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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 9572

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation) (13:39): I thank the members who have contributed to the debate on these significant bills. I also thank my state and territory counterparts for their continued cooperation on the legislation. The Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Bill 2012 and cognate bills implement a key reform in Australia's national strategy on energy efficiency. This reform goes to the heart of two of Australia's most important policy objectives: assisting households and businesses to reduce their energy bills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is a timely reform when energy prices have risen so dramatically before the introduction of Australia's carbon price and when Australia's international partners are coordinating to develop a global response to climate change.

The legislation arises from a commitment by the Council of Australian Governments to improve Australia's 20-year-old equipment energy efficiency program by introducing national legislation. The E3 program has delivered significant energy savings efficiency for households and businesses over 20 years. In 2010 alone, energy efficient air conditioners and refrigerators promoted by the E3 programs saved Australian households and businesses over $1 billion in electricity costs. The total energy savings are forecast to reach more than $5 billion in the year 2020.

Despite past successes, all Australian jurisdictions recognise the opportunities that come from creating a truly national program. A national program will allow for greater consistency in energy efficiency regulation and provide a more level playing field for businesses and consumers. The Australian government will realise these improvements with the GEMS legislation and deliver continuing energy savings far Australian households and businesses.

I thank industry for their very important contributions and support; this is a widely supported measure. In particular I thank Lighting Council Australia, whose submission I will come to, and the Clean Energy Council. The Clean Energy Council welcomed the government's commitment to establish a national legislative framework for regulating the energy efficiency of products supplied in Australia. The Clean Energy Council has stated:

Energy efficiency remains one of the most important policies that governments can deliver to both reduce emissions and to protect consumers from rising electricity prices.

The Clean Energy Council was particularly supportive of the establishment of a single national regulator and of the harmonisation of standards, registration processes and fees. The Clean Energy Council was also supportive of the expansion of measures to cover a greater range of products, and the closing of loopholes in state laws that allow imported products to enter Australia without meeting minimum efficiency standards. The support of the Clean Energy Council is very welcome and attests to the benefits of this legislation.

I turn to responding to a few of the matters that have been mentioned in today's debate. I thank those opposite for supporting the government on this legislation, which will save money for both households and businesses. This legislation compliments Australia's carbon price and promotes energy efficiency by addressing non-price barriers that impede the uptake of energy-efficient products in the Australian market. Addressing non-price market barriers complements the carbon price and addresses market forces that lie beyond the reach of a price-based mechanism. But without a carbon price Australia cannot achieve the emissions cuts we have agreed to. The carbon price will see Australia's annual emissions reduced by at least 160 million tonnes in 2020 from where they would otherwise have been. This is the equivalent of taking around 45 million cars off the road. Without our carbon price, Australia cannot move to a clean energy future.

Labor's plans will cut carbon pollution and drive investment in clean energy technologies and infrastructure such as solar, gas and wind. It will help build the clean energy that future generations deserve. It will help not just us but also our children and our grandchildren. In stark contrast, families would be worse off under Tony Abbott's plan. They would be $1,300 worse off from higher taxes which would be handed straight to the big polluters.

I note the remarks made by the member for Tangney. I can best summarise the member's remarks by quoting the Leader of the Opposition, who has said that the science of climate change is 'absolute crap'. After hearing the member for Tangney speak, no-one can be in any doubt that a refusal to accept the science of climate change continues alive and well in the opposition ranks. We should again note that there is clear consensus among climate scientists that climate change is real, that it is currently being observed and that it will have significant future impacts if no action is taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Academy of Science, along with science academies around the world, agree that human activity is almost certainly causing climate change. It is clearly in Australia's national interest to continue to work to achieve the international goal of limiting warming to below two degrees. To do this, it is imperative that we play a responsible role in international action and that we do so by taking strong action at home. This means that we must actually reduce our emissions of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. To do this, we have to drive reform across our economy. Because the Australian economy is so directly dependent on pollution, the only way to abate and reduce pollution is to transform our economy so that we can create a clean energy future.

Debate interrupted.