Thursday, 16 August 2007
Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007
It is my pleasure to speak on the Product Stewardship (Oil) Amendment Bill 2007 today. As has been said by the previous two speakers, this bill amends the Product Stewardship (Oil) Act 2000, which underpins the government’s Product Stewardship for Oil program. Some people might find it a bit strange that I am speaking on what is basically a bill on recycling sump oil. I have a motive for speaking on this bill. That motive is that I have had people come to my electorate office, quite a few local businesses, and say, ‘We have a real crisis in the recycling or the management of used oil.’ It is generally called sump oil.
It is a huge problem because in the garages, the factories and the businesses in my electorate there are 44-gallon drums and other storage containers that are absolutely choc-a-block with oil waiting to be stored, to be treated or to have something done with it. The danger in that is that, if eventually people no longer have the ability to store this oil, they then start doing creative things with it. You can only soak so many posts in oil so that when you put them in the ground the white ants do not get to them. There are only so many things that you can do with sump oil. When we were kids, we used to pour it down ants’ holes if they were causing us problems. That is probably not very environmentally friendly, but I do remember that it was when I was a child.
There is a real need to do something productive with recycled oil. I say this because the local people have come to us and said, ‘Look, if you guys don’t do something about it, we’re going to get Channel 7 in’—as they always threaten to do in your electorate office. They say, ‘We are going to get all of the media on to this case because no-one is dealing with this issue.’ The federal government is dealing with this issue. And the opposition have already said they support this bill, so there is a united front trying to do something about dealing with this oil. We not only want to give further incentives for people to recycle and treat oil so it can be reused but want to make it an industry that is attractive for people to enter. That is why there is something like up to 50c per litre available for people who treat recycled oil.
I have to shoot this home and be a little bit partisan from a Western Australian point of view, because in my state there are something like 20 million litres of stockpiled oil waiting to have something done with it. You might ask: ‘Why is Western Australia different to anywhere else?’ The fact is that we have a booming economy which has grown in all sectors. It is not just the mining sector that is growing enormously. As a result, people are using more machines, more cars and more industrial machinery. So, when they drain this oil, what do they do with it? The Western Australian state government have the primary responsibility for environmental protection and waste management in our state. They really have not addressed this issue. The Commonwealth have shown leadership on this. They have shown leadership by putting incentives and a stewardship management program in place, but so far the Western Australian government really have not got on the back of it.
The danger, as previous speakers have said, is that when people start pouring it down the grates on local streets or on the edge of local waste dumps, it is not contained. You get a decent rain and the next minute it is in the waterway. We know that one litre of oil, as previous members have already alluded to, can contaminate something like one million litres of water. You only have to see when a ship runs aground or there has been a small spill by even a small boat that everyone has to get into action to protect the marine life and the bird life in estuarine, river or marine situations. Oil is a real problem if it is released into the environment. Tipping it into a dump, down a drainage hole or even into a sewerage does not go too well.
We had a problem in my electorate with the Brookdale Waste Treatment Plant. The Brookdale Waste Treatment Plant treated everything from nail polish through to PCBs. The problem was that it was contaminating the local environment. The rangers from the local council used to have to go around the next morning and pick up all the dead birds around the edge of the wetlands because it was becoming such an embarrassment. This waste treatment plant was out of control. It had nowhere to deal with it and send it on, so it was getting into the water table, the drains around the area and the main waterways. So the Western Australian state government’s record on this is not too flash.
One of the problems in Western Australia, even though there is a regime to deal with recycling oil, is the market for it. I understand—I could be corrected—that it was to be sent to Singapore. It was to be offloaded in large tankers to Singapore and to be refined there. However, I understand that that financial and business arrangement hit some turbulent times and, as a result, it fell through. That is why this stockpile of sump oil has been building up and it is a real environmental time bomb, waiting to go off unless the huge amount of stored oil is dealt with.
In Western Australia, the funding that has been given to all recyclers is helpful because local government authorities are generally the ones that end up being responsible. It trickles down from the state government, which divests it to local government authorities. There has been $4 million in Western Australia, for example, put into a transitional assistance grant program to help with the sustainable use of oil recycling. This is very helpful. It has helped set up more than 200 local government authorities for oil collection facilities. They have a joint venture that enables residue from recycled oil to be incorporated. Sometimes they do creative things such as refining it to the extent that it can actually be used in bitumen or hot mix plants. Those are potential uses for it. There are some ways to deal with this. The Australian government is committed to helping the Western Australian government and the industry generally overcome the difficulties they currently experience in managing this oil. One difficulty is that, unless the oil is refined to a level where it can be used again as quality oil in machines, it is very difficult to take it any further.
This has also triggered interest from the Motor Trades Association because, as I said earlier, the company which normally took the oil in Western Australia was called Wren Oil. It hit commercial and financial problems. A gentleman called Mr Horton, from Keates Road Tyre & Battery Service in Armadale in my electorate, told me that he believes that, because the local authorities could not deal with it, the central and state governments should do something about it. We are doing something about it.
In my last few minutes, I want to respond to several things that the opposition spokesman said on the missing oil and this program. I suppose that in some respects the opposition spokesman is well placed to talk on this because he has been somewhat recycled from Midnight Oil into the federal parliament. Labor had to find something useful for him to do—not that he has proved himself since he has been here. In fact, I understand that they are trying to hide him as much as they can. There is a recycled Midnight Oil spokesman on the other side and he has something to say because he has some attachment to this issue, but, when he started to talk about other waste management issues and how the federal government should do something about national strategies, it was typical of the opposition trying to find some way to make the federal government responsible for this.
The state governments are trying to say that we should be responsible for managing local roads and planning and all sorts of things. They are local issues and they should be dealt with locally. Every time the local government authorities try to do something at a local level, out come people such as the former member for Roleystone, Martin Whitely. When the local government authorities in my electorate tried to bring in a high-temperature incinerator to deal with other wastes, he blocked it. As a member of the state Labor government, Martin Whitely was very active in blocking this high-temperature incinerator. Again, local government had to pick up the tab and find other landfill ways of dealing with waste. So Labor say one thing and do another.
We do have issues, as we know. There is a huge issue to do with recycling phones, computers and other modern-day waste products. The opposition member talked about how—shock, horror!—this government is not doing enough about plastic bags. We are. We had a very proactive program promoting the use of cloth bags rather than plastic bags. I can assure you that, if you go through my newsletters, you will find high promotion of that program. I even handed out my own calico bags as freebies for people to encourage that. So the opposition are duplicitous on this because they say one thing and do another. The opposition spokesman is talking about putting a levy or a tax or a ban on plastic bags. How wacky is it to want to ban plastic bags? It would never happen. He is away with the birds again. They should recycle him somewhere else. The opposition spokesman also talked about alternative fuels. Again, Labor say one thing and do another. We tried to increase the level of alternative fuels, such as ethanol, in our fuels. When we did, the member for Fraser came into this place and bagged the whole use of alternative fuels and said they were going to ruin engines.
The Labor Party say that they support this bill and that is good, but behind their hands they are trying to destroy any positive initiative like this. At the end of the day, I want to be able to go back to Mr John Horton and say, ‘The federal government is doing something about this. We are putting in better stewardship by having not only people on the board with expertise but also greater financial incentives so that people will actually get into the industry and recycle this oil so that there is not an environmental problem.’ I am pleased to be associated with this bill and I will make sure that the responsibility is sheeted home and that people understand that, as a federal government, we are working together to resolve this problem.