Thursday, 16 August 2007
Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007
Labor supports the Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000 in order to, amongst other things, replace the term ‘waste oil’ throughout the act with the term ‘used oil’ and make changes to the administration, operation and amendment of the Oil Stewardship Advisory Council. The definition of the term ‘used oil’ referred to in the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act is the same as ‘waste oil’, and I note that the government’s view is that the term ‘used oil’ is considered to be more consistent with the act. The bill also provides that members of the Oil Stewardship Advisory Council, other than members appointed to represent the Commonwealth and the Commissioner for Taxation, will be appointed on the basis of their knowledge or experience of a range of prescribed subject areas relevant to product stewardship arrangements for oil. The bill also strengthens and makes more demanding procedures for the disclosure of direct or indirect pecuniary interests by members of the Oil Stewardship Advisory Council.
Labor supports these changes, but I want to put it on the record that the government seems to be dragging its heels on the issue of recycling of oil, as it is on so many environment issues. As the Department of the Environment and Water Resources states on its website, and as quoted in the Bills Digest:
Australians recycled approximately 194 million litres of their used oil in 2003 … between 60 and 100 million litres remains unaccounted for.
We don’t know what happens to this ‘missing oil’. However, anecdotal evidence suggests it could be:
- Sitting in temporary stockpiles (eg in the garage or shed);
- Retained in waste or scrap equipment (such as vehicles);
- Lost to the environment at collection points (eg leaking, spills etc).
- Put out for household rubbish collection; or
- Illegally dumped (in parks and reserves or in waterways, sewer systems and stormwater drains).
The improper use of used oil can pollute land, waterways, underground reservoirs and the marine environment. One litre of used oil can contaminate up to one million litres of water.
Consequently, it is clear that this is a significant environment issue in the light of the amount of oil that is used in the modern Australian economy. Labor hopes that this new legislative regime will lead to new initiatives and action in this area.
I note that the Assistant Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, the member for Parkes, has introduced this bill into the parliament. We in the Labor Party have been wondering all year what the assistant minister has been doing to justify his title. This small bill seems to have been just about it. It was extraordinary that the Assistant Minister for the Environment and Water Resources did not bother to speak on the Water Bill 2007 when it was before the House of Representatives this week. The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources described that bill as the most far reaching in the history of water management in Australia, and yet the assistant minister did not speak to it. As the member for Grayndler has pointed out, the assistant minister has an extra five advisers and two administrative staff. You have to wonder what the assistant minister actually does. He certainly does not deliver value for money.
When it comes to the broad issue of waste management, which this bill addresses in part, we see a lack of action by the government—a consistent pattern in relation to environment matters. In particular, there is no national waste management strategy. Issues associated with waste management and extended producer responsibility are still primarily left to state and territory governments to manage. The government’s approach to consumer waste, including plastic bags, has been timid, and we are not seeing any comprehensive approach to issues associated with climate change or waste.
A report released yesterday by Visy, SITA Environmental Solutions, Global Renewables, WSN Environmental Solutions and the Total Environment Centre outlines an impressive plan to prevent two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The report, entitled Australia’s climate change time bomb: The greenhouse legacy of landfill and the solution, suggests the dumping of food, garden, paper and wood wastes produces high levels of landfill gas which has a warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide. It also suggests that early action to prevent the disposal of food, garden, paper and wood wastes in landfill could prevent up to two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering the atmosphere in the longer term. We have not heard the government address these issues with any degree of detail or depth, nor has it investigated the environmental and climate change opportunities that arise from good waste management practices. There is virtually no discussion from the government about the economic opportunities that would arise from addressing these issues.
Global Renewables—one of the authors of the report mentioned earlier—provides an incredible example of the opportunities that are just waiting to be seized. In March 2007, Global Renewables announced a $5 billion deal in the UK to cut greenhouse pollution by more than four million tonnes. The tragedy is that an Australian company had to go to Britain to realise their ambitions. Labor’s position is clear. Labor will support companies like Global Renewables.
We recognise that modern, clean industries that minimise resource consumption, waste and pollution generation are the key to a sustainable economy. We will work with state and territory governments to consider extended producer responsibility schemes for priority waste. We recognise that schemes to manage whitegoods, televisions, computers, tyres, batteries and mobile phones at the end of their life cycle have been successful overseas and we will consider their suitability to Australia. Importantly, Labor supports the phase-out of plastic shopping bags, with a legislated ban if necessary. This is another issue where the government has, frankly, been asleep at the wheel. Labor will look seriously at the recommendations of the Australia’s climate change time bomb report.
Labor is also committed to diversifying the Australian fuel mix. As the member for Brand made clear in his 2005 Australian fuel industry blueprint, a diversified Australian fuel industry would make Australia a more self-sufficient country. I strongly believe we must increase the use of Australian transport fuels and reduce our reliance on foreign oil. Clearly, that means developing and using cleaner fuels.
We need national leadership to develop alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and liquid petroleum gas, as well as future fuels such as hydrogen. In closing, Labor supports this bill, but the Australian public definitely deserves a far more comprehensive and focused approach to waste management.