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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 702

Dr STONE (7:57 PM) —I too rise to contribute to this debate on the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Amendment Bill 2010. There is probably no bigger demand in Australia than for water use efficiency, whether it is a case of urban consumption or food production. Of course, we also use an enormous amount of water in our mining activity, and where would we be without some of our freshwater fishing? The issue in Australia, as we face some of the biggest floods in European history in this country, is that we have an overabundance of water in some parts of the country from time to time but scarcity of water is in fact usually the order of the day in the most populated parts of the country. Therefore, one of the first things our pioneers set out to do was to make sure that there was enough water secured in various reservoirs and dams to tide us over when there was less rainfall. Australia therefore has, per capita, some of the highest levels of water stored in the world.

This particular bill is a very well-aimed attempt to make sure that a consumer can choose a product that they can be quite comfortable with in terms of its level of water consumption, whether it is a water-saving product or a water guzzler. However, there have been some complications over the years in trying to make sure the consumer has good information about the product. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage, which met in 2007, had an extensive public inquiry and determined that there needed to be necessary changes to establish Watermark certification as a prerequisite for compliance with the WELS scheme. WELS, of course, stands for Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards.

There had been a complication where one of these means of certification was confused with the other, so we now have a situation where Watermark testing and certification—while it is intended to ensure that products are fit for use and will not threaten the safety of the reticulated water supply—are required before a plumbing product can be legally installed, while WELS registration and labelling is required before a WELS product can be legally sold. This regulatory difference means that in some cases consumers can unknowingly purchase plumbing products that, while legally available, are not able to be legally installed. The proposed changes to this scheme remove this potential source of confusion and potential discrediting of the WELS scheme, so it is a sensible move to sort things out and let the consumer be as fully informed as they need to be. I need to say, though, that we need to extend this capacity for consumers to understand the water savings of a product they buy.

Debate interrupted.