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Thursday, 5 June 2003
Page: 16193

Dr KEMP (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (9:09 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Ozone Protection Act 1989 to ensure we have a truly national regulatory scheme for the management of both ozone depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases used as their replacements. It also ensures that Australia remains an international leader on action to preserve the earth's ozone layer by implementing the most recent amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

We are all aware of the threat that damage to the ozone layer represents to the personal health and economic wellbeing of all Australians. The ozone layer protects life against the damaging effect of the sun's ultraviolet radiation and is being destroyed by emissions of ozone depleting substances. Australia is particularly susceptible to the increased health risks and potential economic damage to our primary industries as a result of our proximity to the greatest area of depletion and our outdoor lifestyle.

Australia's ozone protection legislation has made a significant contribution to the global effort to phase out ozone depleting substances. Through cooperation between government and industry, the legislation has reduced Australia's consumption of ozone depleting substances by over 80 per cent since its enactment in 1989, resulting in estimated savings to the Australian economy of some $6.4 billion by 2060.

To achieve this reduction, Australian industry has adopted a variety of ozone-benign substances and technologies, including the synthetic greenhouse gases—hydro-fluoro-carbons and perfluorocarbons. These gases present no direct risk to the ozone layer, but are potent greenhouse gases with their emissions having an impact on the climate hundreds to thousands of times greater than emissions of carbon dioxide on a tonne for tonne basis. For example, the hydrofluorocarbon 134a is thirteen hundred times more potent than carbon dioxide on a tonne for tonne basis. Although these gases currently comprise only a very small part of Australia's overall greenhouse gas emissions, their use and emissions are on the rise as substitutes for ozone depleting substances.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the CSIRO have concluded that the likely impacts of climate change for Australia include a warmer and drier climate, with more extreme hot days, cyclones and storms, droughts and floods. These changes are expected to be widespread, and may significantly impact on our society and economy.

As a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Australia is required to adopt policies and measures to mitigate climate change. The amendments introduced by this bill will deliver on this government's commitment to manage synthetic greenhouse gas emissions, as detailed in measure 7.2 of the National Greenhouse Strategy. The amendments also implement the key recommendations of the government's review of the Commonwealth's ozone protection legislation under the national competition policy. This review involved extensive consultations with government, community and industry stakeholders.

Specifically, the bill extends the system in the existing legislation for licensing the import, export and manufacture of ozone depleting substances to also include their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements. However, it is important to note that synthetic greenhouse gases emitted as by-products during the production of aluminium and magnesium, which are being addressed through voluntary programs, are not the focus of this legislation and will therefore be exempted by regulation.

The bill also simplifies the current regulatory arrangements for end-use control of ozone depleting substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas alternatives by replacing existing state and territory legislation with a single national framework.

The framework will allow the government to enact regulations to target preventable emissions, and adapt these controls over time to reflect changes in technologies and practices. In implementing these controls the government will draw upon industry expertise and experience, including through the use of industry boards. The states and territories agree that replacing existing controls with the proposed nationally uniform approach should deliver environmental gains more efficiently, and realise benefits to industry in terms of increased certainty and consistency.

The bill reforms the current financial arrangements for the ozone protection program to establish the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Account. The reforms will accommodate the additional regulatory responsibilities assumed by the government under this bill and increase transparency by consolidating all financial arrangements into one account. The new arrangements will, on a cost recovery basis, fund administration of the amended act and programs to reduce the environmental impact of ozone depleting substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements.

The bill also ensures Australia remains at the forefront of global ozone protection by implementing the Beijing amendment to the Montreal protocol. The Beijing amendment requires a ban on the trade in and manufacture of bromochloromethane, and a ban on trade in hydrochlorofluorocarbons with countries not committed to its phase out.

All of the amendments in this bill follow extensive consultation with industry and other stakeholders over the last four years and have received widespread support. Industry views them as providing necessary certainty and consistency with regard to its obligations to effectively manage ozone depleting substances and their synthetic greenhouse gas replacements.

This bill demonstrates the government's determination to further advance its practical and effective approach to managing ozone depletion and climate change. Close collaboration with affected stakeholders in the development and implementation of the approach minimises its commercial and administrative impact while delivering real environmental benefits.

I present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Edwards) adjourned.