Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 13 Hansard (3 December) . . Page.. 4298 ..
Debate resumed from 21 November 1996, on motion by Mr Humphries:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR WHITECROSS (Leader of the Opposition) (11.42): Mr Speaker, this legislation is apparently to fix up a mistake that was made in 1995, when the Government accidentally and apparently overenthusiastically banned after 31 December this year the servicing of refrigeration units and air-conditioners which use CFCs. Members will be aware that one of the protocols to which Australia is a signatory is the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, which addresses the question of how to reduce the amount of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone depleting chemicals in circulation in the atmosphere.
As I understand it, the policy position that has been arrived at in relation to chlorofluorocarbons, and part of the strategy developed under the auspices of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council, is that no new chlorofluorocarbons be manufactured in or imported into Australia; that equipment using chlorofluorocarbons no longer be sold; but that existing units using this refrigerant still be able to be serviced in Australia, so that people with these existing units can continue to use them. As I understand it, there are other rules about the management of the disposal of refrigeration units and air-conditioners with chlorofluorocarbons, to ensure that the CFCs are recovered and do not end up polluting the atmosphere. Mr Speaker, the effect of this legislation is to allow for these units to continue to be serviced after 31 December this year. In that sense, it is a watering-down of the legislation, but the advice I have received is that it is a watering-down of the legislation which brings it into line with the original intent of the revised strategy for ozone protection in Australia and into line with how these issues have been managed in other States. On that basis we will be supporting this legislation.
We support the legislation without any sense of complacency about the importance of eliminating CFCs from Australia as quickly as possible. The fact that we have a national strategy which phases out ozone depleting chemicals like CFCs, I do not believe, should put us in a situation where we seek to take the longest possible time to eliminate them from circulation. I think we should, both in the ACT and elsewhere in Australia, be making every effort to eliminate them as rapidly as possible. One issue which I have raised, and I would be interested to see it explored further, is the question of whether there are substitute chemicals which could be used in recharging air-conditioning units, rather than CFCs, in certain circumstances. I agree that that may not be possible in all circumstances, but I think some education of owners of old refrigeration and air-conditioning units about alternatives, where they exist, would be in everybody's interests if it meant fewer CFCs being put into existing units.
I support this legislation. I would urge the Minister to be as proactive as possible in ensuring that every opportunity is taken to reduce the amount of CFCs in circulation in the Territory as our contribution to a national strategy to phase out CFCs in Australia as one of the ozone depleting chemicals which we have had in circulation. Mr Speaker, with those remarks, I would commend the Bill.