Clive Palmer casts big shadow but Labor gets Save Solar tick

Clive Palmer illustrated in just few short minutes yesterday that he is hopelessly out of his depth once you get into a fraction of legislative detail. Meanwhile, Labor has said it will stick by the RET as currently legislated.

Clive Palmer showed that he is completely out of his depth after just a few minutes of questioning from Radio National’s Fran Kelly yesterday. After endorsing a statement the prior day from his WA senate candidate saying that the “RET scheme should remain as is”, Palmer didn’t seem to realise that the Renewable Energy Target scheme – the one that is also historically referred to as MRET or the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, was actually mandatory.  

After telling Kelly that the government should just stick with what the prior review of the RET recommended (which was to largely leave the RET legislation unaltered and, importantly, mandatory for electricity retailers to meet), Palmer suddenly changed his tune when  Kelly informed him that this would mean he’d be sharing a similar voting position as the Greens party. It was like some sirens and red flashing lights must have suddenly been set off in Palmer’s head, blaring ‘Greens are bad, must oppose. Greens are bad, must oppose’.

He then told Kelly that his party supported a renewable energy target but the means by which it was achieved was something they’d have to look at and he didn’t support anything that was mandatory. He clearly didn’t have a clue that the Renewable Energy Target involved some detailed legislation and regulations that didn’t just set a target but also established a means by which it was achieved.  

You could almost hear the groans that must have come from members of the renewable energy industry as they heard this interview. After getting an almost word-perfect statement out of WA Senate PUP candidate Dio Wang, the Australian Solar Council now needed to go back to the drawing board with the PUP, as part of their WA senate election Save Solar campaign.

As at late Thursday evening John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council, told Climate Spectator they remain in ongoing discussions with Palmer and his party about whether or not they can commit to voting in the Senate to keep the RET as is currently legislated. The one hope is that Palmer said in the interview he was keen on a scheme that provided "incentives" but didn't like something that was "mandatory". Some clever word-smithing about the RET being all about creating "incentives" for businesses and households to install renewable energy, instead of businesses being fined, might find favour where "mandatory" elicits a knee-jerk objection.

Still, it wasn’t all bad for the Australian Solar Council. It finally got the Labor Party to explicitly re-endorse its own election policy before the Solar Council releases full page ads this weekend telling WA voters which parties will defend the scheme as it currently stands.

A spokesperson for Labor’s shadow environment minister, Mark Butler, told Climate Spectator:

Labor remains fully committed to the RET that we legislated. Under Labor, the number of Australian households with solar power increased from 7,400 to over 1.1 million – delivering cheaper power bills and a cleaner, healthier environment… The Renewable Energy Target will allow even more Australians to access low cost clean energy in the future. Labor’s policies have been a clear success and we continue to fully support the RET.

The Australian Solar Council has told Climate Spectator that they have now received sufficient public reassurances from Labor that they’ll be getting a tick from the council’s ads along with the Greens. John Grimes told Climate Spectator: "We welcome Labor joining the Australian Solar Council's campaign to save solar and the Renewable Energy Target. We call on all parties to support solar and the RET."

And so far the Coalition are nowhere to be found in terms of a commitment to leave the target as is.