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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21813

Mr LLOYD (7:58 PM) —It is with great pleasure that I rise tonight to speak on and support the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Legislation Amendment Bill 2003. This is a non-controversial bill. Although I understand that the Greens are not supporting this bill, the Labor opposition have indicated that they will support it. It is an important amendment that should have come before this parliament quite some time ago; in fact, it could have come before this parliament many weeks ago. The only reason that it has not come before the parliament is that the opposition would not agree to have this bill debated in the Main Committee. As honourable members would know, the debating time in this House is quite limited and the government's legislative agenda makes it quite difficult to get bills onto that agenda and debated in this House. However, there is the second chamber, which is available for debate and does have time available, and this bill could have been introduced into the Main Committee several weeks ago.

So the opposition has delayed the introduction of an important amendment which will help protect our environment and the ozone. I was disappointed to learn that, when industry sources approached the Labor opposition to clarify why this bill had not come before the Main Committee, they were informed apparently by the opposition that it was the government that was objecting to this bill being taken to the Main Committee. Nothing could be further from the truth. The government was keen to have this bill introduced and was prepared to take it to the Main Committee several weeks ago. Having said that, I am pleased that this bill is now in this chamber. It will hopefully be debated in the Senate as quickly as possible and it will shortly come into effect to help protect our environment and our ozone.

Australia's world-recognised efforts in ozone protection have been truly national efforts and have traditionally received support from all parties in the parliament. I am disappointed that the member for Cunningham, who represents the Greens, has left the chamber, but I will be interested to see the reasons why the Greens will not support this bill. I believe that the Greens are going to introduce some further amendments in the Senate.

The introduction of the Ozone Protection Act by the Hawke Labor government in 1989 and subsequent amendments by the Keating government in 1995 received broad bipartisan support in this House. The important amendments we are considering today—which will result in one national program covering both ozone-depleting substances and synthetic greenhouse gases used in what are termed the `Montreal Protocol industries'—will hopefully receive bipartisan support, and I really urge the Greens to reconsider some of the objections they have to this bill.

The measures in this bill, which have the industry's full support and which were developed over a lengthy consultation period, will give Australia the most comprehensive package for minimising the atmospheric impact of these industries anywhere in the world. The government have made many comments about the Kyoto protocol, and we are very committed to reaching some of the commitments that were established at the Kyoto protocol. This bill is further evidence of the government's commitment to meet the Kyoto target of 108 per cent of 1990 emissions by 2008.

While the government is pleased to put forward this bill and I am very pleased to speak in support of the amendment, I would also like to congratulate the industry associations that have worked closely with the government to develop a package of controls which will deliver the best practical outcomes to minimise the emissions of what are, after all, nonflammable, colourless and odourless gases. I would particularly like to congratulate Steve Anderson, the executive director of the Australian Fluorocarbon Council, and Mr Greg Groppenbacher, who also represents the Australian Fluorocarbon Council, for the work that they have done to ensure that the industry is well represented and for the work they have done to assist the government to put forward this bill.

The Australian Fluorocarbon Council has been a central and influential player in this area for some 15 years. The council is composed of representatives of all the major user groups and in particular has representatives from all the industry associations in the airconditioning and refrigeration industry. This structure has enabled the council to put forward a broadly based view to the government and draw on the expertise across the industry to develop practical responses to the environmental challenges that the industry faces.

I am aware that quite some time ago the industry came to the government with what it termed a `responsible use strategy'. Recognising that controls would, and indeed should, come, the Australian Fluorocarbon Council proposed a four-part strategy comprising: a ban on the use of disposable containers of fluorocarbon refrigerants; the extension of product stewardship obligations to cover all fluorocarbon refrigerants; the introduction of a national training and certification program for airconditioning technicians; and a general prohibition on emitting any fluorocarbon to the atmosphere when it can be practically prevented. I am pleased to say that all these elements will be put into place in one form or another under the provisions of this bill.

The Fluorocarbon Council has been responsible for a range of significant initiatives over the years which have earned it a number of awards from bodies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Perhaps the most significant of these was the establishment of Refrigerant Reclaim Australia, which I am advised is possibly the best organisation of its type in the world. To put it simply, Refrigerant Reclaim Australia is an industry-financed, not-for-profit organisation that is responsible for collecting and safely destroying any surplus or unusable fluorocarbon refrigerants anywhere in Australia. It is these refrigerants—the ones that cannot be used, the ones that have no economic value—that end up being emitted into the atmosphere, because obviously it is easy to discharge them into the atmosphere. As I said earlier, they are odourless and colourless gases, but unfortunately they have significant environmental impacts.

Refrigerant Reclaim Australia achieves this by paying bounties for returned refrigerant, and this is financed via a voluntary industry levy. In its 10 years of operation, this organisation has destroyed approximately 900 tonnes of ozone depleting refrigerants—a magnificent effort that is helping to protect our environment and particularly help stop the depletion of our ozone. Unfortunately, since it is a voluntary organisation, not all companies pay the levy and we end up with this `free rider' issue that often creates serious problems with voluntary programs. While Refrigerant Reclaim Australia pays to take back and destroy everyone's refrigerant, unfortunately not everyone pays the levy—because as I said earlier it is a voluntary levy.

This bill will help to place the product stewardship obligations across all of the refrigeration and airconditioning industry. While Refrigerant Reclaim Australia will remain a voluntary program, there will be no more free riding. Companies will pay a levy either to the organisation or to a similar body or they will make their own arrangements which will have to meet the standards set down by government.

A further example of the effective working relationship between government and industry has been the establishment of the National Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Council. Established with assistance from the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program, the National Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Council is composed of all relevant associations in the refrigeration and airconditioning industry. It is responsible for implementing a nationwide training and certification program for technicians and companies in the industry. While this group has made great progress, the difficulties of an effective voluntary program in this area are apparent. The bill will allow for the establishment of a mandatory national training and certification program for the airconditioning and refrigeration industry.

As I said earlier, this is a very important bill and I am disappointed that it has taken so long for it to come before the parliament. I would certainly urge those in the Senate to help, assist and speed the progress of this legislation through the Senate. I would appeal to the Greens to act constructively for once in their lives—to look at this bill, which is a great step forward in protecting our environment; to support the bill; and to support the government in what they do. I think the Greens are losing a great deal of credibility. Their stunt in the parliament recently during the visits of the President of the USA and the President of China certainly depleted their credibility. And as far as I am aware, the member for Cunningham—the sole Greens representative in this chamber—has never once supported the government. If they were in fact a party that was—

Mr Albanese —If you did something decent, he might!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Gambaro)—The member for Robertson has the call.

Mr LLOYD —Even the Labor Party on occasions supports the government! It really shows something of the mind-set of the Greens that they are not even prepared to look at the issues on the basis of merit and they simply vote against the government. This is an opportunity for the Greens to look at this issue and for once support what the government is trying to do.

This government has been at the forefront of protecting the environment, through many initiatives, such as the Natural Heritage Trust, which is the largest environmental program that has ever been introduced by any federal government to protect our environment. We receive little or no recognition for that, particularly from the Greens, but it is a program that is supported very strongly throughout the community, through Landcare and Dune Care and many other programs in the community. This is just one way of showing that the government is doing something for the environment.

The Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Legislation Amendment Bill 2003 is another way in which the government is showing that it is getting serious about protecting our environment. It is also an indication of how serious the industry is, not only in wanting to protect their industry but also to show that they are looking at a way of protecting the environment and ensuring that the airconditioning and refrigeration industries are seen as viable and long term, and are seen to be protecting the environment. The fact that these industries had already set up a voluntary levy that managed to reclaim a great deal of excess, surplus and useless ozone-depleting gases and had them destroyed in a way that was environmentally safe and did not contribute to the depletion of our ozone layer shows that industry is very serious about ensuring the protection of the environment. The fact that industry is prepared to work with government and put forward constructive ideas shows that it is also very serious about these issues.

It is a great disappointment to me that a party such as the Greens, who claim to be a party for the environment, have damaged again their waning credibility by the fact that they have refused to support this amendment bill. I believe they are planning to obstruct the passage of this bill in the Senate, which will further delay a bill which is designed to enhance and protect our environment.