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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 172

Mr GARRETT (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) (9:36 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill contains a key component of the Nation Building and Jobs Plan the government announced yesterday—the new Energy Efficient Homes program.

This program delivers on the Rudd government’s commitment to comprehensive action on energy efficiency as a key plank in our response to tackling climate change, and effective action on energy efficiency will help reduce cost-of-living pressures for households, help reduce carbon pollution and support green jobs, driving demand in clean, green Australian industries.

The program provides a $2.7 billion time-limited investment in the modernisation of Australia’s housing stock—a measure that will see almost all Australian homes insulated by the end of 2011.

Ceiling insulation is typically the most cost-effective energy improvement that can be made to homes, providing real, tangible and immediate benefits to Australian households.

An uninsulated roof cavity can lose up to 40 per cent of a building’s heat, and installing insulation in many cases could deliver reductions of more than 2.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year for the life of the dwelling.

A typical household could also save around $200 in their energy costs each year through the installation of insulation. Despite this, up to 40 per cent of Australia’s homes do not have insulation.

The Energy Efficient Homes program will see ceiling insulation offered to all uninsulated owner-occupied homes over the next 2½ years.

In the majority of cases homeowners will not need to pay a cent—they can simply make a phone call and the government will arrange for the installation of insulation in their roof.

The government is aware that those in rental properties and those who have already installed insulation in their homes will also want to play their part.

This bill includes enhancements to two existing energy efficiency programs: the low-emissions plan for renters and the solar hot water rebate.

The low-emissions plan for renters program provides rebates to landlords installing insulation in their rental properties.

The government’s original commitment was set at up to $500 and limited to 300,000 rental homes.

This bill provides for an increase in the maximum rebate to $1,000 until 30 June 2011 and removes the cap on the number of properties that can be insulated under this program.

This is an additional investment of more than $600 million and represents an unprecedented opportunity for landlords to do the right thing by their tenants and install insulation in their rental properties.

This bill will also increase the maximum solar hot water rebate—from $1,000 to $1,600—for households who do not access the insulation program and who replace their existing electric hot water systems with a solar and heat pump hot water system before 30 June 2012.

Households that access this rebate could save $300 to $700 each year on their energy bills.

The Energy Efficient Homes program will see an additional $3.9 billion invested in the fight against climate change and delivers on the government’s household energy efficiency commitments in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme white paper.

Once fully implemented these measures could reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 49.4 million tonnes by 2020—that is the equivalent of taking more than one million cars off the road.

This investment in energy efficiency will modernise Australia’s existing housing stock and contribute to meeting Australia’s 2020 target for emissions reductions.

In addition to long-term environmental benefits, this package supports the jobs of tradespeople and other workers employed in the manufacturing, distribution and installation of ceiling insulation and solar and heat pump hot water systems.

And there is already some early indication from business that our plan will have an impact.

Let me read a quote from one insulation fitter, on ABC Radio yesterday, who said:

Our own company … had to lay off a shift in one of our plants just before Christmas. We’ll be putting that shift back on.

This bill also provides the enabling funding necessary to see this package implemented immediately and effectively.

This includes $50 million allocated over the forward estimates to ensure that the one-off payment for working Australians is delivered expeditiously.

With carefully designed initiatives like those contained in this bill, there’s no reason we cannot emerge from the global recession stronger and more prosperous than we were before it.

The Energy Efficient Homes program has a role to play in supporting jobs now and building the low-pollution economy, and the growth and prosperity, that Australians deserve for the future.

I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr PD Secker)—In accordance with the resolution agreed to earlier, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate is made an order of the day for a later hour this day.