Page 1859 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022

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Again, I thank Mr Davis for bringing this motion to the Assembly. I acknowledge that I also, like some others, have a little bit of a conflict here. My dad has a lovely open wood fire that I very much enjoy standing in front of when I am at his house. But I also recognise that there are externalities involved in wood heating and that there do need to be steps taken to minimise the impacts and to enable low income Canberrans in particular to make that switch, if they are in a position to do so. Again, I thank Mr Davis for bringing this motion to the Assembly and commend the motion.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (4.14), in reply: I thank Minister Davidson, Minister Stephen-Smith and my fellow member for Brindabella Ms Lawder for their contributions. Mr Deputy Speaker, either I am not being spicy enough or I just have terribly good ideas, because I seem to be making a habit of bringing motions to this Assembly that go through with all 25 members, all three parties and no amendment. So I will take that for what it is.

I do want to stress, though, that I want to give credit to the government—in particular Minister Stephen-Smith and, later, Minister Vassarotti, who took on the portfolio—for the work that really led to this motion. I think we have known for some time—whether or not we have publicly accepted it is another thing—that the current Wood Heater Replacement Program simply has not been cutting the mustard. It has not been doing what it was intended to do, and it clearly has not been targeted at the right people.

That would be my view, and I think that was in part acknowledged by the government’s work in releasing their Bushfire Smoke and Air Quality Strategy in November of last year. The government said in that strategy:

Current programs, policies and regulations will be reviewed to ensure they support better air quality.

As you can see here, Mr Deputy Speaker, what I am essentially trying to do is to get the jump on an inevitable review of the Wood Heater Replacement Program by proposing my alternative, and I am very delighted to see that there is enthusiasm to take up a trial. Of course a trial is exactly that, a trial, so one of two things are going to happen. Either I will have egg on my face and the trial does not work; it does not appeal to people and we do not see fewer wood heaters in our suburbs, in which case, hopefully, there will be no greater investment in financing a trial like the one I propose outside of the current budget allocations for the Wood Heater Replacement Program.

Alternatively, my proposed policy does have the desired effect; the trial works, and we see fewer wood fire heaters in our suburbs. We see improved air quality right across Tuggeranong. We see, in particular, low income households supported to install more energy efficient, cleaner and sustainable electric heating and cooling in their homes. At that point there will be a conversation, particularly from my colleagues in government, and in particular on the all-powerful ERC committee, about funding such a program into the future.

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