Sunday, April 17, 2005

The WELS Act

Next on our list of legislative enactments is the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act (Cth), which is designed to establish a State-Federal co-operative scheme for the labelling products with their water efficiency.

The first noticeable point is the level of co-operation, States can (and, in Victoria's case, have) pass legislation to the same effect as the Cth legislation. Where an act is an offence against that State legislation, the act is not an offence under the Federal legislation and cannot be enforced under the Federal legislation. This demonstrates a high degree of deference by the Federal government to State enforcement, in a time when we are hearing so much about Federal attempts to override State power. Maybe they are just making these attempts on the important stuff.

The Cth Minister is entitled to declare products "WELS products", but only with the agreement of the majority of States. In so determining, the Minister must set out the "WELS standard" which will be applied to the product, being the rating criteria for the product's water efficiency and general performance, along with the requirements (presumably on manufacturers - retailers??) to communicate these ratings to consumers.

The determination can require products to be registered, and if it does, can require the product to have a minimum water efficiency and minimum general performance levels. Presumably, the product cannot be sold if the determination requires a standard the product cannot meet.

There is also a WELS Regulator established, whose function it is to administer the scheme, as well as research water saving techniques and devices and yada yada yada.

Registration of products lasts for five years, so it is a good idea to get registered if the determination requires it!! You need to be registered because if you are not, and you need to be, and you sell a product which is meant to be registered, you are subject to a hefty fine, 60 penalty units (last time I checked $110 per, but could easily be more now!). There is another 60 if you don't label and you are meant to. These are strict liability offences.

If there is a minimum water efficiency and the product is subject to that minimum, does not meet it and is sold anyway, another 60. The product doesn't meet general performance standards?? It is meant to?? Another 60.

There is a scary sounding guy called a WELS inspector, who can come around and visit if he is given the power to.

There is plenty of other boring procedural stuff, but the main thrust of the legislation is: we are in a drought. We need to restrict water use and make sure products are water efficient. If they are meant to be and they are not, fines will apply.

Easy enough??


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