Concerned about the increased use of flammable refrigerants as a result of carbon pricing, 10 industry groups have come together seeking an urgent summit at Parliament House to address safety issues, especially around the use of hydrocarbons.
Airconditioning and Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers Association (AREMA) president Mark Padwick and Refrigerants Australia (RA) executive director Steve Anderson went to Parliament House to set up the summit with the former Parliamentary Secretary of Sustainability, Senator Don Farrell.
As a result of a Cabinet reshuffle last week Senator Farrell was promoted and appointed the Minister for Science and Research. As a result final details of the summit are yet to be confirmed.
A long list of industry groups are participating in the Summit including the Australian Industry Group (AIG), the Consumer Electronics Association, the Vehicle Airconditioning Specialists Association of Australasia, the Association of Airconditioning and Mechanical Contractors , the Refrigeration and Airconditioning Contractors Association, the Australian Refrigeration Wholesalers Association, Refrigerant Reclaim Australia and the Australian Institute of Airconditioning Refrigeration and Heating (AIRAH).
RA executive director, Steve Anderson, said the high level of participation is proof of the seriousness of the issue and the need for the government to act immediately.
“It isn’t often that so many industry groups will come together with this degree of urgency around a single issue,” he said.
“The move to low GWP refrigerants in the Australian market has led to the increased use of flammable refrigerants and we do not have an adequate safety regime in place.
“While these refrigerants are not as flammable as hydrocarbons, they are nonetheless flammable, and we need to ensure proper systems and controls are in place and enforced.
“The continued marketing of highly flammable refrigerants as drop-in replacements in equipment not designed for their use is of great concern.”
This issue is of particular concern to manufacturers who warn that their equipment was never made for these highly flammable alternatives and there is a very real risk of fire or an explosion.
The Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Greg Hunt, said this issue is one of the unintended consequences of the carbon tax as customers seek out inferior alternatives to avoid the “massive price shock on refrigerants.”
“The goal of the carbon tax is to make refrigerants so expensive that people in small business and industry switch to lower cost alternatives; but these are potentially very dangerous,” Hunt told Radio 5AA in Adelaide.
Responding to Hunt's claims, Senator Farrell said the use of refrigerants is a highly regulated area of industry because of the dangerous nature of some of these substances.
“We will certainly sit down with industry as there is nothing higher on our priority list than the safety of people who work in the industry and the consumers that will ultimately be using these products.”
The federal government and industry are currently working on a Code of Practice for Flammable Refrigerants but industry groups are demanding further action.