March 6, 2018  |  Second reading

Electricity Safety Amendment (Electrical Equipment Safety Scheme) Bill 2018

Mr Howard – (Buninyong) (15:50:30) — I am pleased to speak on the Electricity Safety Amendment (Electrical Equipment Safety Scheme) Bill 2018. As we have heard, it is about ensuring the safety of all people who buy electrical equipment and the safety of their homes.

It is amazing to deal with bills like this and think back to a little more than 100 years ago. I recall stories that my grandparents might have told me about a time before they had houses with electricity in them. This new thing, electricity, was available to them, but rather than depending on it, my grandparents, having come from England and then settling in Minyip in the Wimmera in Victoria, learnt how to use a Coolgardie safe and things like that. When you tell the next generation about that, they find it so bizarre to think of life without electricity. Today we have washing machines that wash your clothes with the press of a button and refrigerators that carefully and properly refrigerate foods. We use over a day so many electrical goods in a household that it is easy to become overly familiar with them and forget that there are safety risks wherever we are using electricity. We have to be aware of those safety risks and deal with them appropriately.

We are also aware that there are good-quality electrical appliances and there are some that clearly have been produced in an inappropriate way, often in other countries — sometimes in Asia. Some of those appliances are imported, and it is only after they are imported and fires happen in people’s houses or people are electrocuted that we realise this equipment is inferior and dangerous and should not be used in Australian homes. It is appropriate that state governments across Australia and New Zealand have been working through a process of refining safety and doing it in a uniform way, ensuring that people who import goods into our country will be required to be responsible for the goods they bring in and ensure they are complaint with all the electricity safety requirements. This needs to be done in a sensible and streamlined way, hence the value in working across Australia and New Zealand.

Not surprisingly Victoria has indicated it is prepared to be at the forefront of this new system of establishing that where people are supplying electrical equipment to the market in Victoria they will be appropriately registered and will, in registering, ensure that any products they handle, distribute or sell will have met appropriate safety standards. This will be done by a single database so that the system will be able to be streamlined. Those who are responsible suppliers — the groups and the companies that are selling the electrical equipment — will register themselves on this single database, resulting in the replacement of the duplicative system that has been in place across this country, bringing it down to a streamlined system with eventually national standing — and in the case of New Zealand, international standing.

As well as having this registration system we are trying to simplify purchases by having the regulatory compliance mark placed on electrical equipment. People who purchase equipment with that regulatory compliance mark will know that it is of a standard that is suitable to be used in their homes, that it will not cause fires and that it will not risk people being electrocuted. To back this system up we need to ensure that if people are not doing the right thing, they can be charged appropriately. If goods that are sold under the regulatory compliance mark are not actually satisfying those standards, then penalties will apply.

The bill introduces this new system, and it is backed up by new and amended offences under the Electrical Safety Act 1998 which will ensure these obligations are met. If they are not, penalties will be imposed on individuals of up to 60 penalty points, which is equivalent to about a $9500 fine for individuals. If they are companies, those fines would be up to $38 000 if people were non-compliant and selling goods they claimed to be regulatory compliant but that were not or by selling goods they had not appropriately vetted as the registration requires them to do.

There are a range of other things we have done. We have increased the powers of Energy Safe Victoria, which of course is the oversight body, to ensure safety associated with electricity across the state both in terms of what comes through the wires to people’s houses — the electricity that flows through our transmission system — as well as appliances that may be sold. These powers include the ability to issue infringement notices in relation to the new offences and continuation of the power to issue prohibition notices. We are ensuring that the regulator has the necessary powers to be able follow up on matters and to put penalties in place where people are doing the wrong thing.

I have heard others speak today about personal cases in their own families, situations where they know of people who have bought non-compliant equipment or sometimes people who have connected up electrical equipment themselves without having the proper training to do so and have put themselves and their houses at risk. We know that if the wrong thing is done, then periodically appliances overheat or short-circuit and cause fires in houses, which are a huge tragedy. We also know of cases where people have in fact electrocuted themselves, and that is clearly something to be very concerned about and something that we would not want to see happen.

We have got to learn from what is happening out there. We have to adapt a system that can safely work across this country. We need a system that is reliable for consumers, a system that ensures that anybody who is in the business of selling electrical equipment has appropriately vetted what they are selling and that dodgy equipment, wherever it may be produced or wherever it might come from, not be sold in this state. I am very supportive of this bill. As people have said, in bringing in this bill there are transitional arrangements for the new registration system. Through an appropriate consultation process we have ensured that the system can work in well with companies and individuals who are working in this industry selling equipment and purchasing equipment from overseas. This bill will be well received. It will ensure the safety of Victorians who are purchasing electrical equipment and the safety of their homes too.

I certainly commend this bill to the house. It is very sensible to have worked through a bill like this. I know this government and this minister have continued to work to address their responsibilities to electrical issues of supply and electrical safety issues in this case. I commend this bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr DONNELLAN (Minister for Roads and Road Safety).

Debate adjourned until later this day.