaut's contribution and his comments but it is Government that will continue to drive the policy.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the scheme needs altering [inaudible]
GARRETT: Again, what I would say is that the Senate is in a position now where it will have to consider whether or not it is prepared to support a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. And one of problems here is the position that is taken by the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, he used to saying 'maybe' so he has been 'Mr Maybe' and now is becoming 'Do No'. He is saying no to everything that the Government proposes. He is holding up legislation that comes through into the Senate. He wanted to deny the opportunity for Australian schools to have the benefits of an infrastructure investment; for payments for carers and others. And until the Coalition recognises that there is extraordinary uncertainty that arises as a consequence of now starting to say no to everything that this Government brings forward, then that will create potential difficulties in the long run for industry as well. So the scheme is proposed. Yes, there will be debate. Yes, there are inquiries, but we will bring that scheme through to the Senate and it will be up to the Senators and, in particular to the Coalition, to determine how it is going to act.