Second Reading Debate – Building Energy Efficiency
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (16:54): I rise to make a brief contribution on the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Amendment Bill 2014. This is about the ability to disclose the energy performance of commercial buildings above 2000 square metres that are offered for sale or lease. As a tradesman, as an electrician, as an electrical engineer who has had something to do with quite a number of pieces of legislation and compliance over many years, I think it is good that we are acting to streamline some of the red tape. While energy efficiency is important, it is challenging in an environment where you keep changing tenants or a building is offered for sale multiple times. Energy efficiency is predominantly around lighting; that is typically where you gain the most efficiency. I would like to speak a bit about that. I concur with a number of the comments made by the member for Hughes, particularly around energy efficient lighting.
I commenced work as an apprentice on 13 January 1987. At that time we still had tungsten lamps, incandescent lamps, and there were many of them. What I recall about them is that they were incredibly cheap. They were constructed from glass, tungsten and brass—all naturally occurring elements. Even with inflation and everything else, you would expect that you could still purchase those types of lamps for $1 or even $1.20. However, energy efficient lamps are incredibly expensive. They are between $6 and $11 per fitting. That adds an enormous amount of cost to building houses and commercial buildings. But it does reduce electricity use; there is no doubt about that. It certainly reduces the amount of energy used for lighting. Lighting is one of the biggest consumers of energy in commercial buildings.
The National Electricity Market report in August 2014 indicated that there is enough generating capacity in Australia connected to the NEM to last for the next decade. We will need no additional generating capacity for another 10 years. And that is in all economic circumstances—low, medium and high growth and low, medium and high risk. So why is it that we are looking to invest more money in generators of renewable energy at a time when we certainly cannot afford it? I am sure that 10 years is ample time for technology to improve—and it is improving rapidly.
But it is time to consider the nuclear debate—and I note the previous contributions about nuclear energy. As an electrical engineer, I can tell you that nuclear energy needs to be considered. But I note that the scare campaign from those opposite has already commenced. In recent days I have received on my Twitter account a report from 2007 about how coastal towns in Queensland are likely locations for a nuclear plant. My seat is based on Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. This is an area in Australia that is more likely to have some type of volcanic activity, so I think it is highly unlikely that it will be considered for the construction of a nuclear plant. Given that we will not need any additional generating capacity for another decade, this is something which I believe we can take time to consider.
The other thing we need to think about is that power consumption in this country is falling like a stone. We are using less electrical energy now than we were 10 years ago—far less—and our usage continues to fall. We are using less power, so why do we need to build more generating capacity when we are oversupplied to the tune of 135 per cent? It makes no sense to me at all. As a practical person from a practical background, I do not see the sense in spending the taxpayers’ money for no purpose.
The comments from the member for Hughes around the disposal of energy efficient lighting are bang-on. Crompton, one of the largest producers of lamps in the world, has advised that mercury levels are of concern—and this is something we need to consider. In fact, their advice is that those lamps should never be disposed of in landfill at all. You can imagine how many lamps in Australia go straight into the bin and then to landfill. So we really need to consider what it is that we are trying to achieve.
I also note the contribution from the member for Moreton and his comments around China. Having been to Guangzhou and Shanghai, I can say in all honesty that they have the worst pollution I have ever seen. I have travelled all over the place but I have never seen anything as bad as the pollution in those towns. So Australia’s contribution is good. This is a great country to live in. Certainly the air is clean, and we are doing the right thing in terms of the environment. I congratulate Minister Hunt on his activities. However, this is all about the energy efficiency scheme, and it is a scheme that I support, of course, and I support the amendments. I said my contribution would be brief. Thank you.