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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2290


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(9.41) —The Minister would not have had the opportunity of looking at questions asked at the Estimates committee meeting where we sought information concerning energy conservation in government buildings and a series of tables was supplied. The claim before the Estimates committee was that there had been a considerable success. The fact of the matter is that if one looks at the electricity bills one by one, year by year-there are two or three years of comparisons-one sees that there is little or no evidence at all of any real conservation. This ought to appeal to the Minister's heart, as Minister for Finance, as not just tens of millions of dollars but hundreds of millions of dollars in energy bills could be saved. For example, in 1983-84 the electricity bill for the Edmund Barton building was $335,000, rising to $414,000-odd the following year, and so the statistics continue in very big figures right throughout.

The simple fact of the matter is that this will mean not only a saving of money for the Government through good housekeeping but also, above everything else, that we will be using electricity to the best possible advantage. A policy for energy conservation in government buildings has been set out. The Minister will know that in the early 1980s there was a chronic shortage of electric power in New South Wales and Victoria-the two States that are of significance to the Australian Capital Territory. That, allied with a drought, caused very severe blackouts and restrictions on industry. The best way to build a power house is to save the equivalent of a power house in terms of energy conservation. That makes sense in every respect in terms of government savings. The general feeling throughout the world is that if one is willing to do this kind of thing a saving of up to 30 per cent on energy costs can be achieved, and that represents a saving for the Government of hundreds of millions of dollars. The same thing applies to the automotive industry.

I simply draw attention to these figures. I recognise that the Minister would not have seen them and, therefore, it would be wrong for me to seek clarification. I just wish to draw attention to the whole situation. If we are to tackle Australia's greatest problem and get productivity up and internal costs down, if we are to conserve energy so that we have more electric power for the future without more capitalisation of power stations, if we are to have more automotive power without having to import oil, this makes good sense. Those figures show some progress but not much.