Stand against scheme gets support
LENNOX Head-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack has received wide political support for her controversial stand against the Coalition Government's decision to retrospectively alter the Solar Bonus Scheme.
Northern Tablelands Independent Richard Torbay backed Ms Cusack yesterday, while NSW Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile says he will seek changes to the Government's planned slashing of the scheme to balance fairness for panel owners with the need to cut costs.
Premier Barry O'Farrell also said he respected his colleague's right to speak out.
Ms Cusack's letter accused the O'Farrell Government of betrayal over the decision, which cut tariffs from 60 to 40 cents for those who'd signed up before last November.
The introduction of retrospective legislation was “unprecedented and repugnant” she wrote.
She also said the decision to go back on a pre-election commitment was a betrayal of those who had “overwhelmingly voted” for the O'Farrell Coalition.
Furthermore, she outlined better ways to reform the scheme.
Ms Cusack also debunked the myth that the scheme was only for greenies or wealthy people.
Most of those attracted to the scheme were either struggling with their electricity bills or fearful of future price rises.
The letter also divulged that her family is a recipient of the scheme.
“The electricity account for my home is in my husband's name, which is why I refer to ‘my family' having a financial interest,” Ms Cusack told The Northern Star.
“I contacted the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser Ian Dickson last Monday to try to resolve the perception of a conflict of interest, and the breaking of my word to so many constituents.
He said he couldn't help me in terms of a dilemma caused by a party decision, but would think about the financial interest and get back to me on Tuesday.
Unfortunately he hasn't.
“I am arguing the matter on principle and in order to ensure the merit of my argument is not clouded by the perception of a financial interest, we are contacting Essential Energy to see if we can forgo 20 cents of our subsidy.”
Premier Barry O'Farrell has defended the “tough” decision to slash the scheme, saying households would have faced a $170 increase in their power bill if the Government had failed to act.
The Coalition will next week hold a joint party room meeting to vote on Cabinet's decision.