Product Emissions Standards Bill 2017
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan—Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (11:22): I rise today to speak in support of the Product Emissions Standards Bill 2017. This bill enables the introduction of air pollution standards for products such as small petrol engines, equipment and outboard motors. The bill implements a key aspect of the National Clean Air Agreement agreed to by Australia's environment ministers in December 2015. Under that agreement, a key initial action was the introduction of national emissions standards for new non-road spark ignition engines and equipment, also known as NRSIEEs.
These engines and equipment are a significant emissions source and at peak times are estimated to contribute up to 10 per cent of overall air pollutants in Australian urban environments, the very neighbourhoods where majority of us reside. Everyone in this chamber will undoubtedly remember their childhoods, with the smell of freshly mown lawns on a weekend. Add to that fragrance the distinctive two-stroke exhaust and petrol aromas emanating from mowers, hedge trimmers, whipper snippers and the dreaded leaf blowers. Times have changed little since those days, yet our knowledge of the emissions of such equipment that's resulted in the re-thinking of small engine emissions. Madam Deputy Speaker, it may pass your mind but you do know that small spark engines are high emitters of pollution for their size. Two-stroke leaf blowers can produce similar nitrogen oxides to one car. I am told some lawnmowers can produce 40 times the emissions of a car. Consider the number of small spark engines in your neighbourhood being used on a Saturday morning. The emissions figures certainly add up. Fundamentally, these standards will improve the air quality of urban areas and deliver health benefits. With increases in population and transport growth come added pressures on the quality of the air we currently enjoy—quality air that most of us take for granted. Clean air is good air.
The facts that I will set forth in my support for this bill will demonstrate the unsuspecting dangers we are all exposed to. This bill will align Australia with other developed countries and other major markets which already have similar standards. Australian standards will be harmonised to minimise any regulatory burden. I note the government has consulted and worked with the industry for more than a decade to develop emissions standards for these products.
In order to allow industry time to adjust to these new standards, they will be phased in over the next two years. It is proposed that imports of non-complying products will be prohibited from 1 July 2018 with the sale of non-complying products fully prohibited from 1 July 2019. As part of these bills, customs and excise charges will impose fees on the importation of products prescribed under the product emissions standard legislation. These fees will enable the full cost recovery of the costs associated with regulating prescribed products.
Like most federal members, I continually meet with my constituents to hear firsthand their current concerns and issues. One such local resident is Mr Gary Fooks. For those of you who do not know him, Gary is the chairman of Blue Sky Alliance, representing some manufacturers and distributors of non-road engine products who believe that Australians deserve to breathe clean air. Gary has worked in close consultation with industry and government on these standards for the past 10 year and wants to ensure that Australia is stringent in its approach to the enforcement of these standards. Gary's passion for this legislation and for the environment starts in his own garage, where, I understand, much of his small-engine equipment is emissions-standard friendly.
As I mentioned earlier with the emissions from leaf blowers and lawnmowers, these proposed standards will cover noxious air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, which have significant impacts on human health. With estimates that new standards could deliver $1.7 billion in avoided health costs, it is vital that this bill is supported by all in this House. Given that similar standards are already in place in 26 of the 35 OECD countries, Australia has become the dumping ground for high-polluting products manufactured overseas. Manufacturers who produce these old emission-intensive engines have realised that the Australian market is still open for sale when it comes to old emission-intensive engines. You only need to walk into your local large hardware outlet to see the cheap Chinese-import mowers. No-one can expect these engines to be the cleanest and greenest.
These standards will be the genesis of Australia's urban clean-air initiatives. However, I know that more can be done and achieved from here. While many probably relive their pasts of premixed fuel for the old two-stroke mowers, I would like future generations to breathe clean air when they are tending to their gardens and lawns or taking their boats out onto the water at the weekend. Not that many years ago, it was normal for us to have hazy Saturday afternoons with neighbours lighting up their incinerators to clean up gardening leftovers. Since the banning of incinerators in Queensland many years ago, our afternoons are now cleaner and clearer, and neighbours' washing on clothes lines is untainted. While this example has little to do with small engines, it is the type of environmental policy which seeks to ensure the health and safety of Australians. Darryl Kerrigan of The Castle fame once said that he loved the smell of two-stroke in the morning. Unfortunately, what he probably could not smell were the undetectable carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides that surrounded him and his boat.
I place on record my support for this bill and the work of the coalition government and industry. I particularly thank people like Gary Fooks, who is in the chamber with us today, and all who strive to ensure the health of our environment and future generations. I commend the bill to the house.