Hydrocarbon Refrigerants

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SpeakersRyan The Hon John

Page: 7840

    The Hon. J. F. RYAN [9.40 p.m.]: On 23 May, I withdrew a motion to disallow clause 242 of the Dangerous Goods (General) Regulation 1999. I did so in recognition of the efforts made by the Government to resolve the problems faced by motorists and the natural refrigerants industry arising from a ban on charging motor vehicle airconditioning systems with hydrocarbon refrigerants. I thank the Government and the Regulation Review Committee for their respective efforts to redress the problems that have been suffered by the hydrocarbon refrigerants industry over the past four and a half years in New South Wales. As a result of their efforts, a joint industry working group was established by the former Attorney General, the Hon. Jeff Shaw, to develop a code of practice that would provide for the safe use of environmentally friendly, more efficient and cheaper hydrocarbon refrigerants. I sincerely hope that that issue will continue to receive the enthusiastic support of the Minister who now has responsibility for the WorkCover Authority.

    In response to the concerns expressed by industry groups such as Greenchill Technology Association Inc whose members include Boral—which is now Origin Refrigerants—Elgas and Hychill Refrigerants, the Regulation Review Committee in October 1999 recommended that WorkCover be required to more comprehensively report on the justification for the 1995 prohibition on charging motor vehicles with environmentally friendly hydrocarbon refrigerants. The committee also recommended that a motion to disallow this clause of the regulation be deferred in order to allow the House to consider this issue when more information was available.

    WorkCover's assessment report was tabled in this House on 13 April 2000. While Greenchill has many criticisms of the content of the assessment report, the association welcomes the establishment of the process to move forward with the issue. I understand that Greenchill is committed to working openly and co-operatively with WorkCover and other industry stakeholders to resolve any outstanding concerns about the suitability of hydrocarbon refrigerants in existing major vehicle airconditioning systems.

    The first meeting of the working group, which reports to a broader industry and consumer reference group, was held on 5 June and will meet again soon. Issues of disagreement have been clarified and Greenchill is confident that the process will be able to draw upon the substantial body of experience in the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants in other States to deliver a set of guidelines by September 2000 that will be acceptable to the industry in New South Wales and indeed Australiawide.

    I understand from Greenchill that there are now over 300,000 vehicles using hydrocarbon refrigerants with a cumulative total of 500,000 user years. I understand that there have been no accidents or incidents involving the ignition of hydrocarbon refrigerants in a car, which strongly indicates that the alleged risks which gave rise to the regulation were worthy of a further review. The process established by the Government to resolve the current situation is therefore an appropriate response. It is also a response that acknowledges the need to establish a consistent national approach to the issue and recognises the relevance of WorkCover Victoria's submission to the assessment report which stated:
        In WorkCover Victoria's view, taking into account the absence of evidence of significant failures of airconditioning systems (that have either resulted in injury to the occupants or exposed them to possible injury, the low volumes of gas involved and other permitted uses of flammable gases, in domestic, recreational, commercial and other industrial applications, it is not appropriate to prohibit the application.

    I look forward to the committee meeting and establishing appropriate guidelines in the future. In conclusion, I offer my best wishes to the Hon. R. T. M. Bull and the Hon. Jeff Shaw on their departure from the New South Wales Parliament. In doing so I have to say that I have found both men to be of the highest calibre of parliamentarians with very high standards of integrity. In everything that they have done in this place, they have exhibited a sense of reasonableness that I have found compelling. Perhaps I should not say this, as I am a newer member, but much of what those two members have done in this place I find worthy of imitating in my parliamentary duties. I wish them both well in their future pursuits. Their contributions to public life in New South Wales are valued and their presence in this Chamber will be missed.