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Monday, 11 September 2017
Page: 6784

Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (13:27): Bring back the bulb. In 2007 the Prime Minister, who was then the environment minister, banned incandescent light bulbs. When he thought this up, a little light bulb did not appear above his head, because it was not a bright idea. Then Minister Turnbull admitted that compact fluorescent globes would cost around 10 times more than the humble light bulb, but he said they would last around 10 times longer. Experience over the last decade suggests this was wishful thinking. Bring back the bulb and let the people decide what they want. Unfortunately, the bills before us today, the Product Emissions Standards Bill 2017 and a couple of associated bills, suggest that the bulb is not coming back. These bills empower the minister to ban certain products of his choosing. They also empower the minister to tax certain products of his choosing so as to pay for this regime of bans. The bans are to meet an objective of improving air quality or contributing to Australia meeting its climate change obligations. The Liberal Democrats oppose these bills.

The objective of improving air quality is an important one and on occasion may best be achieved by banning products that generate noxious fumes in our cities. But we should not have a policy objective of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions while most of the 14 countries that emit more than Australia continue to rapidly increase their greenhouse gas emissions. Even if we were to have an objective of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, assuming these other countries have something similar, this objective should not be pursued by banning products. If we are to have this objective, we should pursue it by treating more emissions-intensive products more harshly on a sliding scale. This would provide more freedom of choice and consumer satisfaction for any given impact on emissions compared to the crude black-and-white approach of bans.

There are further reasons to oppose these bills. They empower a minister rather than the parliament to instigate bans. If importers import a banned product, they face a fine of up to $12,600, even if they didn't know about the ban, and there is no reason that they should have known about it. This is yet another instance of dodgy law known as strict liability. The minister is planning to use these laws to ban the outboard motor on my dinghy, but the only person who breathes in these fumes is me, and I quite like them. Please don't let the bad man take away my outboard!