Monday, 11 September 2023
Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023; Second Reading
While probably not a lot of people go around talking a lot about the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act, we do think of it every time we buy key appliances for our house. It's the legislation that determines those energy-saving labels that are red and yellow with stars on them. They tell you whether it's four star, five star or six star. That's why it's a really important piece of legislation to be updating, which is what the amendments in the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023 that we're discussing today will do.
The GEMS Act 2012 regulates a range of appliances and industrial products—things like televisions, dishwashers, household refrigerators, hot-water heaters, computers and monitors, pool pumps and set-top boxes all the way through to electric motors, close-control air conditioners and even commercial refrigeration. So it's wide-reaching, and it helps all of us make informed choices so we can use more energy-efficient appliances in our homes and our businesses and be better equipped in our industries.
We recognise that it is definitely time to update this GEMS Act and modernise it to make sure that it fits with today's technologies, with today's appliances and with today's energy demands. That means expanding the GEMS Act so that we gather more information and set more minimum performance standards on a broader range of appliances and products so that we meet our climate and energy needs into the future. Key to that is building some flexibility into the GEMS Act so that it is ready for people to make better choices. When I talk about flexibility, what this bill will do is provide suppliers of customised products with flexibility in demonstrating how they comply with the act and with greater flexibility to comply with determinations under the act.
The International Energy Agency has described energy efficiency as the 'first fuel', noting that it provides some of the quickest and most cost-effective CO2 mitigation options while at the same time lowering energy bills and strengthening energy security. So it makes a lot of sense to be really thinking about improving the tools we use to find smart ways to manage demand—not just to use less electricity but to use it when it's cheapest and cleanest.
I support the amendments in this bill, noting that it will have that multiple effect of helping people make better decisions so that, on an individual level, they are operating cheaper and more energy-efficient appliances while, at the same time, lowering their personal footprints or their business's footprint. Along the way the bill will really act as a useful tool to encourage greater development and consideration of how the people who are making these appliances can work.
I think it's important also to see this in the context of the government's broader energy performance agenda. It is just one tool of many in the pursuit of finding those clever ways to reduce our emissions and to provide cheaper energy for people. Modernising and updating the GEMS Act supports the National Energy Transformation Partnership, which is where, for the first time, there is an agreed national plan between the states, the territories and the Commonwealth to keep the lights on through Australia's massive energy transformation, including by helping to make homes and appliances more energy efficient.
One of the things that came out of the May budget was the investment of around $1.7 billion into our energy-saving plan to make homes, businesses and social housing more energy efficient and to drive down energy costs. In particular, one of those incentives was to help Australians who run their own business to save on their energy costs. There was $310 million for the small-business energy incentive, and that provided to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million an additional 20 per cent deduction on spending that supports electrification and more efficient use of energy. The bonus tax deduction is going to be available for up to $100,000 of total eligible expenditure, with the bonus tax deduction capped at $20,000. And it'll help 3.8 million small and medium sized businesses with ongoing energy savings.
Another step we took was to help small business make every watt count, as we like to say. Around 700 small and medium businesses were offered grants of up to $25,000 to invest in energy performance technology. In my own electorate, two businesses were eligible for this grant. The Sky Rider Motor Inn up in Katoomba was eligible, as was the Closeburn House boutique guesthouse, which is in Mount Victoria. I had a lovely discussion with the operators of Closeburn House about the insulation and additional fabric upgrades they did. For them, it was as simple as reducing some of their energy loss by using much heavier fabrics and curtains. Mount Victoria can be a cold place in the middle of winter, and the operators were very mindful that they could reduce the leakage of their energy by doing something as simple as that and some other insulation upgrades they did. They were given $15,000 to do that. Small amounts of money can make a really big difference.
I look forward to this government continuing to work with community members, whether they're individuals in their own homes or social housing, or they're small businesses, to be able to look at this. The legislation before us is a very practical step in the right direction.