Waste & Resource Recovery Bill 2021 (No 55)
Second Reading speech, Wednesday 9 March 2022
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I accept this bill is an important feature of Tasmania's future management of waste and recyclable materials, as I have discovered during my time researching the container refunds in legislation. There is a lot of money to made in the waste management industry and a lot of very vested interests at stake. A levy is a tax and a tax is a levy.
In addition to that the way we manage large-scale recyclables has an indelible effect on the direction of where our planet is heading in terms of climate change. We have known for some time that if we do not improve our management of these recyclables and proper management of our landfill facilities we cannot hope to be in a good position in the years and decades ahead. There is no reason why we cannot turn waste management into opportunities. I truly believe that proper waste management can be a road to growth and not just an unavoidable expense, but we need to create the right opportunities for Tasmania and Tasmanian taxpayers.
The policy which informs the Waste and Resource Recovery Bill borrows heavily from circular economy principles about which we are hearing more and more. True to the ethos of recycling, it is about maximising the values and use of materials at each step of its journey. It is recycling materials through uses and not a linear process of creation to destruction. Of course, it depends how willing people are to engage in circular economy principles and encouraging a change in behaviour is arguably one of the most difficult things to do.
Typically, it can be done by rewarding good behaviour such as we see with the container refund scheme legislation and discouraging undesirable behaviour such as through a waste levy. I note the Local Government Association of Tasmania has indicated support for this bill. According to LGAT the lack of a statewide landfill levy has created a market environment in our state where resource recovery has a limited capacity to compete with landfill. The low landfill diversion rates result in a low economic benefit from the waste and recycling sector and the loss of the value of recoverable resources.
While I entirely support the principles which inform waste management policy in legislation such as the container refund scheme and this Waste and Resource Recovery bill, I want to ensure it is done with a good degree of financial responsibility and does not unduly penalise Tasmanians who are already under immense financial pressures. I want to know if this bill will cause rates to rise and what is deemed a reasonable cost for these measures to ordinary Tasmanian families and businesses. Tasmanians have been through enough external shocks through the past two years, and these are not easing up, with petrol prices rising, rents through the roof and with a likely interest rate rise in the not-too-distant future. I am not sure if waste management is a huge priority for the average Tasmanian at the moment. It is a hard sell to say that people will be saving money later on when many are struggling now.
Moreover, with increased waste levies, what measures will be put in place to deter illegal dumping? Even now, with our reasonably low waste disposal costs, we see a tremendous amount of illegal dumping. I do not see this being ameliorated by making its lawful disposal more expensive. What specific measures will be put in place to both deter illegal dumping from occurring in the first place and adequately fining or imposing sanctions on those who are caught doing it? How much will these measures cost to implement?
I note in the briefing, and the Leader, or the Deputy Leader, will correct me if I am wrong, that extra support would be put on in some areas, particularly national parks, to help to collect this illegal dumping. But a lot of the illegal dumping I see is not in national parks - it is on the side of the road or it is a bin at a local park where people have left their rubbish.
I can recall from my time on council that a lot of the cost to the council was going out and collecting illegal dumping. One concern I always had with council, and I often voted against, was when they were increasing tip fees. To me, making it more expensive for people to dump their rubbish was counterproductive. It only took the money out of a different area. Our other council people had to go and pick it up.
I am sure that many people do not want to dump. A comment made at the briefing this morning was that some people will dump regardless of the cost of the tip. That may be the case but I am sure on many occasions people do not want to dump their rubbish. Perhaps it is just outside the remit of many people. I am concerned with the cost going up.
Finally, I note that this bill seeks to establish yet another board. Members here will appreciate that I like to keep an eye on the many boards and board members that Tasmania's taxpayers furnish very comfortably. I ask the Leader why we need to create yet another skills‑based board for this initiative when there is likely the right kind of expertise vested within the department, not to mention a CEO and staff. Moreover, what is the anticipated annual cost for this new board and staff? I have noticed in the bill that there will be a local government member. Will the local government member be paid as well?
I wish to note my concerns around the costs this will have on Tasmanian taxpayers and ratepayers, the certainty that the Tasmanian Government has that this bill will achieve its stated goals and how it will be responsibly structurally managed.
I have one further question for the Leader. In the second reading speech, on page 3, on the fourth paragraph up from the bottom, it states that the modelling projected that the total waste levy collection would reach $8.3 million in the first full year of operation. I am assuming that is the first full year when the optimal waste levy goes up to $60 per tonne.
That is when it is still only $20 per tonne?
Mrs Hiscutt - Yes.
Ms ARMITAGE - So, we are expecting that it is actually going to be up around $24 million when it is up to $60 per tonne?
Mrs Hiscutt - I will seek an answer for you.
Ms ARMITAGE - It would be good to know because obviously someone is paying for this.
The Council divided -
Mr Duigan (Teller) Mr Gaffney
Mr Valentine Ms Webb
Ms Armitage (Teller) Ms Lovell
Ms Forrest; Mr Seijka
Ms Howlett; Mr Willie