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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2110

Dr STONE (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (5:14 PM) —I rise in continuation. Before question time, I was addressing my remarks to the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Bill 2004 and I was summarising the debate that we had heard, which included a number of contributions from both sides of the House. I thank those people for participating. Before question time I had been saying that this bill is in fact a national first—creating a scheme that is the first of its kind in the world. It is going to deliver very significant water efficiency savings for a whole range of products in our country—in which, despite being one of the driest continents on earth, we have in the past used water as if there were no tomorrow.

The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme will introduce mandatory water efficiency labels on all showers, washing machines, toilets, dishwashers, urinals and some types of taps, as well as minimum water efficiency standards for toilets. Water, as I said, is one of Australia's most critical environmental issues. Water use restrictions are becoming increasingly common in urban areas and are likely to become more severe with population increases and the impacts of global warming in some areas where it affects rainfall. In our country we are still coming to grips with the notion of more water recycling, which has been encouraged significantly by our government.

Some of the previous speakers—in particular, the member for Wills, who is the shadow spokesman for the environment, and the member for Scullin—referred to this not being an all-encompassing panacea for Australia's water problems. But how could it be? It is one of a whole range of elements that this government has introduced, beginning in 1996. At this time, when we have in front of us for the first time a national water initiative, championed by our Prime Minister, we are beginning to see the problems of Federation solved. We had whole water catchments divided by state and territory borders, leading to inefficiencies, water law anomalies and lack of consistency in water management in all shapes and forms. At last we are seeing some consistency—driven, as I said, by our Prime Minister, John Howard, and by our Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson.

By 2021, when water-efficient appliances are expected to have achieved a high level of market penetration, this measure is projected to reduce domestic water use by 87,200 megalitres per year, or five per cent. This will total a water saving of 610,000 megalitres by 2021. By then—2021—the community also stands to have saved more than $600 million through reduced water and electricity bills. That is a most significant saving. In addition, greenhouse reductions are projected to total 570 kilotons of CO2 equivalent per annum by 2021. After that, our water efficiency labelling scheme is expected to deliver an ongoing annual reduction in domestic water consumption of five per cent. So this legislation will make a most significant contribution to improving water use efficiency around Australia, particularly in our domestic households.

We will not mandate minimum standards for some equipment—for example, shower heads—overnight. As I said before, you need to understand that there is life beyond the cities in this country. Unfortunately, the Labor Party does not tend to represent many people beyond the cities and so it fails to understand that in, for example, Sydney you have sufficient water pressure to run a shower with a lower level of water pressure than is currently available but in Darwin right now you could not use a water-efficient shower rose. It simply would not work with the pressures that are available to Darwin households. Where you are working your showers off a rainwater tank, as is the case in many of our rural and regional towns throughout Australia, it would be impossible for you to use one of those appliances were we to immediately mandate a minimum standard of water use and pressure through those systems. So we have to evolve this system, and we will do it as technology improves and as the market becomes more familiar with what is intended and more conscious of the benefits—as this labelling system takes hold.

I want to commend our government very highly for making sure that we are looking at all elements of water management, water quality and water use efficiency in this great dry continent of ours. We, of course, totally reject the notion, put by the shadow spokesman, the member for Wills, that Labor's water policy should be on the table. He suggested that their policy would create the solutions to Australia's water use needs. Most people would regard that as a joke.

Let me give this issue some serious attention for a minute and say that the government have acted comprehensively in addressing national water issues—in particular with the new national water initiative. The government have brought states and territories to the table and we are looking hard at urban areas—particularly at national guidelines for water use and recycling and water sensitive urban design principles. This is the first time in the more than a century since Federation that we have had that discussion around a national table.

The key elements of the national water initiative include a commitment to addressing our overallocated water supply systems; a commitment to a more sophisticated, transparent and comprehensive process of water planning in all jurisdictions; and, in terms of security for individual consumers of water, a commitment to ensuring perpetual access to water and to ensuring that the water is tradable and appropriately and fully costed, so that we achieve better and more efficient management of all water across this country, sustaining a resource that has been under threat for a very long time.

This bill provides an excellent framework for addressing urban water efficiency in partnership with the state and territory governments. The act will provide successive governments with a mechanism for extending the scope of labelling requirements and minimum standards over time, as needs arise and the markets make it possible for us to do so. I believe the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Bill 2004 is an excellent initiative which is truly in the interests of the nation and of every family in this country. I commend it to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Wills has moved as an amendment that all words after `That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

Question agreed to.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.