The government’s green backflip has reached a boiling point, with the West Australian opposition calling for a parliamentary vote of non-confidence in energy minister Peter Collier.
Labor leader Mark McGovern has called for Collier to be ousted from his position after the state’s solar tariff scheme blew its budget and was cut due to its popularity, sending mixed messages to the WA public and industry alike.
Collier, who has been criticised for mismanaging his portfolio, explained the exceeded 150 megawatt cap as a faux pas resulting from an underestimation of the scheme’s popularity. The Minister added that he had received mixed messages from both energy company Synergy and the Office of Energy regarding the status of the cap.
“From one day to the next, I would get different information on where we were in terms of the cap,” says Collier. “There was a very real distinction between information the Office of Energy was providing and what Synergy was providing to the Office of Energy and vice versa.”
The opposition has further accused the state government of failing to disclose the cap breach to the public for over a month.
Whether the exceeding of the cap was sue to miscommunication or otherwise, McGowan has called for the minister to face serous consequences regarding the issue, which has further rocked the green building sector and is expected to increase energy prices in the coming months.
“To move a motion of no confidence in a minister in the government is a very serious matter, one of the most serious matters that can take place in parliament,” says McGovern. “This minister has been responsible for a whole range of problems and mistakes in his portfolio that have cost the taxpayers of this state very dearly.”
The opposition has found further conflict with the state government in Collier’s promise that the WA public would not have to pay for the governmental incompetence.
While the energy minister assured the public that Synergy would be paying for the excess costs associated with the overblown cap, McGowan has countered that due to the fact the energy company is state-owned, taxpayers will in fact incur the added costs.
“This is incompetence on a grand and gross scale,” he told parliament. “(The extra cost) is lost to the taxpayers of Western Australia and was lost by a bungled and mishandled government program.”
The motion is unlikely to pass in parliament however, due to government numbers. Nonetheless, the ministerial challenge is enough to solidify the public and industry skepticism toward government handling of green technology projects.