Monday, 11 September 2023
Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023; Second Reading
I rise to make my contribution to the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023. The Albanese Labor government have made it clear that our priority is helping Australians with the cost of living. One way we have done this is to ease the cost of energy. We know that energy bills are putting a strain on Australian businesses and households. Too many people continue to pay for energy that is leaking out of buildings and from inefficient appliances. In the short term this government is delivering up to $500 in energy bill relief for eligible households, and up to $650 for eligible small business. But this government is also able to act decisively in the long term as well, by laying the framework for the transition to a cleaner and more energy efficient economy.
The Albanese government wants to give families the tools, the information and the access to the cheap financing they need to take control of their energy bills and to choose effective upgrades for their homes and businesses, all while lowering emissions. In the most recent budget, this government made it clear that we are investing in the future and we are investing in Australians. We are investing in our energy-saving plans to make homes and businesses and social housing more energy efficient and to drive down energy costs. We're investing $1.3 billion to establish the Household Energy Upgrades Fund to turbocharge financing options for energy upgrades for more than 110,000 households. We are investing in partnerships with states and territories to support energy upgrades for 60,000 social housing properties, and investing over $300 million in the Small Business Energy Incentive to help 3.8 million small and medium businesses. These businesses will have an additional 20 per cent deduction on spending that supports electrification and more efficient use of energy.
We are investing over $36 million to expand and upgrade the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme to apply to existing homes. This will give Australian consumers the power to seek a home energy rating so that they can be informed and able to make choices in their best financial interests for energy upgrades for renting and purchasing homes. This funding will also expand and modernise greenhouse energy minimum standards so that more appliances are covered by energy efficient ratings.
That brings me to this bill and to the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act, known as the GEMS Act. It was a Labor government that made this legislation, which sets minimum energy performance standards and energy labelling requirements for products and appliances. Like many commonsense Labor policies it has endured, and it has been Australians who have reaped the rewards of the government's foresight at that time. For the decade it has operated it has saved the average Australian household between $140 and $220 on their electricity bill each year.
In 2021-22, Labor's energy standards are estimated to have saved Australian households and businesses between 1.3 and 2 billion in avoided energy costs. They were estimated to have delivered an emissions savings of between 4.1 and 6.3 million tonnes in 2021-22, about one-quarter of South Australia's annual emissions.
While it is a shame that the following government was unable to build on the work that had been done, it is a credit to the previous Labor government that was able to craft legislation that has continued to benefit Australians for over 10 years, and today this Labor government seeks to add to and improve upon that Labor legacy. This bill will implement technical changes arising from an independent review of the GEMS Act undertaken in 2019. The review's overall assessment was that reform is required to modernise the act to reflect changes in the energy operating environment, to build on the already significant outcomes of this successful program. The government is prepared to implement these recommendations and make a good act even better. This bill will be acting on key review recommendations 13, 18 and 33, and is the first phase of a raft of amendments that will further enhance the GEMS Act. This bill will reduce administrative burden for products. It will streamline the application of test standards and the granting of exemptions. It will reform grandfathering provisions and grant powers to the regulator regarding the payment of fees.
Part 1 of the bill will amend the act to provide flexibility for the suppliers of customised products in complying with the act by refining registration requirements for such products. Part 2 of schedule 1 to the bill will provide greater flexibility for how suppliers of GEMS products can demonstrate compliance with GEMS determinations. Suppliers often apply for an exemption from being subject to GEMS determination ahead of a GEMS determination coming into force, as they have identified potential issues with meeting the new requirements and want certainty as to how their product will be dealt ahead of time. Part 3 of the bill will improve the timeliness of these exemptions during the transition to new requirements and will allow exemptions to be more targeted.
Part 4 of the bill will provide greater flexibility in defining product classes to ensure effective descriptions of product classes in GEMS determinations. This will assist with regulation of certain subsets of models identified by the regulator as being difficult to administer—for example, products like motors which may be supplied with other equipment. Part 5 of the bill will allow certain other requirements to be made under determinations which have labelling requirements but do not set minimum standards for energy use. Part 6 of the bill will amend the act so that the GEMS Regulator's position can be occupied by a person acting as an SES employee that references to the GEMS Regulator and refers to the substantive or acting SES employee in that position. This will improve the timeliness, efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of the act when the substantive GEMS Regulator is absent from duty or when long-term acting arrangements are in place. The bill will also modernise references to the GEMS Regulator in the act to align with best-practice drafting standards and also extend the grandfathering exemptions from the prohibitions on supplying or offering to supply a model of product that is not registered. Part 8 of the bill will give the regulator the power to extend the time to pay application fees that would otherwise be payable.
The GEMS Act is one tool in this government's apparatus that finds smart ways to manage demand not just to use less electricity but to use it when it is cheapest and cleanest. It is all part of the National Energy Transformation Partnership. For the first time ever there is an agreed national plan between states, territories and the Commonwealth to support Australians through this nation's massive energy transformation. The updated GEMS Act will be part of that process by helping to make homes and appliances more energy efficient. It will also deliver the National Energy Performance Strategy. This provides a framework of supporting policies through which the government provides clear guidance on longer-term direction for energy performances. It will build on existing energy efficiency policies already in place to improve energy affordability, such as through the trajectory for low-energy building. Further improvement to the regulation of energy performance standards are being considered as part of the development of the National Energy Performance Strategy.
The government has hit the ground running when it comes to shifting our energy economy from clinging to the past to embracing our future. We have struck the balance early between delivering for our nation's sustainability and delivering for households and businesses. We act sensibly and responsibly to the global pressures affecting the cost of living, and we recognise that we can streamline and enhance existing legislation to make the energy transition a smooth and stable one. I commend the bill to the House.