Thursday, 16 August 2007
Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007
The Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007 is a very positive government initiative which recognises the growing reality, in Australia and throughout the world, that natural resources, which in the past have been considered plentiful, are indeed finite and that what was used once and then discarded ought now to be reused, if that is possible. It is vital to recognise that our world does have finite resources and the Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007 is yet another recognition by the Howard government that we are a clean and green government. This bill is being brought in because it does bring about positive initiatives and changes which will benefit Australia’s environment.
The recognition that resources are finite was formalised in the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000, and the bill being debated here today initiates changes that have been suggested as a result of the first review of that piece of legislation. The act itself suggested that reviews should take place every four years. Amendments in this bill include, for example, changing the words ‘waste oil’ in the legislation to become instead ‘used oil’. I suppose the usage of the words ‘waste oil’ indicates that this oil has no further purpose and ought to be discarded; whereas the use of the words ‘used oil’ reflects the idea that oil is not necessarily rendered useless once it has been used. Consequently it is not actually waste, because it is a product and a resource which has ongoing benefits to the community if it is able to be reused.
You might suggest that small amendments like this are not important, but they do help to create in the mind of the Australian community the thought that we need to be more aware of the finite nature of our nation’s resources. If we are able to use better wording in legislation, it helps to reinforce over and over that, when we do have a product that has been used but that can be reused, we ought to look upon it as a usable resource and not as waste.
Other changes that are suggested in this bill include that members appointed to the Oil Stewardship Advisory Council be appointed to the position as a consequence of their experience, knowledge and expertise of issues relating to this field, rather than being appointed—as is the case prior to the passage of this bill—simply as representatives of a particular body. Indeed, many appointments might well have been made on the basis of a person’s experience, knowledge and expertise, but the change in this bill seeks to reinforce the need for that level of qualification so that the person is better able to make a positive contribution to the work of the Oil Stewardship Advisory Council.
These changes when enacted will ensure that those on the advisory board will actually have life experiences and a practical, hands-on understanding of relevant issues as they arise. This will not affect those members appointed to the advisory board to represent the Australian government or the Commissioner of Taxation, for understandable reasons. It is recommended as a result of the review of the legislation that those who are appointed by the Australian government and the Commissioner of Taxation will now become non-voting members of the council. This change means that the Australian government’s and the commissioner’s representatives, while they may not have the same level of expertise as other members on the board, will not have the same level of influence either. The voting membership will have a high degree of expertise, and that is a situation which is eminently desirable. The changes in the legislation reflect the willingness to embrace the idea that this legislation must be as effective as possible while equally being as politically and professionally independent as possible.
The bill provides for the introduction of more defined procedures by which members of the advisory board can disclose their pecuniary interests, which will ensure that any of those interests clearly do not pose a threat to the impartiality of the member. It is always important to try to guarantee that there are no conflicts of interest. Finally, the bill allows for new regulations to be created governing issues such as determining eligibility for oil stewardship benefits, the adopting of oil testing methods or laboratory accreditation standards from time to time.
Overall, the amendments to the bill are relatively minor. They are the result of a review process, and I think that it is good that in 2007, when we have legislation that has been in operation for a number of years, we review it to see whether the legislation as originally enacted still serves the Australian community as best it can. It is vital that, as a parliament, we can make small changes, small adjustments and small improvements that will ultimately improve the benefits obtained by the original legislation. That is a very positive step forward. I am very pleased to commend the bill to the House. These amendments help to shore up the effectiveness and practicality of the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000, and I am quite confident that this bill will pass through this chamber and hopefully through the other place as soon as possible.