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Axed green schemes divide lobbies

THE federal government’s axing of several green programs was welcomed by the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, who backed the flood levy yesterday.

”If we are going to have a market-based mechanism, we don’t need them,” she said. ”They are very, very expensive.”

But the chief executive of the Climate Institute, John Connor, said putting a price on carbon would not replace the need for investment in clean energy technology.

”No one is shedding a tear for the demise of the cash-for-clunkers program, but slashing investment in utility-scale solar or carbon capture and storage technologies, let alone solar hot water programs, is extremely short-sighted,” Mr Connor said.

The president of the ACTU, Ged Kearney, said ending the green car innovation fund would hurt investment and cost jobs.

The national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Dave Oliver, protested to the Minister for Industry, Kim Carr.

”The manufacturing industry is under significant pressure at the moment with the high Australian dollar, and cutting any program that has potential to attract investment is the wrong way to go,” Mr Oliver said.

Business groups’ opinions were split on the flood rebuilding plan.

The president of the Business Council of Australia, Graham Bradley, said the government was ”putting the cart before the horse with a flood levy when the full cost of rebuilding after the floods is not yet known” and urged the government to go further with spending cuts instead.

But Mrs Ridout said ”we can live with it”. The government’s changed spending priorities were sensible, she said.

”We have made the point very strongly that we want more accountability and oversight and transparency in how the money is spent and it is vital the government provides that.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry opposed the levy, fearing it would adversely hit small business and retailers by reducing consumer spending.

Its chief executive, Greg Evans, said: ”Tax increases, whether temporary or otherwise, have an economic impact and are likely to place continuing pressure on already anaemic levels of consumer spending.”

Homelessness and social service groups criticised the $264 million cut to spending on affordable housing, which means 15,000 fewer rental dwellings will be built by 2014.

The chairman of the National Affordable Housing Summit, Julian Disney, said: ”Unaffordable housing is already a massive national problem and will become worse because of the floods.”

The National Farmers Federation described the plan as ”a substantial commitment that will give comfort to all affected that they won’t be forgotten”.

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