Bills Digest no. 16 2010–11
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Bills Digest Service
15 October 2010
Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Amendment Bill 2010
Date introduced: 29 September 2010
Portfolio: Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Commencement: The main provisions commence on the day after Royal Assent
Links: The links to the Bill, its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the Bills home page, or through http://www.aph.gov.au/bills/. When bills have been passed they can be found at the ComLaw website, which is at http://www.comlaw.gov.au/.
To amend the Water Efficiency and Labelling Standards Act 2005, so as to enable the setting of additional criteria for the registration of a plumbing product before the product can be registered under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Scheme (WELS).
WELS (Australia's water efficiency labelling Scheme) became mandatory on 1 July 2006, thus requiring certain products to be registered and labelled with their water efficiency in accordance with the standard set under the national Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005.
According to the Regulator’s homepage, the objectives of the WELS scheme are to:
- Conserve water supplies by reducing water consumption;
- Provide information for purchasers of water-use and water-saving products; and
- To promote the adoption of efficient and effective water-use and water saving technologies
The WELS water rating label is designed to provide consumers with water efficiency information for water-using products, enabling them to make comparisons between products and to confidently choose water efficient models.
The WELS Scheme does not apply to second-hand products and products imported into Australia for personal use.
The Australian Government's Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 (The WELS Act) provides the legal framework for the WELS Scheme. The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Regulations 2005, the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Determination 2007 and the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Declaration 2005 are also part of the WELS legislative framework.
In summary the Australian Government’s WELS legislation covers:
The establishment of the WELS Regulator to administer the Scheme.
- Authority for the Australian Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities to specify the products to be covered by the WELS Scheme, the standards they must meet and other requirements.
- Requirements for the registration and labelling of WELS products, including setting the fee to register a product
- Monitoring and enforcement measures, including the appointment of WELS inspectors.
- Procedures for issuing and paying penalty infringement notices as an alternative to prosecution for offences.
The states and territories have also enacted or agreed to enact complementary legislation so there is national coverage for WELS. 
Plumbing products are subject to both the WELS scheme and also the WaterMark certification scheme, which is subject to state and territory plumbing regulation. WaterMark certification is mandatory pre-requisite for a plumbing product to be legally installed. However, WELS registration and labelling is necessary for a product to be sold. This therefore has the potential to create an anomaly, such that consumers may buy a plumbing product that satisfies the requirements of the WELS scheme, but cannot be legally installed. This is because consumers may interpret the WELS label on products to also be an endorsement that the products are fit for legal installation and use.
In 2007, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage held an inquiry into regulation of plumbing product quality in Australia. In its report – Managing the Flow: Regulating plumbing product quality in Australia – the committee recommended that the Government establish WaterMark certification as a prerequisite for compliance with the WELS scheme.
The Explanatory Memorandum states that there will be no financial impact from this Bill.
Subsection 19(1) of the Act states the matters which must be set out in a WELS standard. Proposed subsection 19(3A) inserts additional matters that a WELS standard may require of products that must, or are permitted to be registered pursuant to the WELS standard. Specifically, a WELS standard may additionally require either or both of the following:
- that the products comply with requirements relating to plumbing that are contained in a specified document (including the Plumbing Code of Australia, or an Act or regulations made by a State or Territory, for example);
- that a specified type of person or body certifies that the products comply with requirements relating to plumbing that are contained in a specified document (including the Plumbing Code of Australia, or an Act or regulations made by a State or Territory, for example).
Proposed paragraph 29(c)(i) repeals the existing paragraph and adds to the grounds upon which a regulator may refuse to register a WELS product, by providing for refusal where the product:
- does not satisfy a minimum water efficiency or minimum general performance requirement that the product is required to satisfy by the WELS standard for that product, or
- does not satisfy a requirement under subsection 19(3A).
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2404.
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