13 Feb 2023
By Michael Simmons
Independent Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie and Liberal Federal Senator Andrew McLachlan are "outraged" with the lack of funding going to regional areas including Mayo.
"I have berated the Federal Government for excluding the Federal Seat of Mayo and many others in South Australia from a Federally Funded grant round that would significantly assist with cost-of-living pressures being felt across the State," Ms Sharkie said.
According to the Federal Government, the Community Batteries for Household Solar Program is designed to: Reduce household electricity costs, Lower emissions, Provide net benefit to electricity network, Store solar for later use/sharing, Allow households without capacity to install solar panels to access benefits of renewable energy through shared community storage.
"Late last year all Members of Parliament and their staff were invited to a government information session on the Program and attendees assumed from this session that all communities across Australia would have access to this grant round," Ms Sharkie said.
"I have had the independent Member for Indi Helen Haines come to visit my electorate to speak at a community energy forum and the amount of community interest this received was overwhelming. This is why I was so excited to first hear about this grant round.
"However, on December 16 – just prior to mandatory office closures, without notification to MPs or their offices, details were released, including eligibility or more to the point, ineligibility.
"The entire process of releasing information related to the grant just seems sneaky and underhanded."
Across the entire state of South Australia, only the suburbs of Edwardstown and Magill were eligible for the grants.
"And to add insult to injury, we only discovered this through a google search, not from the Government or the Department. How can this possibly be a merit based round when recipients are predetermined, not just by electorate, but by specific suburbs?
"What's so very disappointing is that a facebook search shows that related election promises were made in the extremely marginal seats of Boothby and Sturt prior to the 2022 Federal Election," she said.
"I am outraged."
Cost of living, including power costs is one of the key issues raised by constituents to Ms Sharkie's office and this grant would have been able to assist a number of local communities.
"Now they don’t have the chance to benefit simply because of these grants only being made available to seats that the ALP had made election promises in," Ms Sharkie said.
"What's more, it's imperative that our bushfire prone communities build resilience to be able to keep power on during emergencies. Community batteries would provide much needed resilience. It's a kick in the guts for hard working Australians who could have benefitted from this grant, but are missing out for what feels like political reasons."
Senator Andrew McLachlan it was incredibly disappointing that the Labor Government has sought to only make this grant funding available to two inner city electorates.
“Despite this being a $200 million program, Labor could not find a single cent for regional South Australians," Mr McLachlan said.
“As a member of a Liberal Government I was proud to support funding for grant streams such as the Powering Communities Program that assisted community groups across Mayo in cutting their electricity bills and carbon emissions.
“Given the rapidly rising cost of living, many South Australian households are struggling and it is incumbent on the Labor Government to support them.
“I echo the Member for Mayo’s frustrations that our local communities have not been afforded the opportunity to benefit from the Community Batteries for Household Solar Program and urge the Government to expand this grant to additional South Australians electorates.”View source