THE nation's solar industry says 7200 jobs are at risk after the surprise axing of the Gillard government's solar hot water rebate program.
The Gillard government was unapologetic today, saying the halting of the program with 30 minutes' notice was good budget practice.
Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Mark Dreyfus, said industry had always known the rebate would wind up in 2012, but conceded that manufacturers had only been told yesterday the program was about to end.
“It would not have been appropriate to tell individual businesses because to do so would give a competitive advantage to an individual business,” he said.
Clean Energy Council Acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the unexpected decision had put green jobs at risk.
“This decision will immediately affect sales and will put more than 1200 manufacturing jobs and 6000 installation, sales and back office jobs in jeopardy,” he said.
“This industry has been struggling with the effects of a high Australian dollar just like the car industry, just like the steel industry and just like other home grown manufacturing industries.”
But Mr Dreyfus said the $320 million program would have suffered cost overruns if it had been allowed to continue.
“This is good budget practice, to shut a project of this nature in this way, because what it does is avoid a sudden spike in demand, it avoids budget overruns, it's responsible economic management to do this,” he said.
Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt said the decision had pulled the rug out from under blue collar workers and small business owners and families without notice.
He said there was $24.5 million allocated in the 2012-13 budget for the program to continue, which Tony Abbott later seized on in question time.
The Opposition Leader said Julia Gillard had been “caught out” by the revelation.
But the Prime Minister said the program would not be needed once the carbon price kicked in from July 1.
“First and foremost obviously under carbon pricing, obviously there is an incentive for change,' she said.
“Under the renewable energy scheme households installing the typical hot water system will still receive between $800 and $1000 in renewable energy certificates.”