Page 847 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005

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1.4 billion litres of water per year, or 700 Olympic-size swimming pools, in the ACT alone by 2021, and deliver net savings of $11 million per year. Nationally, WELS is estimated to conserve more than 87 million litres of water per year, or 43,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, by 2021. To reiterate, water is a precious commodity and one that we all need to conserve. We all need it to survive and we therefore need to conserve it in order to ensure our own survival.

This bill goes to ensuring that WELS will take effect, therefore conserving our water supplies for the future. It is hoped that this measure and other measures that will be introduced around this very dry continent of ours will make us all that much more aware of the need to conserve water and of how much of a precious commodity it is. I think we are slowly becoming aware of that, but we need to continue our vigilance in educating the public that water is something that we do need to conserve. It is necessary to life and it is necessary to make sure that we are not wasteful with it.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.52): The ACT Greens certainly support this bill in principle. It is a welcome step towards more efficient and sustainable water resource management. We support the intent of this legislation to conserve water supplies by reducing water consumption. The bill is essentially enabling legislation to give effect to the national scheme and we support the aim of having nationally consistent water efficiency labelling and minimum performance standards for certain products. It is very hard to distinguish our market from the adjoining New South Wales area.

It is interesting to note that the regulation impact statement prepared for the commonwealth bill acknowledges that there is evidence of market failure in the water product market and that the voluntary water efficiency scheme that has been in existence since 1988 has not been effective. It states:

Because the scheme is voluntary, few suppliers have chosen to label and those that have…only label their better performing products … The main incentive—

for participation—

has been the support of the water utilities, many of whom have publicised the scheme or offered cash rebates to their customers for the purchase of labelled appliances.

These limitations are inherent in any voluntary approach. I experienced that recently when purchasing a new washing machine. I went into one of the stores in Fyshwick and was presented with an array of washing machines with all kinds of labels, with numbers of stars on them for energy efficiency and a label indicating water efficiency. When I asked the very helpful young man who was serving me which one he thought was better, he said, “Oh, just ignore those labels.” I said, “What? What are they for, then?” He said, “Oh, just ignore them. They really don’t tell you anything. They’re measured over a year and they vary from different circumstances to different circumstances.” So, in a sense, I was not helped at all by those labels. In fact, machines that I knew to be water and energy efficient had fewer drops, I think it was—I cannot remember what the water use labelling system was. In the end, you really have to go and read all the information booklets about each machine before you purchase one.

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