Thursday 9 July 2009

Hansard of the Legislative Council


[11.03 a.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, I am sure this House will join me in congratulating Aurora Energy on conceiving the idea of inventing a device to detect an electrical fault in wiring circuits which is potentially life threatening.  Aurora went to a research company with their technology and Aurora have been researching this device for about three years now.

Mr Dean - It takes the pressure off the PAYG mess‑up?

Mr FINCH - That is right.  But Aurora, I might say, have a world patent on this invention and the device is called a CablePI, as in private investigator.

I will quote the Aurora Chief Executive, Dr Peter Davis, Madam President:

'Tasmanians can be proud that this device has been invented right here by Aurora employees and I am optimistic that the CablePI will one day be a household name, not only in this State but throughout Australia and beyond.'

The Cable PI is a small white box about the size of an air freshener that plugs into a power outlet.  It signals an alarm both visually and audibly if the circuit has an electrical fault, known as a broken neutral.  This can direct dangerous voltages into household appliances or plumbing fixtures.  A broken neutral can happen at any time because of storm damage, accidental disturbance of overhead or underground powerlines and even wear and tear.  In simple terms, the power flows into a user's premises to an active cable and out by the neutral cable.  If there is a break in the return path, electricity can still exit the premises through the earth connection unless that is also faulty.  Then electricity will travel through a different path, perhaps via water pipes or appliances like stoves and this situation can be very dangerous and consumers can suffer serious electric shocks.

Do not get me wrong, I am no electrician; I obtained all of this information from Aurora's fact sheet.  Aurora's Cable PI offers a solution that has challenged the electricity industry around the world for many years.  It is a marketing opportunity for Aurora Energy beyond Tasmania and they have been quick to recognise this.  They have set up the subsidiary company called EziKey Group Pty Ltd which is licensed to commercialise the international patent for the product.

Mrs Rattray-Wagner - Will it help their bottom line next year?

Mr FINCH - Interstate orders are flowing in as we speak now.  Two separate mainland energy companies have already ordered 13 000 units of the Cable PI's electrical safety alarm for their customer bases and a third company is currently carrying out technical trials of this device.  Here in Tasmania it is being distributed free to households - about 230 000 of them.  So far  30 000 have been circulated.  Householders have begun receiving them by post and all Aurora customers should have received their Cable PI by September.

I mentioned before that these broken neutrals can be very hard to detect.  Sometimes flickering lights or taps that give a tingle when touched can be a signal but until now there has been no reliable way for consumers to detect the fault.  In fact just recently the General Manager of the Aurora Network, John Devereaux, was on ABC Radio talking about the fact that an alarm was set off in a Fern Tree house about a month ago.  Aurora was called by a woman who said the alarm had gone off.  Aurora arrived and they found her switchboard was smoking and the husband and children were still sleeping while this occurred.  Apparently there were two power points in the family room which were broken.  Aurora came out at 1 a.m., it took them an hour and a half to rectify the problem but that was an instant positive result for the device.  It possibly saved their house and possibly saved people's lives.  John Devereaux said that out of the 30 000 that have been distributed so far, six homes have been found with a problem with the neutral.  These have been rectified and there are also about 35 homes that have been detected with a similar problem to the one at Fern Tree.  So the device has, even now, proven to be a lifesaver.

Mrs Rattray-Wagner - Did you say how you install it?

Mr FINCH - You just plug it into your power point.

Madam PRESIDENT - Do not allow yourself to get off track because your time is up, honourable member.

Mr FINCH - Madam President, news of this development of the Cable PI  takes us all back to an era when the Hydro was in fact a real Tasmanian innovator on the world scene.