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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6222

Parliament House: Energy Use

Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:24): My question is to you, Mr President. I refer to the motion of the Senate three months ago that called on the parliament to join the Do Something! energy efficiency campaign, 'The 10% Challenge', and reduce energy use in Parliament House by 10 per cent. I ask, Mr President: could you tell the Senate what action has been taken to carry through with that motion?

The PRESIDENT (14:24): Thank you, Senator Brown. I can tell you that that has been considered at a number of presiding officers' meetings. Firstly, there are already steps in place to reduce the energy usage in this place arising out of a review—I think we showed representatives from the Greens the solar panels that we have put in as a trial at the north-west end of the building. Secondly, there are major reviews of the air-conditioning system which will see the system reviewed over a period of time to ensure that we can reduce the energy being consumed through the massive amount of air conditioning that keeps this place afloat throughout the week. There are other initiatives, and I can get you a range of the initiatives from the Department of Parliamentary Services and give them to you later today.

Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:25): Thank you, Mr President, I am sure the Senate would be very happy to receive those initiatives. I ask a supplementary question. The last figures available show that the cost of powering Parliament House went from $2.5 million to $3.2 million. That is an increase of $700,000. Is the parliament on track to reduce energy consumption by 10 per cent this year, thus saving taxpayers in excess of $300,000 in addition to the greenhouse gas dividend?

The PRESIDENT (14:26): I would have to get accurate figures before I would be prepared to cite exactly what the savings are going to be this year. The increased costs are a result of a negotiated electricity contract for these premises. That contract did increase prices significantly, and they have been increasing over a period of time, hence our initiative this year to run the trial of the solar panels. We believe that trial is having an impact on our electricity account costs. When we can confirm that the trial has been successful we will look to expand that and make it much larger so that we can reduce the costs there, alone, on energy spent in this place.

Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:27): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I have to listen to Senator Brown's questions. Order, on both sides. Senator Brown you should ignore the interjections that on both sides of the chamber are disorderly.

Senator BOB BROWN: Mr President, it is not difficult to ignore both sides.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator BOB BROWN: The Cameron government, in pursuing a 10 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across its properties, achieved a 13.8 per cent reduction last year and is now aiming for a 25 per cent reduction by 2015. Mr President, I ask: beyond the 10 per cent, will the parliament and you consider emulating the Cameron government's aim of a 25 per cent reduction in power consumption by 2015 in this parliamentary building?

The PRESIDENT (14:29): Senator Brown, we are constantly looking at and reviewing ways that we can improve the energy efficiency use in this building and we will continue to do that. We are quite happy to report gains that are being made to the Joint House Committee, and I can take that to the Staffing and Appropriations ComĀ­mittee as well if that assists you. I have no accurate figures at this stage, and I will try to get you some figures as to what savings are likely to be made, if any.