Government supporting innovative environmental measures

Before the minister leaves the chamber, I want to commend him on the work that he has done particularly in relation to our environment policies. I am sure the minister remembers very well the previous government’s failed programs on the environment. There were 20 failures—10 failures of Prime Minister Rudd and 10 failures of Prime Minister Gillard.

For a start—and the previous speaker introduced this to the debate—there was the carbon tax. The broken promise on that is a great place to start. There was a promise that there would be no carbon tax, and there was one. We also had the Home Insulation Program. As we know, it was linked to four tragedies. It was responsible for 224 house fires.

It has seen 70,000 repairs. That is what the previous government saw as environmental policy at a cost of more than $2.1 billion, of which more than half a billion dollars was simply to fix dangerous roofs. The program was delivered in spite of 21 warnings by the former member for Griffith.

There was the Green Loans Program. It was a Rudd government program. We know that the Green Loans Program wasted $100 million and retrofitted just over 1,000 homes. The Citizens’ Assembly program was scrapped before it even started. That was Prime Minister Gillard’s initiative. There was the Solar Homes and Communities Plan.

That had a $500 million cost overrun. When the previous speaker was talking about environment policy, that is what he was talking about. He obviously has a selective memory. There was the Solar Flagships program. After some years, there was not one watt of energy and not a thing built. That was an announcement from the member for Griffith. We saw all promise and no delivery at all.

There was the infamous cash-for-clunkers scheme. That was, again, an initiative of Prime Minister Gillard. The Green Car Innovation Fund was another spectacular failure. The low emission plan for renters collapsed. These were the programs and practical measures that the previous speaker on the debate in this House was talking about.

There were the green technology grants, which stopped and started and stopped and started after the MYEFO came out. Those were another failure. There was the Connecting Renewables Initiative. It folded. The Renewable Energy Future Fund was absolutely squandered. The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute unfortunately delivered far more dinners and conferences than progress on carbon capture. We saw the huge number of dollars that went into that program.

The green buildings for tax breaks initiative was scrapped before it commenced. The phantom credits were scrapped 2½ years early. Simply advertising the carbon tax was $70 million wasted. The Green Start program was scrapped before it commenced. The contracts for closure were scrapped before commencement. So, after listening to the previous member speak in this House, all I can say is that those opposite obviously have a selective memory when it comes to their own environmental programs and their impact.

We saw even with the carbon tax that there was no defined decrease in emission. But what a massive cost to business and households that was.

There also appears to be a lack of understanding about the innovation that is out there in this space. I do not know how many other members meet so many innovative groups and individuals who are working on environmental solutions, often using their own initiative and their own funds. They are certainly making a huge difference.

Look at what has happened in the transport sector and how they have improved their performance over the years—for example, the Euro V engines. They are now looking at a Euro VI. There is a lot of work yet to be done, but that is what has been happening in transport. Of course, so many businesses and industries have done enormous work in the environment sector. They are not sitting on their hands.

They are proactive in this space. As I said, I see a lot of innovation ahead, and it is ongoing. I think the practical measures that we are taking as a government feed directly into that.

Of course, one of those is something as simple as the Green Army. There are those who have sought to make this out to be some sort of joke; it is no joke on the ground. I am a farmer, and those young people out on the ground actually delivering practical outcomes is exactly what we need. We need things that actually work on the ground, where the taxpayers’ dollars get to the ground and get to the practical programs that make a difference. Be it coastal, be it in rivers or be it in riparian areas, there is so much practical work happening on the ground, and that is exactly what we need to encourage.

Things that make a difference at a local level, collectively make a huge difference. So I encourage anybody looking at the Green Army Program to get involved, because there is a lot of opportunity at a local level. This will build to 15,000 people on the ground—literally a Green Army working on practical measures. Our natural resource management groups and the catchment councils, which have been working so hard for so long, do the same practical things. No wonder this is a program that will work, because they are already doing this type of work.

I once had a member opposite say to me in a committee that she was surprised that I was on the environment committee, because I was a farmer. Let me tell you that over 94 per cent of farmers are involved in natural resource management or Landcare groups.

They are very concerned and very interested, because they then hand on their own property to a next generation of farmers—be it family members or anyone who purchases that property. They want to see that property in the best condition it can be so that it can continue to produce quality food or fibre which this country is renowned for. You can only do that if you are looking after your pastures, if you are looking after your soil and if you are using the right fertilisers.

Farming is a science. We have some amazing people working on the land.

They are constantly looking at how to do their work better, whether they are an irrigation farmer—looking at how to irrigate more efficiently for so many environmental reasons as well as commercial reasons, and also to manage their pasture—or whatever the case may be.

These measures are going on constantly. Members opposite talk as if nothing is happening anywhere, but there are very practical measures happening right across this country in all fields, and there is much more innovation ahead. We see it every day, almost, in this place and out on the ground. I think we are going to see a lot more innovation in this space than people give us credit for.

The measures of this government will add to that, as will practical measures such as adaptation. In the environment committee, we will keep working on a range of matters.

The Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Amendment Bill will streamline the administrative process. We have discussed in this place previously matters around greater efficiency and reduction, in various ways, of red tape—or green tape in some people’s views. Of course, this will, under the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act, address stakeholders’ concerns and reduce regulatory burdens on industry. It is very important to stay competitive.

We know that in this country we have a productivity challenge. Every way that we can possibly improve productivity for business and individuals is exactly where governments should try to get out of the way, because it is business that creates the jobs and invests their own dollars. So assisting to streamline this process is a very good outcome.

The Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act, as we know, requires energy efficiency information to be disclosed in most cases when commercial office space of 2,000 square metres or more is offered for sale or lease. The act aims to ensure that credible and meaningful energy efficiency information is given to prospective purchasers and lessees of large commercial office space. That information helps purchasers or lessees to make more informed decisions and take full account of the economic costs and the environmental impacts associated with operating the buildings when they are intending to purchase or lease.

Since the establishment of the CBD program, there have been a number of proposed changes raised through the regular forums with key industry stakeholders to improve the program. Again, that is common sense. Those changes require legislative amendments to the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act and associated legislative instruments, including the building energy efficiency regulations and determinations.

The major changes include providing exemptions to building owners who receive unsolicited offers for the sale or lease of their office space. That will lead to an $0.3 million estimated reduction of regulatory burden on businesses. That is not insignificant, as every cent counts in business and your time counts because of time costs. Another major change is allowing transactions between wholly-owned subsidiaries to be excluded from disclosure obligations

Again, this leads to a similar reduction of $0.3 million in regulatory burden on businesses. Cumulatively, it is very important. This bill addresses the ambiguity in the status of assessments in the BEED Act which undertaken by assessors accredited under the National Australian Built Environment Rating System program but not accredited under the CBD program.

It also introduces the ability to determine a commencement date for a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate, which is later than the date of issue. That simple measure itself will provide greater flexibility for businesses wishing to proactively maintain current BEECs for their property portfolios.

Another practical measure is removing the need for new owners and lessors to reapply or pay the application fee for fresh exemptions if there is an existing one in place for a building; and another is the removal of the requirement for six pages of standard energy efficiency guidance text on the BEEC by providing live and interactive online information about improving energy efficiency for office buildings instead.

This bill will lead to an estimated $600 million reduction of regulatory burden on businesses and, as I said, any reduction in regulatory burden is what business and industry for some time have been crying out for.

As a government, you can respond in a practical way or you can ignore those calls. Every small and incremental change brings about a major change in the business itself—time and the costs involved—and as a result I hope that across all the fields where we are looking at the reduction of red and green tape we will see a streamlining of process and reductions in business costs, while still maintaining the standards that we require as a nation.

I want to mention another company in my electorate that is doing a lot of innovative work with wooden building structures. I am sure that they already have a prototype up and running and that we will see more of these types of building in the future. A lot of interest is being shown in their efforts ,and I commend them for their activities.