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Waste and Resource Recovery Bill 2021

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 11 November 2021

Tags: Waste Levy, Legislation, Environment, Waste

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, I am extremely proud to make the obvious statement that decades of conservation work and the work of Greens members and good Greens policies have finally led to this Government taking the obvious step of introducing this waste and resource recovery legislation.

We are very pleased that the Liberals have been dragged into the reality of what we are confronted with today, with an enormous and damaging amount of plastic pollution which we are creating, and pollution of all sorts that we have not yet put our mind to dealing with in a way that is not damaging to the environment, damaging to the climate, damaging to human health, damaging to marine animals and birds, and extracting resources that we can no longer afford to extract from countries all around the world.

We cannot continue without having a circular economy approach. We have no choice and the great thing that has finally happened, the light bulb moment has gone on for the Liberals where they have raised, as the Greens have been saying for years. This is a great boon for an investment in Tasmania into circular economy jobs, into beneficial industry for our state and Tasmania has a great opportunity. The Greens will be watching and scrutinising the developing of the regulations that will govern the waste recovery resource board, the waste strategy and the investments that are made in this area to make sure that we make the absolute most from this state what should be a clean green Tasmania.

We will continue to fight to make sure that brand is authentic. It is not at the moment and we have to do everything we can to regain lost ground, not just because of the investment opportunities and the jobs that it provides Tasmanians but, ultimately, for the most important reason, because we need to have a clean and green Tasmania so that we can all live here in a place in our natural environment which provides us with everything we need to live and flourish.

Without our natural world intact, we cannot continue to flourish and survive, so we strongly support the intent of this legislation. We will be going into Committee. We have a few amendments that we will propose and we have quite a number of questions about the bill, but the principle of the bill and what it seeks to open up for Tasmania, which is the strategic direction for waste and waste recovery, and the statewide compulsory waste levy, are important and essential steps to bring Tasmania along with where most of the rest of the world has been for some time. We need to put hard targets, hard performance indicators and a lot of transparency and scrutiny around the waste strategy and the waste levy. That is work that will be done by many people who have been interested and following this area for decades and we will be working together to make sure we get the best model for Tasmania.

On 4 February when the Government announced its intention to finally introduce a statewide levy, we made the point that we were amazed that the day had come where the Liberals had woken up because they had been comprehensively asleep at the wheel for seven years. I will withdraw that. They were not asleep at the wheel. They were actively driving the car off the road. They chose at every step under previous minister for the environment, Mr Groom, not to take up LGAT agreement to have a statewide levy that was provided to Mr Groom when he was the minister for the environment after the 2014 election. He did not sign that. It sat on his desk. The then premier, Will Hodgman, established the Premier's Local Government Council and it spent its time stalling on enacting the waste levy.

I have a letter here from Jamie Wood, who was Waste Management Association of Australia, Tasmania branch, and Martin Tolar, the CEO of the Waste Management Australia branch, expressing their disappointment that this waste levy had been stalled by the recent decision of the Premier's Local Government Council and that came from all members of the Waste Management Association.

It is a case of better late than never. It is a case that although the Government has done everything to avoid going down this path it is inevitable that we have to reach there because of the way the things are and what we are confronted with as a planet. We are confronted with plastic pollution which is literally choking waterways and the marine environment around the world. Tasmania plays our part, we know we do. The appallingly high rate of litter because it has taken the Government so long, but they finally have introduced a Container Refund Scheme legislation. These are the sorts of hard incentives that are required, incentives in the form of mandatory legislation that requires actions to happen because there is always a case of carrot and stick in any behavioural change in any social change.

Businesses will always maximise their profit. Change, if it comes with any cost, is something they are disinclined to do unless they are very socially minded. Most businesses are looking first and foremost at their own business interest. It is the role of governments to lead, it is the role of parliaments to legislate, for the good of us all. What we have in the world at the moment is a really concerning horrifying situation with the amount of carbon that is being released into the atmosphere. We have to understand that plastic is carbon, plastic is made from fossil fuels. It is a product of the fossil fuel industry. It is impossible to have zero emissions as a target while we still consume plastic. It is a big problem for us, we are, as a society, addicted to plastic. We cannot imagine living without it. I do not have a solution to what we can do with most of the plastic, what we can replace most of the plastic with, and the Greens do not have a solution. We just follow the evidence and the science. We know we have to do something about it because our consumption of plastic is literally killing us. It is damaging the biosphere. The carbon that is released from plastics as they degrade in tips will go on for thousands of years.

It is not an easy solution. We cannot electrify plastic pollution. It relies on hydrogen and methane, and they themselves come from fossil fuels. We cannot use carbon capture and storage because, besides the fact that it does not functionally exist, it is just a form of spin for the coal, gas and oil industries to perpetuate the idea that we can continue to live in a world of fossil fuels being extracted. That is a lie. It is not true.

Carbon capture and storage cannot be a technological fix that, in any meaningful way, will do anything to mitigate the enormous emissions that come from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. That is not a solution ,and it is not a solution for plastics, either. Despite the fact it has taken so long for the Liberals to get to this point, a lot of work has led to this moment.

I thank and put on the record the work of people like the Waste Management Association of Australia, the Tasmanian branch; like Peter McGlone from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, who has been such a strong advocate for waste recycling; and especially Brad Masham and Renae Dare and all the other people on the board of the Resource Recovery Centre in Hobart. It has been a real beacon for decades now for alternative use of materials. It has had a constant presence that people in Hobart who go to the South Hobart tip would know and love. They have always been there providing us with an option, an alternative to dumping to landfill. They have been doing the work.

When he went to Europe on his Churchill Fellowship on behalf of Tasmanians, Brad Masham came back with some amazing information about what the European Union is doing for their circular economy strategy. In the development of the waste strategy, which will be overseen by the Waste Resource Recovery Board, it will be important for Tasmania to be as up to date as possible with what is happening around the world. We need to synchronise with the targets that are being established in other countries.

From what is happening at Glasgow, we understand carbon tariffs are on the table. They are being heavily and actively discussed by the European Union. They will come our way if we do not play our part.

This is where the world is leading - and it is not leading there in decades. It is leading there in maybe six months time, maybe next year. I draw the attention of members in the House, if you have not seen the news, that China and the United States have just released a pact, an agreement, a statement of commitment, to going a lot further on the COP26 summit agreements than their individual country's commitments have been so far. This is welcome, important news. It is a critical step for the survival of us all. This geopolitical shift that is happening is heading in the right direction. Yes, there is not the detail about when they will both be phasing out from the fossil fuel industry, but there is a very strong statement on the table at Glasgow from China, from the United States, that we must pitch ourselves not to 2050, but to 2030.

That brings us into the time frame of science, what scientists are telling us. It also points to the fact that Australia has to have a target by 2030, and it puts the pressure on all of us. They have made it very clear in their statement that we have to realistically push for 1.5 degrees; none of this rubbish about 2 degrees. We are on track for 2.76 degrees as a global community. We cannot go there, so the pressure is on Australia.

When it comes to Tasmania and waste strategy, we have to be pitching ourselves to what other countries are doing. The European Union is leading the way. Their circular economy has, for example, a clear target for the reduction of wastes, that include targets for recycling across the whole EU countries by 2030: 65 per cent recycling of municipal waste; 75 per cent recycling of packaging waste; a binding landfill target that reduces landfill to a maximum of 10 per cent of municipal waste by 2030; separate collections for hazardous household waste by 2022, for biowaste by 2023, and for textiles by 2025.

No one that I know of, no councils, are talking about separate collections of textiles at kerbside recycling or anywhere in the state. The biowaste - these are things we will have to be addressing in our waste strategy. They also have a ban on landfilling of separate collected waste, and concrete measures to promote re use and stimulate industrial symbiosis, which is turning one industry's waste into another industry's raw material. They provided economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market, and support recovery and recycling schemes for, for example, packaging for batteries for electric and electronic equipment and vehicles.

Some of these have been discussed already in the draft waste strategy; some of them have not been mentioned. Australia has had a national waste policy from 2018, but it has no targets. Typical, Mr Speaker, of this Liberal Government. We have to get there at a national level.

I want to turn to the waste levy in a bit more detail and mention my absolute shock. I cannot believe the Labor Party will not be supporting this bill. I cannot understand why the Labor Party does not understand what the work of the Opposition should be. The work of the Opposition should be what the Greens have been doing for years, for decades. The work of the Opposition should be to put up prospective good policy, to work with the community, to push with the community, to have policies that are based in science, based in evidence and based in reality -

Mr Winter - Yes.

Dr WOODRUFF - Not hand-picked, cherry-picked evidence, Mr Winter, actual real evidence. The science of carbon, the science of pollution. The marine science on the damage it causes in the marine environment and in the terrestrial environment, the impact on the planet, the inability of us as a species to keep extracting. These are the things that an Opposition should do. Silence from the Labor Party on what their policies will be. All they can do is to cut down something that has a beneficial environmental component in it.

I am deeply disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition, Ms White, ticked off the minister for not doing his homework, put her hand on her heart about how upset she was about a statewide waste levy being a tax, how terrible it was, the minister did not do his homework, did not do the work, and pointed to Queensland as a good model.

Mr Winter - Great.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, great. The Labor Government in Queensland has a waste levy, and the waste levy is $85 to $165 per tonne.

Mr Winter - Not like this one and it does not hit households.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - She points to South Australia's having gone up to $146 a tonne which is somewhere in between the Labor Party in Queensland's tax on waste. It is unbelievable that the Labor Party would talk about a tax when they point to their own state and accuse the minister of not having done his homework.

The Liberal Party in Tasmania, like all sensible governments, have finally understood that we have to have waste levies, that we have to put pressure on the non-recycling of waste. We have to create a circular economy and we cannot do it any longer by hoping people will do the sorts of things that need to be done.

This requires investment, a serious amount of money hypothecating directly into this area. I understand Ms White's desire to have more money put into the health system. The Greens strongly agree with that and we regularly speak about the fact that the Liberals have the capacity to do that. They have a fund of money sitting aside which ought to be going today into restoring the vacancies amongst nurses and midwives in the health system, for example.

This is not the place to start with a waste levy to direct it into the health system. We desperately need to have funding going into resource recovery to create the new businesses that we must have. We must extract every single bit of value from resources that have already been dug up using fossil fuels extracted mostly from other places on the planet, imported to Australia, mostly using fossil fuels from other places on the planet, have come to Tasmania, then used here often only once and that is a situation we cannot continue. We cannot continue to have throw-away plastic bottles and we have to start creating alternatives and we have to start using what we have. It is a simple law of physics, we cannot keep using what we do not have and we cannot keep using what we do have, that is damaging.

We have quite a few questions to ask the minister and a number of amendments I want to make in the Committee stage of the bill. It will be important to have a substantial level of public consultation in the waste strategy development. It is important that we have people who are doing the forward-thinking work about the circular economy. I mention, for example, the Huon Valley Circular Economy and again, Brad Mashman and others from Resource Recovery Centre and the Resource Centre in the north.

There are many people around Tasmania who have been working quietly in this space. I will not forget one of the comments that Mr Mashman made when he gave a presentation about his Churchill Fellowship period in Cygnet one time where he said, 'Tasmania is actually beautifully placed for a circular economy because we have had people here who have been quietly doing this for many decades'. We actually have quite a lot of skills. We are a small island, we are networked very well and people have a real commitment to innovation in Tasmania and a commitment to creating solutions. We only have to look at the big plastic-free groups which have established on Facebook of often parents who have small children and who are trying to connect with each other to come up with ideas about how to use less stuff and how to have less impact on the planet, and to show their children good examples of how we can live differently.

We have become normalised to operating in a certain way and we can normalise ourself to operating in a different way. That is what humans do incredibly well. It is the job of government to provide support and to provide some funding.

Ms White's point is an important one. Where people are financially disadvantaged, where householders are disadvantaged and are truly incapable of being able to find the resources to be able to take something to landfill, they ought to be able to approach the council and they ought to be able to receive a discount or an exemption depending on the circumstances. We expect that would be something that the board would consider in the regulations. It is important to make sure that there are exemptions for people who are disadvantaged and do need to, for legitimate reasons, take things to landfill and they cannot afford to do that. There is no reason for people not to be able to find places to recycle things. Ultimately that is going to be made easier for people when we have many more opportunities for recycling than we currently do.

Illegal dumping is a huge problem in many parts of Tasmania. I know there are areas, particularly on windy roads just off the side, where it is a convenient place for people to stop with their trailer. You will often find a cascade of rubbish where people have used it as their personal tip-face. This was a spectre which was used by the government as a reason for not bringing on a waste levy sooner. There is no doubt this is something that has to be addressed. There has to be penalties and there has to be people undertaking enforcement activities. That is why the levy, as I understand, has been graded over the $20 and $40 and $60 per tonne increments, ramped up so that there is the minimum delay possible getting to the full amount that is required to provide real incentive for investment. Unless there is a big enough dollar rate per tonne of landfill that is being recovered then there is not an incentive to establish new business. If is too big straight away, then that also becomes an incentive for illegal dumping. That will have to be very carefully managed and a close relationship developed between councils and the Waste Resource Recovery Board.

Minister, we are very pleased that this has come to this point. There is still a lot more work that needs to be done. We are clearly nowhere near having a circular economy in Tasmania. What is happening globally, both in the resources recovery sector but importantly at Glasgow, is setting a standard that we can no longer avoid to keep up to and whether we do it willingly or whether we are forced to move there because of ultimately trade tariffs from other countries if we are a poor performer in our carbon emissions. Ultimately, we will have to move to being a 100 per cent circular economy.

The Greens commit to working with any government to make sure that we can play our part towards that date.