House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023


Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023; Second Reading

1:15 pm

Photo of Zaneta MascarenhasZaneta Mascarenhas (Swan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am proud to be a part of the Albanese Labor government which indeed is acting on climate change. In our first parliamentary sitting week, when we met in this place, we had the opportunity to legislate a 43 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That was something that we did not have to do, but we chose to do that because we wanted to send a strong signal to the Australian community as well as the business community. We saw investment in low-carbon technologies unlocked, and that's something I'm really proud to see. We've also strengthened the safeguard mechanism to make sure it actually sees a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This Albanese Labor government is a government which continues to be focused on building a better future and providing cost-of-living relief to families as well as creating a sustainable future. This is a task that we embrace with vigour and determination.

Today I stand here to discuss the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Amendment (Administrative Changes) Bill 2023, also known as the GEMS Act because it is a bit of a gem. This legislation aims to enhance the administration of the GEMS Act. It was an important initiative that was introduced by a previous Labor government. Historically, this is one of the policies that's been incredibly effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I note that we have students watching the chamber duties at the moment. The thing that I want everyone to understand is that this is a government that cares about your future. We want to make sure that we have a liveable planet and that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The initial GEMS Act ensured that we could get more productive output of energy for every bit of energy that we put into an appliance, so this is basically about productivity. Energy efficiency is a really important pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving net zero emissions. Often solar panels, wind turbines and wave power are seen as the more glamorous ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the truth is that energy efficiency is an unsung hero. The thing that we're doing today is implementing the recommendations that arose from a 2019 independent review of the act. This review was conducted by Anna Collyer, who now chairs the Australian Energy Market Commission. Her review resulted in 40 recommendations. Some of these recommendations required legislative change, which is why I stand here before you today to discuss this bill.

The review was completed in 2019. Labor came into government in 2022. It's really unfortunate that these policy initiatives were not actually implemented. I see this as being consistent with the wasted decade under the coalition government. It's a shame that the previous government sat on these recommendations for such a long time. Is it because the coalition is full of climate deniers? But the truth is that I also know that they are into productivity, so I'm not really sure of the reason for the lack of impetus in getting the job done. Maybe it was lethargy and inaction, but once again, the previous government has cost people money, and that's really unfortunate. It was, unfortunately, a waste of time but also a waste of money for not just households but also small to medium businesses. It's disappointing but not surprising. While the coalition wasted a decade, the Albanese Labor government will not waste a day. We're getting the job done, and that's what's needed to move Australia forward. It's the job necessary to protect consumers and support businesses in meeting their compliance obligations.

The primary objective of the GEMS Act is to establish a national scheme for the labelling of the energy performance of electrical appliances. You might have gone shopping at one of the retail stores like Retravision or Harvey Norman. If you buy a fridge or a washing machine, one of the things that you'll see on that appliance is that it has a star rating. That star rating gives you an understanding of the energy efficiency performance of that product. The thing that's interesting is that, when we buy products, we often think of the capital cost or the initial cost, but we forget to think about how much this is going to cost going forward. That's what an energy-efficiency star rating does: it gives you a good understanding of how much electricity or gas is going into that appliance. You might initially buy a product that seems really cheap, but, when you actually look at the cost of running it over a one- to three-year period, it could be significantly more compared to a more expensive item that might actually be more energy efficient and save you money in the long term.

What this policy does is give consumers a clear and transparent understanding of the energy consumption of a product. It's smart Labor policy that saves the average Australian household between $140 and $220 on their electricity bill. In addition, the really cool thing about the GEMS Act is that it's estimated to have saved between 4.1 million and 6.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the financial year of 2021-22. This indicates great environmental policy. It's an intelligent way to manage electricity demand. It's smart use at a time when both cost effectiveness and environmental issues are a challenge. Labor is fully aware and understands that the rise in cost of living is putting pressure on Australian households, and we are acting on providing relief to households through electricity bill relief, cheaper child care, cheaper medicines and a rise in wages, and this legislation contributes to that effort. We're making a difference when it comes to electricity bills.

This government does not want to let people continue paying more for their energy. That's not productive. Electricity and gas can be wasted through inefficient appliances, poor building maintenance and poor insulation. This is why, once again, it's a Labor government that's taking action. These amendments represent a smart initiative that equips families with the tools and information they need to make informed decisions about their energy use. They can make choices regarding affordable financing, effective appliances and even upgrading their homes and businesses. Empowering consumers to manage their expenses while simultaneously reducing emissions is precisely what these amendments aim to achieve, and that is the goal of this government. We're empowering consumers to make choices about how they spend their money and we're making changes to the regulatory framework to facilitate this process. We're wanting to empower businesses with the flexibility to adapt to the changing conditions and also reduce the costs that come with the necessary measures of compliance. Furthermore, businesses will benefit from reduced compliance costs, a change supported by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers Association.

The technical amendments proposed in this bill allow customised products to be registered at the point of sale. This allows greater flexibility for businesses and provides for business support and for the regulator to grant exemptions. The bill does this by implementing recommendation 13 of the review by reducing the administrative burden for bespoke products; the bill does this by implementing recommendation 33 of the review by streamlining the application of test standards; the bill does this by reforming the grandfather provisions found at recommendation 33 of this review—the grandfathering provisions provide a transitional exemption where legacy products may be sold under certain circumstances—and the bill also does this by granting powers to the regulator regarding the payment of fees. It's about consumer empowerment, cheaper bills, business flexibility and regulator autonomy. These provisions will directly impact the lives of Australians, putting money back into their pockets and helping businesses thrive and lower greenhouse gas emissions. This is yet another testament to a government that takes its responsibilities seriously, a government that is dedicated to significant changes that truly matter.

These amendments are a reflection of our commitment to improving energy efficiency, reducing costs and protecting our environment. And we're not stopping there. This government will continue to review the energy performance standards as part of its national energy performance strategy. It's top of our agenda. Getting the job is our focus; ensuring support and benefits for all Australians, keeping costs down and protecting the environment is our No. 1 priority. It's another step forward in creating a better future for Australia and a better life for all Australians. I commend this amendment to the House.


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