Michelle Lensink

Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (South Australia) Bill

This speech is to indicate support for this legislation, which implements recommendations of the review of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme.

Adjourned debate on second reading.

Continued from 1 May 2013

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:48): I rise to indicate support for this piece of legislation, which implements recommendations of the review of the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme. WELS is a joint initiative between the commonwealth, states and territories. It was originally a voluntary scheme which later became mandatory, and its goal is to implement uniform water efficiency and labelling standards throughout Australia.

A lot of people would be familiar with the star rating system that we have on electrical goods to indicate energy consumption; this is a similar scheme to indicate water consumption. It legislates the minimum water labelling information and water efficiency standards that must be displayed at the point of sale, as well as through advertising on specific plumbing, sanitary and whitegoods products. It does not contain energy information.

The original concept was introduced by the Howard government in 2005. It was then established under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 as part of the COAG National Water Initiative. In 2010, an independent review of the WELS scheme was conducted as required under the act, and the Standing Council on Environment and Water agreed to most of the recommendations made, resulting in this bill. The commonwealth parliament passed legislation in 2012 which included amending the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 and a range of other acts.

This bill will allow the commonwealth to make changes without having to amend state or territory legislation. My understanding is that New South Wales has adopted a similar model, while Tasmania also has a similar bill. Both Victoria and Western Australia are considering the same approach, which is to be more efficient, fairer to registrants, and to better inform consumers.

Registration and fee arrangements subsequently will change with the aim to simplify and streamline registration processes. It will also line up with the commonwealth's definition of supply and will include a new range of products. The bill also clearly defines that any offence committed is to be treated as an offence against the commonwealth. The funding for the scheme is over a three-year period and includes the princely contribution from the South Australian government of $14,000 per annum.

The scheme is important in continuing to achieve water use efficiency goals throughout South Australia, as well as providing a basis to lower households' cost of living by giving them a better understanding of the products they have purchased. I was advised in the briefing that the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (a commonwealth department) received 119 submissions on this WELS scheme specifically in relation to funding arrangements, registration fees, rules and processes, compliance and enforcement, and further development.

I was advised by the government that industry is broadly supportive of the scheme. Whilst not every submission is publicly available, I was advised that no concerns were raised by any South Australian submissions. I would like to thank the minister's office and the departmental offices for providing the briefing and look forward to the committee stage of the debate.

Bill read a second time.

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a couple of questions. Can the minister provide some information about what products might be included in the future in this scheme?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: My advice (and I do not have my adviser beside me right now but they are on their way) from memory is that this scheme covers all sorts of products in the water industry such as handbasins, bathroom accessories, toilet accessories, washing machines, etc. Previously I think we used to have a droplet system and now it is moving to a star system I am advised.

The ACTING CHAIR (Hon. K.J. Maher): Are there any further contributions?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The question I asked was about what new products may be included within the scheme. Perhaps, with the benefit of his adviser, the minister might have some more information available.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I am advised that the commonwealth and the states are investigating bringing other appliances into the scheme. They are looking at the cost-effective analysis at the moment, but they have under active consideration evaporative air conditioners. There is potential to bring higher standards into play for toilets, I am advised, but there will be the mechanisms should new products be brought into the system that they can be brought in through the standards approach.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you for that response. In the briefing, one of the comments was that part of the purpose of the bill is to reduce red tape and the likelihood of future act amendments. Perhaps the minister could comment on that.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: My advice is that the commonwealth act has been amended four times and I am also advised that there is another bill before the federal parliament to amend it once more. Each time this happens, of course, we need to amend our complementary legislation which often provides for a period where our acts are inconsistent. That brings about an effective administrative burden to many businesses and so the reduction of red tape will come through the process of having amendments to our state act flow through in the processes that are outlined in this bill through regulation.

Clause passed.

Remaining clauses (2 to 20), schedule and title passed.

Bill reported without amendment.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (16:05): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.

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