Michael McCormack is under fire from a Christian’s lobby group for rejecting a gift of solar panels to the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence.
The member for Riverina wrote to not-for-profit group Common Grace last week to formally refuse the crowd-funded solar panels.
It sparked a post from Common Grace on its Facebook page that said the knock back was “symbolic” of a “failure to invest in renewables”.
Mr McCormack defended the decision, citing Commonwealth legislation that prevented the gift to Kirribilli House from going ahead.
“Kirribilli House is listed as Commonwealth heritage. It has heritage value and any changes to the building have to comply with the law,” he said.
“The government receives all sorts of offers and all sorts of property that it simply cannot accept.”
The Riverina MP, as the parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, has a responsibility for Commonwealth property.
Common Grace used the gifted solar panels to draw attention to the renewable energy target (RET), which was diluted when the government came to power.
The RET remained unchanged at 20 per cent but total baseline power was reduced.
Renewable energy is targeted to reach 26,000 gigawatt hours opposed to 41,000 gigawatt hours under the previous government.
Mr McCormack reaffirmed the government’s commitment to renewable energy.
“The government has a bipartisan approach to get a five per cent reduction in emissions,” he said.
“The renewable energy target, as it stood, was going to go a lot further than was planned. It was unsustainable.”
At the time, the government argued Australia’s energy demand had substantially fallen, which meant a 20 per cent target on paper translated into a 27 per cent target in the current environment.
However, Riverina Labor secretary Tim Kurylowicz said the cut “undermined” Australia’s commitment to renewable energy.
“I think it’s really sad. It’s not every day that protesters come and give you a gift,” he said. “It says a lot about the government’s approach to climate change - that they're afraid to accept a gift.”
Mr McCormack said Australia contributed little to global greenhouse emissions.
"There are green groups - no friends of farmers, no friends of business - that would send the country broke.”
In his letter of reply, he suggested the solar panels could be re-gifted elsewhere.