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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 9568


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (13:17): I speak in support of the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Bill 2012 and the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (Registration Fees) Bill 2012. To put this debate into context I want to quote directly from the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee report of August this year following its inquiry into this legislation:

The Australian Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics estimates that residential households accounted for around 11 per cent, or 440 petajoules, of Australia's total final energy consumption in 2009-10. Household energy is used for various purposes such as operating household appliances, space heating and cooling, water heating and cooking. Household appliances include lighting, refrigerators, freezers, televisions, information technology equipment, washing machines, clothes dryers, microwaves and dishwashers. Since 1989-90, household energy consumption in Australia has grown by 41 per cent, or an annual rate of 1.6 per cent. It is anticipated that, by 2020, household energy consumption will increase to 467 petajoules as the population and number of households increases. Energy consumed by appliances and equipment is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.

The report goes on to say:

The stationary energy industry in Australia produced 201.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2010, representing 54.1 per cent of Australia's net emissions, excluding land use, land use change and forestry. It is predicted that, by 2020, Australia's total stationary energy emissions will increase to 332 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, 33 per cent above 2000 levels.

I think that sets the framework under which this legislation was established. The increase in Australian energy use arises from there being many more home appliances than in years gone by, by homes themselves being larger and sometimes less energy efficient—today we are supposed to be constructing more efficient homes, but I am certainly not convinced that that is being achieved by some of the designs that I have seen—and by an increase in population, which automatically flows on to more energy requirements.

Reducing energy consumption by the use of more efficient household appliances can make substantial savings in total greenhouse gas emissions. In 1992 the National Equipment Energy Efficiency Program, otherwise known as E3, was established to coordinate several state based schemes. The E3 program is a mandatory scheme which requires that appliances for sale display an energy rating label. In July 2009 a COAG agreement was reached to improve the E3 standards. That agreement included trying to establish a nationally consistent policy framework which streamlined the process and simplified compliance and enforcement regimes, as well as reducing total transaction costs.

In August 2009 the Australian government released a discussion paper, and six public hearings were held around Australia to gain feedback on the proposed changes to the E3 scheme. In January 2010 a regulation impact statement was proposed on the national scheme, and an additional six public hearings were held around the country. Since their introduction into this parliament, the bills have been referred to the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee, the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee and the House Standing Committee on Climate Change, the Environment and the Arts. I do not think any other piece of legislation has had as much scrutiny as this legislation.

Consultation with industry has been very widespread. Whilst consultation has taken place, it is my understanding and recollection that the only parties to respond to the Senate inquiries were the Clean Energy Council of Australia and the Australian Lightning Association. I suspect that is because there was no substantial concern with the legislation as it currently stands. Subsequent to those inquiries, I made a statement in the House on behalf of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, the Environment and the Arts discharging our obligations in respect of our inquiry. Our committee largely relied on the work that was carried out by the Senate committees because we were not going to duplicate that work. In particular, the committee took note of the responses from the department and from the minister to concerns raised by the Senate committees. Our committee was satisfied that the legislation ought to be brought back into the House to continue the debate.

The changes proposed under this legislation are significant and important—important to the broader industry and important to the country. To the broader industries it means a streamlined process, in which there will not be different legislation across the different jurisdictions. The intent is to have everything nationally consistent. I have no doubt that that will be welcomed by the industry sector. It will be welcome because it will make their obligations much easier and it will save them considerable funds in the process. For the nation it will make a huge difference because we will have consistent standards and by having consistent standards, I believe, we will be able to achieve our targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions much more easily. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020,under the existing scheme, energy consumption will be reduced by about 13 per cent and there will be something on the order of a $5.2 billion saving across the country as a result of the current E3 program. The changes to the legislation will further reduce energy output by around 15 per cent. If we are making those sorts of savings right now, what will the savings be if energy output is further reduced by 15 per cent?

The other aspect of this legislation is that the existing E3 scheme only targets businesses that supply products in Australia and does not regulate businesses that purchase their products overseas. Again, that is inconsistent. These bills will end that double standard and close loopholes currently existing in state laws that may encourage business to purchase overseas products. Under the legislation the regulator will have powers to issue infringement notices and where appropriate to take court action, but it will also empower the regulator to ensure that the scheme is properly administered across the country. Again, that is important. I think there would be little disagreement that in today's market the energy rating scheme used by suppliers and manufacturers goes a long way towards their total sales. In fact, I understand that something like 85 per cent of consumers, according to research, choose their appliances based on the energy rating label attached to them. That being so, it is important to ensure that those energy labels are accurate. It is also important because it encourages investment in more efficient appliances by manufacturers. If they know that by making a more efficient appliance they will increase their sales, that will encourage the necessary research and development and investment. There are huge consequences to having a labels system in place.

These bills will make that whole process much easier, much simpler, and will streamline it for all concerned. I believe that they are an important step not only in reducing our energy output across the country but also in attracting investment into manufacturing industries throughout this country. I commend the legislation to the House.