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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 9564

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (12:56): I rise today to speak in favour of the government's Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Bill 2012 and the related Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (Registration Fees) Bill 2012. The Australian government has committed to reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by at least five per cent on 2000 levels by 2020, and by a further 80 per cent by 2050. A number of measures have been implemented by the government to meet its commitments. There has been a raft of policy initiatives, including the Renewable Energy Target scheme, which aims to increase the use of renewable energy by some 20 per cent. We have also introduced the clean energy future package, which uses a range of mechanisms including a price on carbon to create incentives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our economy.

Energy consumption by appliances and equipment is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. That is what we are here to talk about today. For many of these products there is considerable potential to improve energy efficiency at minimum cost. In 2007, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences estimated that 55 per cent of Australia's emissions reduction target to 2050 could be met through energy efficiency improvements.

These bills, which together make up the greenhouse energy minimum standards legislation, implement a 2007 election commitment and a 2009 commitment by the Council of Australian Governments to achieve nationally consistent regulation of equipment energy efficiency across the nation. That makes sense; if we did not go down this path, we would end up with the states and territories having different laws, different standards and different reporting requirements, which would be a compliance nightmare for those that manufacture equipment or import equipment into this country. By passing these bills, we can create a system which will enable consistency across the nation.

Australia's energy efficiency regulation began with energy labelling for household refrigerators and freezers way back in 1986 in New South Wales, followed soon after by Victoria. In 1992, a national program was established and funded to collectively coordinate energy efficiency regulation across all states and territories. Today, the E3 program also includes New Zealand and covers 23 product types in residential, commercial and industrial sectors, delivering energy and financial savings in a transparent way to households and businesses. The E3 program relies on two main tools, mandatory minimum efficiency levels and energy-rating labels, to provide consumers an opportunity to compare product for product.

Minimum energy levels help to keep the most inefficient products out of the Australian market. For instance, inefficient lighting products in the Australian market can be phased out. Energy-rating labels help Australian consumers and businesses to compare products based on energy use, which not only is good sense but would lead to consumers being able to, in the long term, properly value a product that they might consume, because the labelling will provide them with useful information of energy consumption. When consumers go shopping they will be able to use star-rating systems which will provide them with an easy mechanism to determine the energy efficiency of products.

In 2005, 83 per cent of consumers surveyed reported referring to the energy efficiency label when purchasing major household products. If it was 83 per cent in 2005, I could predict that it will certainly be higher now. With a price on carbon consumers will, quite rightly, be even more intensely focused on finding products that are energy efficient. It makes a lot of sense. Another example of savings is switching from a one-star to a seven-star television, which could save households some $100 a year in their energy bill. I think consumers will, quite rightly, be using the star-rating system on TVs to provide them with guidance about what the energy costs might be in the future. This is about empowering consumers to take account of the energy use of particular products.

The Council of Australian Governments agreed in 2009 to establish national legislation to regulate energy efficiency. As I mentioned earlier, if the Council of Australian Governments had not decided to take that course of action, then we would have seen a situation in which states took action themselves to inform their consumers. That would have meant that, ultimately, we would have ended up with different laws around the country dealing with this matter. It would have made an absolute nightmare for producers of goods and for those who import products into Australia that consume energy, such as TVs, refrigerators, kettles or any other number of products.

It makes sense that the Council of Australian Governments agreed to the approach that the Labor government had proposed. I think we have some common sense legislation as a consequence. The legislation will harmonise Australia's energy efficiency program and remove administrative inconsistencies in its application for both business and government. I think this is a very worthwhile exercise. It is my understanding that consumer groups, groups concerned about the need to take action of climate change and the business sector all support having a consistent approach across the nation and therefore, as I understand it, approve of the government's desire with respect to this matter.

I think I might leave my contribution at that. I certainly commend the work of the ministers who have had carriage of this portfolio area. The consistent approach across the nation makes an enormous amount of sense. Empowering consumers is something that I value, and I know consumers very much want to have information that is readily accessible, that makes sense in a simple format and that enables them to pick products on the basis of energy or on any other number of measures. I commend the bill to the House and look forward to its implementation.