Australia environment minister loses renewables brief

AUSTRALIA: Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has pulled environment minister and former rock star Peter Garrett from his climate change brief in response to a protracted row over housing insulation safety.

Garrett: lost role over blunder
Garrett: lost role over blunder

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Garrett's responsibilities for Australia's wind energy and renewables programme will pass to a newly created ministry for climate change.

Garrett was responsible for the government's $2.45 billion subsidised insulation programme, which he suspended last week following allegations that roof insulation was poorly installed by sometimes unqualified and corrupt contractors in hundreds of thousands of houses. The insulation programme has been linked to the electrocution deaths of four installers and 93 house fires.

Garrett also suspended the ten year-old subsidised solar hot water installation programme after suggestions that poorly installed panels could cause fires.

Although Garrett will remain in the cabinet, the PM has created a new Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to deliver the government's climate change policy and programmes headed up by parliamentary secretary for climate change Greg Combet.

Australian public support for climate change policies has slipped significantly in the last few months, while the government's environmental programme has stumbled repeatedly, the latest problem being the failure to get carbon trading legislation through the opposition-dominated senate after several attempts. The wind sector has complained that persistent legislative uncertainty has disrupted investment flows.

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