Mr COULTON (Parkes–The Nationals Chief Whip) (18:57): The Parkes electorate is an ideal place for the generation of solar energy. It has been identified as having the ideal amount of sunshine as a location for this. Indeed, a good number of my constituents have taken to the concept of solar energy and renewable energy with a great amount of enthusiasm. They understand the intention of what is trying to be achieved by the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and in many cases have put considerable resources into the construction of this. Some of these installations are quite large. They are not just the small ones on rooftops. Indeed, some of them are freestanding and cost many tens of thousands of dollars.
But, unfortunately, this attempt to be involved in renewable energy has not worked out for some of my constituents. One of the problems is that, as with many things that are new, this scheme has attracted the attention of some less than honourable companies that have less than honourable management styles. Unfortunately, we have had two major collapses of companies in this area in my electorate, which have been well publicised. The companies were Well Being Green and Solar & Bamboo Direct. Some of my constituents who had been dealing with Solar & Bamboo Direct had very poor service. What was to be a six-week installation time went on for upward of two years. They had poor installation, poor quality of insulation, and insulation that did not work. Indeed, some of these people did not get their installation completed before the company went into liquidation. Having expended upwards of $60,000, they now have insulation that is not working, for a variety of reasons. Some of the tracking devices were not working correctly. Some of them have blown fuses. Some of the insulation just was not installed correctly and so has become loose on its mountings. This has been a very expensive and long nightmare. There has been poor communication. Even when these companies had been dealing with some of these customers for 18 months worth of problems with their insulation, they were still claiming that there was a six-week installation process. It has gone on and on. The big issue is that a lot of these problems are unresolved.
The Well Being Green collapse has been slightly different. It has mainly affected my constituents in relation to the renewable energy certificates. Indeed, I know one individual is still owed $11,800 by nonpayment of some renewable energy certificates that were purchased by Well Being Green. One installer who was working in conjunction with Well Being Green is out of pocket by $98,000. For a small business operator, that is a nearly insurmountable loss.
So, why this motion? And why am I being critical of the government? One of the problems is that these businesses were listed on a government website as being registered agents. They were listed on the website of the renewable energy regulator. That sent a signal to members of the community that they would be dealing with someone with a close association with the government. That is the issue. This scheme originally predates this government, but if the government is going to put its arm around a program and allow websites to be advertisements-places for businesses to go and gain business-there needs to be a higher level of scrutiny. As a result of dealing with builders in my electorate who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars because of collapsed companies associated with the BER, I have found that there is an assumption that a program like this has some form of government oversight and government protection and that it should be relatively safe.
That is why I bring this motion to the notice of the House tonight. I have made quite a few representations to the government-the New South Wales Fair Trading office, the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator and the ministers involved. I have had a less-than-adequate response on behalf of my constituents. If you have spent $60,000 on something that you are hoping will be an investment in a clean energy future, and it appears that it has the backing and is under the umbrella of a government regulator, you would assume that there would be a degree of safety in taking part in this program-that it would be a relatively safe investment, even though it is quite a large one.
Unfortunately, the unravelling of these companies on the fringe of this program has led to an enormous amount of grief for the reputable companies-the companies that have been involved in solar energy for years and were in there before it was as popular as it has been in the last couple of years. They are really struggling now, because a degree of confidence has been lost in the entire solar installation and trading scheme. If we as a country are going to contribute and produce a certain amount of renewable energy, it is going to be incredibly difficult when the wider population has lost confidence in the industry and in the government’s ability to oversee this industry.