Australia’s federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has launched an extraordinary attack on the head of the Australian Solar Council, John Grimes, after comments the ASC chief made on ABC radio, criticising the Coalition’s “broken promises” on support for renewable energy.
Hunt described Grimes as a “total failure of an industry leader” on Brisbane’s 621 Mornings program on Thursday, and said he should be “utterly ashamed” of comments he made suggesting the environment minister had been “sidelined” in a government that was firmly anti-renewables.
The comments by Hunt come just a few weeks after he accused the left of “being against electricity”, and comes as polling shows that the government is under severe pressure over its renewables policy, and the outcome of its controversial RET Review panel.
Grimes, who was speaking ahead of today’s launch of the “Save Solar” campaign – a campaign that will target marginal federal seats across Australia – accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of personally leading a push to curtail renewables growth in Australia.
“After the election, promise after promise (has been) broken,” Grimes said. “One million solar roofs gone, the RET he wants abolished – he and Joe Hockey are working hard for that outcome. … (And) moderate voices like [Environment Minister] Greg Hunt have been sidelined in the Cabinet.
“This is just not what the people were voting for, and certainly not what they want.”
But Hunt took exception to the comments, insisting his party was committed to the future of renewable energy in Australia, with a focus on long-term stability.
“We spoke a week ago and I was absolutely crystal clear that we remained committed to the renewable energy target,” Hunt said.
“He knows that, [yet] he said things which were extraordinary and completely at odds with what he said to me in private. It is a deep personal moral duty to myself to say the same thing in private as the same thing in public.
“Mr Grimes should be utterly ashamed of himself today – he is somebody who says one thing in private and another thing in public.”
Grimes later told the ABC presenter that Hunt had warned that there would be consequences if the Save Solar campaign continued.
“Greg Hunt is a man of his word,” Grimes said. “He called me… to warn me off, and to tell me to shut down our pointed marginal seat campaign.
“They are so scared about the voice of Australian people on this subject …they will apply any pressure and destroy any character to stop this movement,” Grimes said.
“Greg Hunt, so under pressure on this issue that he has to attack my personal credibility… that just shows everybody just how far this government has gone and why this campaign is so important.”
Grimes told ABC Radio that the Solar Council would begin its Save Solar campaign with a meeting at the RSL in Redcliffe, north of Brisbane, tonight.
“The first marginal seat we’re targeting is right here in Queensland, kicking off today, the seat of Petrie,” he said. “This is an area, like other places in Queensland, where people have absolutely embraced solar.
“But this is only the first – we’re going to roll this campaign out across New South Wales and Victoria as well.”