13 September 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:59): I move:
That this council—
1. Notes that 1 to 7 September was Asthma Week, with the focus for 2023 being 'How Healthy is Your Home?'
2. Acknowledges that the report released by Asthma Australia in 2023, titled Homes, Health and Asthma in Australia, found that—
(a) many Australians are exposed to asthma triggers in their home including emissions from gas appliances, mould and pests such as dust mites;
(b) 50 per cent of Australians have had mould or dampness in their home in the last 12 months;
(c) 48 per cent of Australians use a gas cooktop even though cooking with gas is estimated to be responsible for up to 12 per cent of the childhood asthma burden; and
(d) one-quarter of Australians are not happy with, or are unsure about the air quality inside their homes.
3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to address the findings of the report by—
(a) banning gas connections to new homes;
(b) implementing minimum efficiency standards for rental homes;
(c) supporting people on low incomes to transition to efficient heating and cooking appliances; and
(d) developing education programs to support people in preventing pests and mould to improve asthma outcomes.
This motion notes that last week, 1 to 7 September, was Asthma Week, with a focus for 2023 being on 'How healthy is your home?'
The motion acknowledges that the report released by Asthma Australia in 2023, entitled Homes, Health and Asthma, found that many Australians are exposed to asthma triggers in their home, including emissions from gas appliances, mould and pests, such as dust mites. Fifty per cent of Australians have had mould or dampness in their home in the last 12 months. Forty-eight per cent of Australians use a gas cooktop, even though cooking with gas is estimated to be responsible for up to 12 per cent of the childhood asthma burden, and one-quarter of Australians are not happy or are unsure about the air quality inside their homes.
The motion calls on the government to take some action in relation to that. In particular, it calls on the Malinauskas government to ban gas connections to new homes. Members of this place will recall that I have a bill before this parliament that would ban gas connections from 2025. It is also calling on the government to implement minimum efficiency standards for rental homes, to support people on low incomes to transition to efficient heating and cooking appliances, and to develop educational programs to support people in preventing pests and mould to improve asthma outcomes.
In terms of a bit about asthma, it is a condition that impacts the lives of many South Australians. According to Asthma Australia, one in nine people in Australia have asthma, and South Australia has the highest rate in the country at 13 per cent. It is a condition that has no boundaries. It affects people of all ages and all walks of life. This year's theme, 'How healthy is your home?', invites us to focus on the relationship between the home and the communities in which we live and asthma. The air we breathe is essential to good health and wellbeing, and the recent report from Asthma Australia highlights that nexus between conditions in the home and health conditions like asthma.
This leads me to highlight some of the problems with gas. Research has shown a clear link between exposure to indoor gas emissions and an increased risk in vulnerable people, such as children and older people. Gas emissions are estimated to be responsible for up to 12 per cent of all childhood asthma, and the presence of many gas appliances in homes is exacerbating the problem. Forty-eight per cent of Australians still have gas cooktops, and many people are unaware of the link between their cooking and asthma.
We need to take action to reduce the health costs of using gas in our homes, and banning gas connections is one clear way that we can do that. I do understand that a lot of people are concerned about the impact of transitioning away from gas and their home cooking habits. For a gourmet chef like myself, that is a big sacrifice.
The Hon. T.A. Franks: You are misleading the parliament.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The honourable member has pointed out I am misleading the parliament.
The PRESIDENT: Is that a point of order, the Hon. Ms Franks?
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am making a gag, because I am terrible cook, but I have heard from people who I understand to be good cooks that with the evolution of technology now it is actually possible to still cook effectively with electric, and you can have a lot more control over the new induction-style cooktops, so it is not a case of there being a choice between being able to have that element of control with gas versus electric, as used to be the case perhaps years ago. Technology has evolved. Instead of having gas connected to new properties, we need to be encouraging the adoption of electric cooktops that produce fewer indoor pollutants and are a cleaner and a safer alternative.
Asthma Australia reports also call for better energy efficiency and ventilation standards, and this is particularly important for renters who are disempowered in ensuring that the health of their home is being upheld. We know that renters are often in a situation where they are at the mercy of the landlord and, if they have a problem with asthma, they are often powerless to be able to get the landlord to take the steps necessary. Hopefully, that will be something the Malinauskas government will remedy when it finally brings its next tranche of reforms to this house for consideration.
By ensuring there are minimum standards for rental properties and social housing we can give those people more security that their home will not have adverse impacts on their health. People on low incomes also need to be given support to make a transition away from asthma triggers and be able to access more efficient heating and cooking appliances. That is one of the reasons the Greens have been calling for the government to follow the lead of other jurisdictions like the ACT and actually make subsidies available to support people to make that transition.
Access to affordable energy efficient options can improve indoor air while reducing energy costs. This support can come in the form of subsidies, incentives or community grant programs aimed at providing these vital upgrades for people in our community who need them most.
I should also reflect that the motion makes reference to the effect of mould and pests. The Asthma Australia report on healthy homes found that, in the last 12 months, 50 per cent of Australians have had damp or mould in their homes—50 per cent! We know of course that that is being impacted by climate change as well and the change of weather conditions, but 50 per cent have had damp or mould in their home and 70 per cent have had pests. The report identifies barriers to people addressing these contributing factors, such as the cost of eradication, the lack of autonomy over property and the lack of knowledge.
The Greens are calling on the Malinauskas government to undertake community education and support for people so they can assert their rights. By addressing these factors in the home that contribute to asthma we can make inroads into reducing the impact of asthma on South Australians, our health system and the whole community.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.