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Gas Safety Bill 2018 - Second Reading

21 November 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens will be supporting the Gas Safety Bill.  As I mentioned before, this trio of bills before us today are about creating clearer lines of responsibility between the different departments who administer the different components of the gas industry in Tasmania and to make sure that the act is more efficiently enacted. 

In relation to the Gas Safety Bill, I have no particular points to make about the details of the bill, other than one in relation to the increase from 500 megajoules to 750 megajoules for residential premises so that they continue to be classed as residential without tipping over into the commercial premises classification and therefore requiring a different and more stringent, onerous level of compliance and regulations.  That relates, as I understand, to the types of appliances that people now typically would have in a standard residential property, which would mean that the amount of 500 megajoules per hour would quite easily be reached.  As I had it explained to me in the briefing, a typical hot water system might consume 200 megajoules an hour and with a cooker and stovetop, it could easily tip over 500 megajoules an hour, but that does not equate to a real increase in risk.

Given the data that has been collected over the last eight years where there has been an average of 18 to 20 incidents reported per year over that period, there is no evidence, I have been told, that moving that classification level from 500 to 750 megajoules will result in anything like a significant or substantial risk for people in residences.  It seems that in commercial situations it is the overhead heaters that are particularly risky.  We were satisfied with that and all the other questions we asked in the briefing were comprehensively answered and I thank the staff again who provided us with that information.

In relation to the minister's comments about gas supply emergencies and the possibility of gas rationing, I am pleased to hear him say that, because they are exactly the concerns the Greens have about the failure of him and his Government to plan for the future.  What we see from this Government is a willingness to leave it to the marketplace and set some regulations, as though once the horse is bolted we can hope to shut the stable door, whereas what we want to be doing is looking ahead to what we now have credible evidence for, which are the projections for global warming and the requirement to keep our global temperatures down to a maximum of 1.5 degrees.  That will require Australia to stop burning all forms of fossil fuel, coal-generated power and it will ultimately require us to phase out the use of gas as a heating source.  We have to come up with alternative sources of energy and therefore assume that we will be phasing gas out in Tasmania.  It is not a question of if, but when and how and what alternatives we will put in place.

Ultimately, the minister has made a very good point.  The risk of gas supply emergencies is far greater in the future world that is evolving than it has been in the past.  There are a lot of complex factors around that.  What we are seeing from what has been happening with Australian exports to the international gas market, the massive liquid natural gas plant that was opened in Gladstone and the port that was very controversially constructed around Gladstone to export a massive amount of LNG to overseas countries, particularly to Japan, is a distortion of the price in gas for residential consumers in Australia as a result of that.  We have seen suppliers who had the LNG export price fall out of their market and have reverted instead to what was previously a domestic supply of gas.  That has led to this feeding frenzy in a coal seam gas exploration market. 

Minister, in light of that and in light of your comments about gas supply emergencies, emerging technologies, the prospect of gas rationing and - we say - the need to plan for that, I would like to hear a statement from you about your Government's commitment to maintaining the state's moratorium on fracking in Tasmania.  We do not want to be pushed into a situation in March 2020 when the Tasmanian no fracking moratorium expires.  We do not want to be in a situation where we are being pushed by national companies to open up our state for fracking of any type.  We are at the end game for fossil fuel industries.  They are pulling out all stops in an attempt to mine every little last bit of coal that is possible and to extract gas and other resources that we know are unsustainable to burn.  It is our job to put in place the renewable energy system and to put in place transition plans so that we can move away from those unsustainable and harmful sources of electricity generation and create a future which is clean and sustains life on the planet.

Minister, I would appreciate you making a commitment today about the fracking ban and what your Government will be doing about it in the context of gas safety.  That is all we have to say on this bill and we are happy to support it.