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Disallowance of Waste and Resources Recovery Regulation 8 - Motion Negatived

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Tags: Waste Levy

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens will not be supporting Labor's motion to disallow regulations on the prescribed levy of the Waste and Resource Recovery Regulations of 2022. We support those regulations, just as we supported the Waste and Resource Recovery Bill 2021. I was going through the minister's and Dr Woodruff's contributions on that legislation and it is quite rare in this place to hear a Liberal minister and a very well qualified Greens MP have so much to agree on. Dr Woodruff prosecuted this legislation extremely well. We strongly support a waste levy for Tasmania; it has been Greens policy ever since Mr Winter's long-ago predecessor, Gerry Bates, was the Greens member for Franklin. A waste levy is good policy.

I remember when we were in government with Labor and we were trying to talk Labor's then environment minister into instituting a waste levy, and there was a deep fear that there would be community blowback if a waste levy was announced and instituted. I hear what the Leader of the Opposition is saying about concern from some stakeholders and constituents who have contacted Labor. However, our sense is that there is broad community and stakeholder support for a really quite well designed waste levy.

If there was, within the community, a deeply held or strong feeling that this levy, which is designed to reduce waste going into landfill, was unaffordable and unfair, the Greens would have heard more from our constituents. I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I cannot remember an email coming in to say we did the wrong thing, as a party, by supporting a waste levy.

For those businesses that are concerned about their increasing costs, I guess business in Tasmania has been getting a pretty good deal on waste for a very long time. In other states and territories, as the minister told us, businesses, community organisations and individuals have been paying a waste levy or tax for a very long time. In delaying a waste levy system, we have been able to design one which is reasonable, efficient, and from the Greens' point of view, does provide an incentive to reduce the amount of waste that is produced.

For centuries - about two here - there has been an attitude that you can just cast your rubbish out. When it was old bottles down at Wapping, 100 or more years ago, that was a very different story from the kind of waste that many people cast out now. Any drive down any beautiful highway or byway will show you we have a problem with our attitude towards rubbish; the most beautiful state in Australia with one of the worst litter problems.

We cannot just keep shoving our rubbish out of sight, out of mind, in the bin. We cannot keep dumping into landfill and then burying and then finding another landfill site. Business needs to pay some price towards the waste they produce, which is and should be considered as a cost of doing business. They must start paying a fair price for their waste. The staged implementation of the tonne price for waste is very modest, $20 in the first year, $40 two years down the track, and $60 two years down the track per tonne after that. I was interested to hear the minister average out what that cost might be to Tasmanian households, which certainly seemed to me to be affordable. This is not a hefty levy. It takes a lot for a household to produce a tonne of waste, and you would hope so.

The issue I still struggle with regarding Labor's position is that I do not know what they would do differently.

Mr Winter - We have said what we would do differently.

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, the minister described what you would do differently, which is to pay councils 105 per cent of the costs. How that would incentivise a reduction in waste escapes me.

Ms White - He did not describe it accurately.

Ms O'CONNOR - I did not hear it when Mr Winter got up before.

Mr Winter - It was not me up there.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it was Ms White, sorry.

We are not going to support this motion. We want to see every step taken towards a circular economy that is possible. We want to see local production of goods. There is some fantastic stuff happening in 3D-printing of a whole range of products that right now we import at a high cost to the planet and at a higher cost than it would be if we were able to locally produce these things and provide the local jobs that come with that.

We have to do things differently. The waste levy is an opportunity to do so. The way the funds are disbursed and invested into better waste management is an excellent system. We have the broad support of local government. For some years the Local Government Association of Tasmania has been supportive of a waste levy. It is actually quite a gutsy thing to do as a government to introduce a levy, which then leaves you open to criticism or political opportunism and accusations that you are introducing a tax, and this is not a tax.

Having not contributed on the original bill, because Dr Woodruff is our environment spokesperson but I am approaching this from a Treasury point of view, I congratulate the minister for getting us this far. We have finally joined the rest of the country in making sure there is a reasonable price paid for waste that goes to landfill. You only have to look at the McRobies Gully tip to know that we have a looming problem on our hands. A couple of weeks ago I visited the New Norfolk tip and it was the same thing. I just stood there thinking how much more can this site take?

We have to look at this differently and do things differently here and a waste levy is one part of that picture. We will not have the land in future to create landfill sites at the scale we have been, so we have to do things smarter. A waste levy is a smarter approach and it is fair. The system that has been put in place is fair. We are not going to support a motion that undercuts the foundation of a waste levy, which has not been very well argued at all by Labor.

I would rather see Labor, for example, investing their time in talking to our new Prime Minister about walking back from the stage 3 tax cuts, which are utterly immoral. How you can, as a newly elected government, have that sort of baggage on the Australian people and the Australian economy and society into the future and not recognise that you have a moral obligation to do something about it is beyond me. If you are a senator or the Prime Minister, for example, what the stage 3 tax cuts mean for you is an extra $10 000 or $12 000 a year. It is morally bankrupt to continue with tax cuts which were not your policy and which this country cannot afford while we have a health system in every state and territory of this country that is buckling under the strain and the compound effect of underinvestment. It would be terrific if Tasmanian Labor, through its collective endeavours, could advocate on behalf of the Tasmanian people, the vast majority of whom will get no benefit from those stage 3 tax cuts, to have a chat to the new Prime Minister and Treasurer Chalmers, and make sure that this country does not have to carry the burden of gifting all that money to some of our wealthiest people. It is disgraceful, so we will not be supporting this motion.

We understand why Labor has done it because they have decided the cost of living is their 'thing' politically but this is not particularly effective. Even if the House supported this disallowance, the impact on the back pocket or the bank balance of the average Tasmanian would be so marginal it would barely make a difference.

We would like to see Labor, for example, support our call nationally for a freeze on rents, support our legislation amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act that would allow for a fairer rent system that did not lead to skyrocketing increases.

We are not going to support this motion because we are strong supporters of the waste levy and the mechanisms that will be in place for investing those funds into better waste management so that we can look after our beautiful island better in the way that it deserves to be.