Solar Citizens Go to Canberra: The results
On Monday, 2 December, a group of 21 solar advocates traveled to Canberra to tell politicians: Australians support solar power and we won't stand for any tax on the sun! In total, we had meetings with 36 politicians or their advisers. Here's how it went.
Our Solar Citizens team came from all around the country (pictured above), volunteering their time to represent their fellow solar owners, solar business operators and community groups that support more solar and renewable energy for Australia.
We met with politicians from all parties, delivering our message about support for solar and hearing some great responses from many of them.
Of the 36 politicians we met with, many were proud to talk about the solar on their roof, including National Party member, David Gillespie (Member for Lyne), the Liberal Party's Scott Buccholz (Member for Wright), Bruce Billson (Member for Dunkley) and Eric Hutchinson (Member for Lyons), the Country Liberals' Natasha Griggs (Member for Solomon), the ALP's Rob Mitchell (Member for McEwen), Laurie Ferguson (Member for Werriwa) and Graham Perrett (Member for Moreton), Independent, Andrew Wilkie (Member for Denison), and the Greens' Christine Milne (Senator for Tasmania).
Renters Luke Howarth (Lib, Member for Petrie) and Lisa Chesters (ALP, Member for Bendigo) let us know they'd be looking into solar when they buy a home, and Craig Laundy (Lib, Member for Reid) and Nick Champion (ALP, Member for Wakefield) both noted that solar was something they'd be interested in in the future. Ann Sudmalis (Lib, Member for Gilmore) let us know she doesn't currently have solar but did have solar hot water previously.
We handed over our 25,000+ strong petition to Alex Caroly, Greg Hunt's adviser on Climate Change and Renewables (photo below) and Martin Squire, adviser to Ian Macfarlane. Unfortunately, both Hunt and Macfarlane became unavailable on the day because of the busy sitting schedule. But, their advisers heard our arguments against any additional fees or penalties for solar and now understand the huge community support for solar power around the country.
Speaking about the proposed tax on the sun, currently being discussed through COAG, we asked the politicians we met with about whether they'd take a stand against big power companies who want to attack solar homes with additional fees or tariffs.
The reactions were mostly supportive, ranging from Rowan Ramsey (Lib, Member for Grey - pictured above) who let us know that "solar needs to be competitive" with the traditional energy market and Andrew Wilkie (Independent, Member for Denison - pictured below) who was convinced of the value of solar power.
Russell Matheson (Lib, Member for Macarthur - pictured below) agreed that solar needed to work with the traditional energy market, noting that it was important that we take a balanced approach.
Lisa Chesters (ALP, Member for Bendigo - pictured below) told us that she thinks renewables should be phased in and certainty needs to be provided to the solar industry.
This notion of certainty for the solar industry, a growing sector that currently employs 18,000+ Australians, was a constant theme, with Gary Grey (ALP, Member for Brand - pictured below) saying that we need to have a consistent market system - rather than one that chops and changes.
And David Gillespie (Nat, Member for Lyne - pictured above) noted that he is a believer in stability and supports renewable technology - and thus he wants renewables to stand on their own economic grounds without subsidy. This sentiment of ensuring stability in the solar industry was echoed by Eric Hutchinson (Lib, Member for Lyons - pictured below). All politicians understood that changes to solar fees or a tax on the sun would create instability in the solar industry.
Craig Laundy (Lib, Member for Reid - pictured above) noted his support for the growing solar industry - as he believes in innovation, technology, and enterprise.
Other politicians were explicitly vocal about standing up to big energy companies, including Graham Perrett (ALP, Member for Moreton - pictured above) who said he was happy to stand up for solar in his electorate. Mark Coulton (Nat, Member for Parkes - pictured below) spoke proudly of two large solar projects in his own electorate (the Nyngan Solar Plant and a solar thermal plant at Lake Cargelligo) and passionately let us know that he would stand up to anyone if the need arose.
Nick Champion (ALP, Member for Wakefield - pictured above) said that he supports solar and will stand up to big energy companies - but also noted that he is not fixated on one energy source. Natasha Griggs (CLP, Member for Solomon - pictured below) adamantly said that she will stand up to power companies who try to sabotage solar.
Adam Bandt (Greens, Member for Melbourne - pictured above) and Christine Milne (Greens, Senator for Tasmania) assured us that they'd continue to fight to protect and ensure the future growth of solar power and the renewable energy. And Wayne Swan (ALP, Member for Lilley - pictured below) reminded us that he has stood up to the large energy companies for years - and will continue to do so.
Sharon Bird (ALP, Member for Cunningham - pictured below) recognised that in her electorate individuals and local companies see solar as part of the energy solution and noted that it was an important task for governments to get the policy response right.
And Philip Ruddock (Lib, Member for Berowra and Chief Government Whip - pictured below) took it one step farther - saying that if anyone in his electorate contacted him about their problems with power companies, such as challenges getting their solar connected to the grid, then he would follow this up. An adviser for Barnaby Joyce (Nat, Member for New England) stated that Mr Joyce will stand up against any unreasonable fees.
Laurie Ferguson (ALP, Member for Werriwa - pictured below) echoed our concerns about electricity costs affecting low income earners - and we explained the true power of people being able to take power over their bills by making the move to solar. Of course, such a move would be threatened by a tax on the sun.
Rob Mitchell (ALP, Member for McEwen - pictured above) noted that infrastructure issues are a "furphy" from the power companies and that he was a strong supporter of renewables - including solar.
A message that was consistently reiterated to us is that most politicians, and indeed, most parties, are very positive about solar - including Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane's adviser who told us that the current Federal Government is “very supportive of solar energy.”
Now we just have to make sure that all politicians express this support explicitly and consistently. And that it translates into good policy and outcomes for solar!
Mark Butler (ALP, Member for Port Adelaide and Shadow Minister for the Environment - pictured below) stated his strong support for solar and was especially proud of South Australia's strong track record of growing solar, with 1 in 4 homes running on the sun.
And Scott Buccholz (Lib, Member for Wright - pictured above) was very proud of Wright's position as the #1 solar electorate in the country and noted that it was worth a speech in Parliament. Alan Griffin (ALP, Member for Bruce - pictured below) was also extremely supportive of Solar Citizens and impressed by the improvements in the number of solar homes, particularly in SA.
We also met with advisers for Kim Carr (ALP, Senator for Victoria), Bruce Billson (Lib, Member for Dunkley), Luke Hartsuycker (Lib, Member for Cowper) and Anthony Albanese (ALP, Member for Grayndler) who, for various reasons, became unavailable on the day. We presented the facts on solar in their electorate and across the country and asked them to take back to their respective politicians a clear message: become a champion for solar power and don't allow a tax on the sun.
As we say: Solar just makes sense, and it seems our politicians are beginning to understand this, as well.
We'll continue to follow up with these politicians to make sure their words of support can be translated into actual outcomes for solar owners, workers and supporters, and we will speak to more Federal politicians as Solar Citizens grows. We're also speaking with State Premiers and Energy Ministers to ensure they understand the mounting force that is Solar Citizens.
"Solar Citizens Go to Canberra" was a great day for the Solar Citizens campaign and we thank our volunteers for representing the solar community so valiantly. Since launching in May, we've achieved some great things - grown to 50,000 Solar Citizens across Australia, stopped solar penalties in Queensland, changed Barnett's mind on slashing the feed-in tariff in WA, and much more.
Now we can say we've taken over Parliament House, and we'll continue our work to ensure a fair go for all solar owners - current and future.