House debates

Monday, 26 October 2020


Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (General) Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (Customs) Bill 2020, Recycling and Waste Reduction Charges (Excise) Bill 2020; Second Reading

12:02 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to speak on the Recycling and Waste Reduction 2020. This bill will repeal the Product Stewardship Act and establish a new legislative framework to allow Australia to better manage its waste. It's a timely bill. The rise of disposable masks and PPE equipment used during this pandemic, over the last few months, has refocused our attention on the need for sufficient and effective waste management. Waste is also an issue that is top of mind in Warringah. In 2019 a Warringah survey showed that 76 per cent of respondents to a question on the environment listed waste as their top issue.

This legislation aims to prevent the huge problem that we have with plastics and packaging in our consumption driven society. For decades we have shipped our problem off to Asia. This is now halted, and we need to find solutions. That means we will have to redesign the waste system to repurpose, reuse and redesign over 1,700 kilotonnes of waste. The bill will help to do this through several measures: prohibiting the export of regulated waste material; providing for a system of exemptions and export licences; setting out obligations for manufacturers, importers and distributors of certain products; making provisions for the authorisation of certain persons to exercise powers and perform functions under the bill, including the minister; and, importantly, contributing to the development of a circular economy.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation is the authority on the circular economy and defines it as a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design:

It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system.

I commend the government's efforts to progress towards the development of a circular economy.

We should follow the example of Europe and become first movers in this sector. Since 2015, Europe, as part of Closing the loop—an EU action plan for a circular economy—has set targets for re-using and recycling as well as minimum product design standards. For example, by 2030, all plastics packaging placed on the EU market must be re-useable or recyclable in a cost effective manner. Europe has also committed 650 million euros for its major initiative on industry 2020 in the circular economy. Equally, I commend the government for its $250 million investment in recycling, going towards the Recycling Modernisation Fund to implement the National Waste Policy Action Plan, and for its $1.5 billion for the Manufacturing Strategy, a portion of which will go to the sector. These are important investments that will drive much-needed innovation.

Why is the bill so important? Well, it's a very big problem that it is trying to fix. Waste is pervasive. It can be found in the deepest oceans, the most arid deserts and the highest mountains. The problem is acute in Australia and nowhere more so than in an electorate like Warringah where, as a coastal electorate, we see it in our oceans. The WWF recently found that on average Australians use 130 kilos of plastic per person each year and only nine per cent of that is recycled. More frightening still is that up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic will find its way into our waterways and into the ocean.

The CSIRO has found that over three-quarters of rubbish along our coast is plastic, with up to 40,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre. Clean-up days are regularly held to pick up huge quantities of plastic, but the sheer volume means we need to transition away from their use. In my electorate of Warringah we have a local movement Operation Straw, STRAWkle. In 2018 they started to go STRAWkling. They're a group of snorkelers dedicated to cleaning up Manly Cover. In just 12 weeks over the summer of 2018 volunteers collected over 2,000 plastic straws from the area. The findings from the project helped inspire more than 40 businesses in the local area to stop using plastic straws. This is how we get change. But we need more to make that commitment, especially the big fast food chains. McDonald's has committed to phasing out their straws this year, and KFC and Subway have as well. But more needs to be done by these chains on other plastic items like lids. I call on those big companies who are part of the problem, because they do create and sell their products with a substantial amount of plastic waste.

I went down a few Saturdays ago and had a great time helping volunteers collect plastics in Manly. It was a great community initiative, but it was quite distressing to see just how much plastic we collected, from those horrible little red lids on the soy sauce to straws and building material plastics—the little bits that come between tiles and are washed down the drains to the beach—so many bits of plastic.

We also have the Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew, who regularly get over 100 people at an event. To date, they've collected 13,233 pieces of rubbish from Sydney's Northern Beaches and lower North Shore. I'm pleased that my office has assigned this group to expand and has been able to assist them to expand through to environmental grants. I commend the government for having those environmental grants to assist local communities.

Just last week I attended the unveiling of Manly's first operational seabin. The seabin is a trash skimmer, designed to be installed in the waters of marinas, yacht clubs, ports and any water body with a calm environment and suitable surface available. The unit acts as a floating garbage bin, skimming the surface of the water by pumping water into the device. The seabin can intercept floating debris, macro and micro plastics and, with an additional filter, even microfibres. It was a pleasure to unveil the unit, and I look forward to more seabins becoming operational throughout Warringah in the coming years. I urge all those out there to keep looking for solutions. We can't have a situation where plastic debris is killing so much of our marine life. The feedback from the Warringah community is strong on this issue, especially on this bill. Northern Beaches Council and Mosman Council both support it and support the government to innovate and succeed in this mission to create a circular economy.

Local councils are on the front line and pay large amounts to sort and dispose of waste, and they must be adequately consulted with respect to these reforms. They want to know: with the passage of this bill, what is the next step? They say that the only way we can achieve an export ban is by making sure we're stimulating innovation in the industry in the right way and creating outcomes locally. They're looking for both state and federal government to step in and provide leadership. I appreciate the support of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. They're giving up to $600 million in the Recycling Modernisation Fund, but more of this is needed to reach councils, who are on the front line of waste.

There are still some remaining issues that need to be addressed. What further action can the government take? I echo the comment made by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills that elements of this bill should be made in principal legislation. We've seen an ongoing trend of ministerial discretion and less parliamentary scrutiny expanding through the use of delegated legislation. We have this again in this legislation. The minister, at their soonest convenience, should either move amendments to rectify those provisions or clarify why those provisions have been left to delegated legislation.

This bill can and must go further. It should be strengthened so that eventually most products are covered by some sort of accredited agreement. This includes introducing packaging content targets and the banning of single-use plastics over time. I also ask the government to consider including the waste targets from the National Waste Policy Action Plan within the bill and some form of accounting and reporting to ensure we remain on track with our commitments. Accountability is always an important part in progressing issues like this. We need to make sure that the department is responsible but also that we are properly up to date with how we are progressing with waste and recycling.

The legislation would also benefit from regular five-yearly, rather than 10-yearly, reviews so as to ensure it keeps pace with innovation in the sector and the latest environmental science. We know things move quickly in this space, and I have great faith that Australian people will keep looking for solutions. Whenever I visit schools in Warringah, the No. 1 issue the kids raise with me is the state of our oceans, including plastic in the oceans. It is absolutely something that we must fix.

Even though, for constructive feedback, I support this bill, we all must do more. Waste and overconsumption are legacies of our generation and we absolutely must try to amend these problems. It's a commendable effort, through this bill, to get on top of the waste issue. Alongside the climate crisis, this will be a crisis of our times. We must do our utmost to take responsibility for our waste and clean up our oceans.

12:12 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sixty-seven million tonnes of waste is what Australia produced in the 2016-17 year—67 million tonnes! I imagine that's around the same amount as we use in domestic black coal. Of course, one of the big issues we have is that countries that used to take our garbage don't want it anymore, and that's fair enough. Countries like China say, 'It's your problem; you look after it.' And so we should. Of course, that means we're going to be a lot more reliant on recycling and are going to have to pay the cost of it domestically. We'll also need to be very aware of exactly where we go for the landfill and of the methane and other by-products of it.

I'm chair of a committee that is actually looking into this, and I must say at the start that it would be helpful if we had a closer connection to other people who are passing legislation on it. I want to acknowledge the people on the committee: the deputy chair, who is the member for Cunningham; the member for Cowper; the member for Higgins; the member for Hughes; the member for Moreton; and the member for Wentworth. We used to have the member for Paterson, but she's gone on to higher duties as the shadow assistant minister for defence.

By reason of the fact that others don't want our garbage, we have to process it ourselves, and one of the great examples of that is Veolia, which is not that far from Canberra, actually. They use an old quarry. They collect rubbish from Sydney and also from Canberra. What's interesting about that is that a lot of what is recycled is turned into, basically, fertilizer. That is because a lot of it's vegetation waste and it goes back into fertilizer, and that's a great outcome. The member for Warringah just brought up the issue with plastics, and especially PET. That is one of the big problems that we have to deal with. In fact, if you go buy yourself a bottle of Coke or something like that, you'll notice there are different types of plastics. There's plastic in the bottle, there's plastic in the wrapping and there's a little bit of plastic around the top, where you take the lid off. It's the stuff around the top that causes a lot of the problems—the other stuff can be recycled. But this breakdown of the component parts is something that I was never aware and have now been made aware of through that.

Plastics have become more abundant. I remember back in the eighties—there are few of us around here who would remember; Minister Irons would remember—that once upon a time you used to take water from a tap. It was fee. I remember people coming along and saying, 'One of the biggest sales in the future will be bottled water.' We said: 'How absurd is that? We're going to pay for something we get for free?' They said: 'You watch the markets. That's precisely what will happen.' And they were right. Of course, now we've gone from bottled water to bottles themselves, and they're creating a massive problem as they become part of the waste. Some of the things we can do to reduce waste will also reduce costs: we can avail ourselves of this wonderful invention, the tap—a tap and a glass, or a water bottle that is recyclable. A lot of them are steel. These are the sorts of small things that you can do in your own life which will make a big difference.

What we must also note is that we've got opportunities with recycling waste as well as problems. One of the opportunities is people close to the major capitals don't want garbage tips near them anymore. It's funny, but they are kind of over it. But other areas out west wouldn't mind it, if they get the industry that comes with it. That's because they've got remote areas and mining pits and areas that could avail themselves to becoming the industrial or economic base of those areas. We've had representations in our committee from those councils, and I think that's something we can work on.

We're building the Inland Rail at the moment. As I always say, you have to claim your wins, and I was very happy with the National Party paying the money for that as part of the coalition agreement that I did with then Prime Minister Turnbull—in fact, he wasn't the Prime Minister when we did it; he became the Prime Minister afterwards. What that means is that, with utilisation of such things as the Inland Rail, we have the capacity to get trains with a large amount of waste to regional areas. I might just suggest one of the advantages of that. As you know, we pull coal out of a whole range of places in New South Wales and it all makes its way to Wollongong or Newcastle to be loaded. Then all of the carriages—about 80 in a train; they can carry up to 120 tonnes each, but they load them to 100—go back out to the coalmines in the Hunter Valley, to Maules Creeks near Narrabri and to other areas empty. Logic would say that they are going to burn the coal—it's not as if you're going to have to eat it—so if the coal is coming in one direction, we might be able to utilise some of this infrastructure to take rubbish in the other direction. As coal comes out of a hole in the ground, when those holes are finished with we could utilise them, basically, for remnant landfill. What we do now is we actually put pipes through it. We line it and put pipes through it, and we collect the methane off it. That turns the turbine and creates power—not exceptional amounts of power, but enough power to warrant doing it.

These are the by-products we get. We can recycle things back into their core components, such as steel and scrap metal, which can be recycled back into metal; plastics can be recycled, as long as you break them down into the component parts; vegetable matter can be recycled back into fertilizer; and what we don't recycle can be utilized in landfill, which is not the best way, but even with that we get the capacity to fill in holes, create methane, turn a turbine and create power. And we have the infrastructure in Australia to progress with this in such a form as we can do it away in the cities. It's going to have a cost. There is a cost on this and that cost is going to go back to the people who either create the rubbish or put the rubbish in the bin. At this point in time I think it's predominantly on the people who put it in their bins. It's on your rates and that's where it's off to.

We have some problems and we need some attitudinal change. We have the example of multiple bins. We have the red bin, we have the yellow bin and we have the green bin. The red bin is for your dirty nappies and stuff like that. Your yellow bin is for things that you deem, or the council tell you, can be recycled. The green bin is for vegetable waste. These have been well taken up and people are pretty diligent about what they do. We have had some instances where they go to the tip and it all ends up in the same hole, because the cost of recycling it means that it's not warranted. That has obviously got to change. Once more, if I might direct you to, they believe that the methane that can be produced from the Tamworth tip alone could power the hospital. So it is worthwhile noting. But we have to have the capacity of what we put in that yellow bin to actually end up being recycled.

We've also had the benefit, over time, of an attitudinal change. You might remember once upon a time driving along a road in Australia and it was just festooned with rubbish. When people finished stuff they would toss it out the window. To our credit, Australia has been incredibly good at stopping that. We still get instances of it, but overwhelmingly it's seen as a very bad move. If someone sees you throwing rubbish out the window it's an indictment on your character. You wouldn't do it anymore but in the past people didn't blink at it. That shows the attitudinal change that progresses towards recycling. So Australia has the capacity within its population to go down the path of recycling.

The speaker before mentioned the prospective member for Groom, a gentleman by the name of Garth Hamilton. He is standing for the seat of Groom for the LNP. He was also part of the Green Shirts movement, something that I am involved with myself. I am sure if he gets the nod from the people of Groom he will be a great adornment of this parliament. I believe, with seat such as that, that he may well have a very long career.

I also would like to acknowledge what Dr McVeigh did, both at a local level and at a state level, and then finally at a federal level. Dr McVeigh was most certainly a very capable and apt politician and an incredibly decent man. Why would I be mentioning Groom? Because we also have the issue of waste and one of the wastes that needs to be recycled is water, sewage. This caused a massive problem in Toowoomba, because people didn't like the idea of recycling sewage and it ending up in their drinking water. But other countries do it—Singapore for one. Even in London they say it's been through a couple of kidneys before you drink it. If we can't deal with the issue of recycled water, waste water, then we should at least walk down the path of having industrial use for that water.

When I was in St George in western Queensland we had three lots of pipes in our house. We had brown water, which was used for your toilet. If you are going to poo in something there's no point doing it in potable water. Then we had bore water for washing. And we had drinking water. If you went into a house and saw clear water in the toilet that was not a good sign. In fact, I think there was some fine on it. It just makes sense. Why would you flush potable water? Why don't we use recycled water for industrial uses, for sewerage uses. Why don't new sub-divisions look towards the reticulation of different forms of water and utilise them for different forms of use?

This is another progression of the attitudinal change. Referring back to what happened in Toowoomba, we are going to see this more and more in other areas.

We see ourselves in many instances with a form of water crisis and we are having to build more water storages for a growing population. But, in the future, this will come hand in glove with a form of recycling. We can see the problems that even Sydney is having, having to expand Warragamba Dam, which it should do, with such things as Indigenous claims, fauna claims and flora claims. All these things have to be dealt with. But, whether you like it or not, the population's going to require more water and, therefore, we have to work out from what source it is going to come. If you decide you are going to do it through desalination, desalination is bottled electricity and Australia has the dearest power prices in the world, or certainly in the OECD, and so that is a very expensive alternative. So we will be forced, whether we like it or not, towards the recycling of water.

I want to commend the members of the committee that I am working with at the moment. We have a great committee. It is very bipartisan. I want to commend the support of the member for Cunningham and the work she is doing towards this. We look forward to delivering a report. I think we are just about through all the witnesses. Today our committee will have one final meeting before we deliver a report on rubbish—that won't be rubbish!—in the coming days.

12:26 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to contribute to the debate on the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 and related bills today. At the beginning of 2018, Australia's longstanding practice of exporting our waste to China was thrown into disarray with the launch of China's National Sword policy. This policy, which responded to the increasing deluge of soiled and contaminated materials that were overwhelming China's recycling facilities, created strict rules about what China would accept. This was a major event that reverberated through waste management globally. In Australia, governments, councils and community organisations were blindsided and forced to grapple with the very real possibility that our entire recycling program could collapse, leaving millions of tonnes of rubbish without a destination. The path forward was clear: Australians needed to lift their game. We needed to radically reform and improve our waste management processes and increase our recycling capacity.

These bills make a start, but they go nowhere near addressing what is a very real and growing crisis. They legislate the first of seven targets in the national waste policy action plan, specifically export bans on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres. They also make minor changes to the current product stewardship regime, which was introduced by the Gillard government. Product stewardship is an important concept that places some responsibility for the life cycle and environmental impacts of goods with their designers and manufacturers, but the changes made to the scheme in this legislation are minimal.

The measures in this legislation matter—of course they do—and Labor will support them. But they offer far too little and have come way too late. When it comes to waste management, the Liberal government has squandered the last seven years and, today, this opportunity to deliver substantial, wide-reaching reform has also been missed. The planet is choking on our waste, and we are doing next to nothing to avert that. The national waste report tells us that Australia generated 67 million tonnes of waste in 2016-17 or about 2.7 tonnes of waste per person for the year. Australians generate more than 100 kilograms each of plastic waste every year, but less than 12 per cent of that is being recycled. This can't go on. Pollution in the environment is reaching critical levels, with new research showing that plastic in the world's oceans is expected to triple by 2040. Shamefully, if we continue on this same trajectory, by 2020 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish. This is heartbreaking. We are in the midst of a snowballing catastrophe.

But we can turn things around. We need to commit to doing everything we can to developing a circular economy, in which materials are recycled and reused as much as possible and waste is reduced to a bare minimum. We need to move towards eliminating single-use plastics and ensure maximum plastics recycling through better design, producer responsibility, improved infrastructure and effective policies on procurement and recycled content requirements. We need to expand our product stewardship regime. We need big investment in domestic recycling infrastructure. All these measures should be delivered through a nationally coordinated strategic approach.

Sadly, we are a universe away from this ideal. Some good work has been done, especially under the former Labor government, but we have a long, long way to go. If you listen to this government, you'd think that fixing the waste crisis was a major priority. Regrettably, while serving up a steady stream of photo opportunities like the so-called Plastics Summit in March, the Morrison government consistently fails to follow up with action. Indeed, it has undertaken no large-scale reform in this area. When Labor looked beyond the hoopla, we found that the so-called new $100 million Recycling Investment Fund, which the Prime Minister announced in May, was really just existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation money with a new badge put on it. And, as is so often the case with this government and this Prime Minister, progress ground to a halt once the cameras left the room. Indeed, six months after the fund was announced the Clean Energy Finance Corporation was asked, through Senate estimates, where the fund was at. The corporation's response was utterly clear and utterly damning. It said:

No projects have been financed to date under this Fund, as it does not yet exist.

Six months after the announcement, the CEFC hadn't even been given direction to establish the fund. Regrettably, it was confirmed in estimates again last week that this fund hasn't supported a single recycling infrastructure project. This is shameful, especially when you consider that the government's own report found that Australia has less recycling capacity now than it did in 2005.

If we are to adequately respond to the export bans across our region we need to quadruple our recycling infrastructure. Instead, we are sitting on our hands. Again, this government is there with bells on for the announcement but completely missing in action when it comes to actually delivering. And, despite being in the midst of a waste management crisis, it took three years to conduct the Product Stewardship Act review. And, despite being in office for nearly seven years, the Morrison government has made zero progress on listing new items for a co-regulatory or mandatory product stewardship scheme. While Labor's first product stewardship system is still going well, the recent review found compliance is still a major problem. So how did the government respond? It cut staff in the relevant agency. Shame!

Another announcement that was warmly welcomed was the Product Stewardship Investment Fund, which was announced in March last year. But again, a year after the announcement, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment confirms that the fund is still in the design phase and there is no grant application process in place. This is a government that seems to care more about the spin than the substance of government. In the area of waste recycling, the Morrison government has profoundly failed to deliver on its own promises.

It is abundantly clear that Australia needs urgent national leadership if we are to shape meaningful action to respond to the waste crisis. This hasn't happened. Thankfully, however, some amazing work is still being done in our local communities. In the absence of genuine national leadership on the issue, local councils and community organisations have stepped up and taken a lead. On this I'd like to recognise the City of Newcastle for the leading-edge work it is doing in this area. Council has made a 25-year commitment to revolutionise food and garden waste treatment. Most recently, this included a new $24 million contract for an advanced organics recycling facility. Starting in 2022, the facility will divert almost a million tonnes of food and garden waste from landfill. During the terms of the contract, this will save ratepayers more than $50 million in operating costs and state government levies.

There's also the $6 million Resource Recovery Centre, a 2,000 square metre site that allows metals, cardboard, wood and electrical goods to be extracted from loads of mixed waste. The centre recently celebrated its first birthday with some great news: it has diverted the equivalent of 74 semitrailers of waste which would have otherwise ended up in landfill. Great work, City of Newcastle!

The city also runs a five-megawatt solar farm on site at the Summerhill waste centre which enables it to power the centre and generate revenue to save ratepayers money. To reduce its environmental impact further, Summerhill uses methane gas from landfills to power two electricity generators. These generators produce enough power to run thousands of households. Great work to the City of Newcastle!

I'm also incredibly proud of the grassroots initiatives that have sprung up in my community—things like Feedback Organic Recovery, which collects food waste through a series of bins throughout the city as well as from local cafes and restaurants. The waste is then converted to compost for use on local urban farms. So far, feedback has converted 700,000 litres of waste. When you consider that rotting food in Australia generates methane equivalent to 6.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide on top of the space it takes up in landfill, you'll see how important this local initiative is.

I'd also like to acknowledge the global network of Buy Nothing groups. Buy Nothing Project rules are simple: post anything you'd like to give away, lend or share amongst neighbours and ask for anything you'd like to receive or free or to borrow. In doing so, these groups not only set up a culture of recycling and reusing but they also build strong community connections. There's Take 3 for the Sea, a local incarnation of a global movement which urges people to take three pieces of rubbish from the beach when they leave.

I also want to pay tribute to the work of the Hunter Wetlands Centre and their phenomenal environmental education centre, which provides a wide range of field work resources and programs allowing students to investigate and learn about this incredible fragile ecosystem and the sustainable management of our wetlands.

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to give a shout-out to the three extraordinary women who are behind the iconic Newcastle clothing label High Tea with Mrs Woo. Rowena, Juliana and Angela Foong, your contribution to our city is both longstanding and much appreciated. The three sisters have been working with researchers from the School of Creative Industries at the University of Newcastle on a sustainable fashion initiative. This included low-waste pattern layouts, natural fibre choices and direct digital printing techniques for customised production, which allows the user to be involved—in short, the very opposite of fast fashion, which plagues our waste and environmental measures. These local initiatives are vital, but it's becoming increasingly clear that, as a nation, we are not doing enough. Resources are finite, and the environmental cost of inaction on waste is massive. We need to genuinely and actively work towards developing a circular economy by using less, reducing waste and increasing recycling.

I note the impact that the TV program War on Waste has had. There are very few schools, I suspect, that any of us in this House would visit now that do not run their own quite sophisticated programs about recycling and reducing our impact in the environment. I think that programs like the War on Waste have done our planet a great service and have really provided the impetus for so many school groups to be very active in this space in their local schools. But the students of course go home and make sure that their parents and families are doing the right thing as well and remind them of the intergenerational consequences of not doing so.

All our government systems, programs and incentives need to work to support and encourage these core goals of developing a circular economy, using less, reducing our waste and increasing our recycling. But that won't happen without strong national leadership and vision. Regrettably, this has been sadly lacking to date, and, whilst Labor is supporting the government on making the very timid initiatives contained within these bills, we say: you must do more—much, much more. There is no time to waste. Indeed, this planet and our nation are depending on the government stepping up and lifting its game immediately.

12:42 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I speak to the motion, and let me say that recycling is the buzzword and so it should be. The world has finite resources. Recycling is imperative for the environment. Recycling is imperative for the world's resources. And I hope that recycling will become lucrative for regional communities, because I think this is a great opportunity for regional communities to actually step up and say: 'Some of this industry can be relocated or created in areas where we need expansion in employment.'

That's what the tenets of this bill, the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020, are about. The bill is about creating an industry in Australia—creating a base business line that private investors can invest in with confidence, knowing that the rules are not going to change around them. As to their supply line, it's an interesting concept. Normally, when we talk about supply, we talk about component parts and we're talking about new things, but, in this particular case, we're talking about old things; we're talking about rubbish. We need to ensure the supply line for the private investment community to actually build the facilities that we need in Australia to ensure that we recycle our waste.

I'll start on the regions, because obviously I'm in this parliament representing a very large region. In the regions, it's been difficult and expensive to indulge in recycling. We've had little choice. We've been directed by state governments and others to recycle in certain areas. There's one area that draws my attention. I see a lot of things recycled from the Kimba dump, for instance—well, it's no longer a dump; it's largely a transfer station. One thing that we have focused on for many years is recycling paper, but in fact it costs more to shift the paper to the capital centre to the recycling plant than it is actually worth. So this comes as a direct cost to people living in regional communities. I'm very wary, as to all of these new rules that we may bring in about recycling, to see that there are cost-effective ways for all communities to meet those requirements. So we need to build regional capacity.

Obviously, we won't be building specialised regional capacity. We need to target those things that we create the most waste in and then build the capacity for them. If it were paper it would be far better if we could recycle it in situ, at least in regional centres. The member for New England, who spoke prior to me on this bill, spoke of the possibility of having one-way freight traffic, using empty capacity to shift rubbish back into regional areas so we can create jobs there. I think there's a lot of merit in that suggestion. We need to guarantee supply, and we do that by banning exports.

In this area of recycling one of the great challenges of the 20th century for Australia was our relatively expensive labour supply. It is still the case that we have a relatively expensive labour supply, particularly in the hemisphere of the Pacific where we are situated. But increasingly industrialisation is being mechanised and computerised. It's taking the people out. What on earth all the people are going to do in the end we may well ask ourselves—perhaps they'll make more cups of coffee and groom more dogs; I'm not too sure—but it is a fact. Even in my industry of agriculture we are removing people all the time—not with intent, we're not looking to get rid of people; we're just looking for that cost-effective model that allows us to prosper—and so it will be with recycling. I don't imagine we will see the hundreds of people in recycling lines sorting out all the bottles into the little things. I think we will see investment now that will do mechanical sorting, that will sort out these things by colour. I've seen opals sorted by colour mechanically—an infra-red light flashes and a little jet of air blows the opals out into the right bucket. If you can do it with opals, I'm pretty confident you can do it with PET plastics and with a whole host of other material.

We can build that capacity in regional Australia. We have good education levels—sometimes we'd like to have a bit better—and we could run that kind of componentry. We could build that kind of equipment in Australia. That's what we should be doing. That's what this $160 million that is on the table out of the billion dollars will facilitate. It's anticipated that the $160 million will generate three-for-one investment from private industry, giving us a $600 million capacity. That is the money that I will be pointing out to the people in the electorate of Grey who already are involved in waste management and in recycling—we have quite extensive investment in green recycling already—and saying, 'Step up to the plate.' Or perhaps there are some new entrepreneurs out there who want to start a plant and have already been approached by a couple of local district councils wondering what they can make.

It's estimated that the $190 million for infrastructure—I said $160 million earlier, but I've checked my notes now; it's $190 million—will generate 10,000 jobs. That's exactly what we need in regional Australia—10,000 jobs, or at least a fair share of them. And it will eliminate 10 million tonnes of landfill. I will keep pushing that line, encouraging those people in the industry to chase that.

There are a host of other funding lines, including support for industry to take more responsibility for their products after their useful life. We already know that there is a levy paid in the electronics industry for televisions, computers, printers and computer parts. Their collection is funded by a levy that you and I pay when we buy a new television. What happens to the old televisions and computers afterwards is a bit of a moot point. Most of them are exported for recycling. We're not banning that at this stage. A few years ago I was speaking with Nyrstar in Port Pirie. They've had a considerable investment there, putting in a new smelter. It's given new life to the city. It will have an interest in the smelting of precious and semiprecious metals for many, many years to come. It is also a great consumer of waste generated in other industries. In fact, the waste from the zinc plant in Hobart is taken and reprocessed in Port Pirie through the smelter.

One of the things they could do is process or break down electronic waste—e-waste. Australia generates a substantial amount of e-waste. At this stage they're not quite ready, so they're not pushing the line on this. But, if they were to go down that pathway and invest in making the smelter and the equipment fully adaptable, they would need a guarantee of supply. At the moment, all of our e-waste is shipped to Asia. The gold is smelted out of it. The various parts are pulled down and whatever else happens in the recycling process. We have the capacity to do that in Australia, but it won't be worthwhile them investing in the equipment needed unless they get the total supply. So the obvious answer is: when the smelters are ready to do so, we will probably need to do exactly the same thing for e-waste as this bill does now for paper, plastic, glass and rubber, to guarantee that they can make a safe investment. It will face challenges. It will mean we'll be shifting e-waste from Sydney, Brisbane and Perth to Port Pirie, if that's where the facility is situated. Given some of the freight arrangements around Australia, particularly with coastal shipping, that could prove challenging, but it should be done.

It is a fact that in the nuclear industry—and this is something I know a little bit about—every country that uses nuclear product is under an obligation to the UN to deal with its own waste. Whatever they need to do, whether it's finding a permanently site, decommissioning it or burying it, they need to do it in their own country. There was a proposal put forward by the Weatherill government in South Australia. They had a royal commission, in fact, looking at the possibility of Australia taking high-level nuclear waste from overseas. That's not to say world regulations could not be changed or that the idea was necessarily a stinker. It failed, anyhow, but I make the point that every country in the world is required to deal with its own waste. Perhaps that should be the case with all waste. Why do we have the ability to send off baled-up plastic bags overseas for somebody else to deal with? We don't even know what they do with it, frankly, whether it goes straight into a furnace or whether something else is done with it. I think we all need to take responsibility. As a household we need to take responsibility for our own waste, and as a nation we need to take responsibility for our own waste.

I spoke a little before about product stewardship and the electronics industry. It gave me an opportunity to talk about possibilities for the future of recycling e-waste in Australia. But I point to the bottle and can recycling legislation. Without having researched the subject—and you may well know better than me, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas—I'd say it's been operating in South Australia for at least 40 years. It's been a spectacular success. South Australians often remark that you go over the border and there's rubbish all along the side of the road. It's taken a while, but the other states are getting there now. The Northern Territory was first, and I think there are a number of others coming on board now. We know that, when you pick up the can of soft drink that shall remain nameless for the purposes of this debate, there is a stamp on it. It once read, 'Worth five cents if returned in South Australia'. It's now worth 10 cents, in keeping with the worth of money. That is a cost that is paid by the consumer. When you buy that can that shall remain unmentioned—let's pretend we're on the ABC—you pay that 10 cents into a fund which then funds the recycling of the cans and bottles. It makes sense. We are responsible for the whole product, not just what's inside of it. We are responsible for what the product is put in.

In South Australia, the government has moved legislation to ban single-use plastics in a number of items. Plastic cutlery will cease to exist some time next year, when the law is implemented. They're waiting for the COVID virus to pass, to allow people to adapt. They're also banning swizzle sticks and straws. There are different estimates of how many straws Australians use each day, but it's in the millions. It's hard to imagine. I nearly always drink my cool drink straight from the can or bottle, but obviously other people like to use straws. And there are other products. We know there are other products. Maybe it's going to cost a little more, or maybe not. But, in the long term, we know it should be done.

The previous speaker, the member for Newcastle, spoke about the rising plastic content in the world oceans, and that is a very serious subject, and the only way really to curtail that is to curtail the use of plastics or make sure that they go back to a recycler so they're dealt with in the right and proper way. Certainly, by banning the export of these goods, we can ensure that they are dealt with in a right and proper way in Australia under our supervision, something that we cannot do at the moment.

12:55 pm

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to be able to speak on this Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill today, because in my community, like, I am sure, other communities across this country, our young people are light years ahead of government in their concern about and their local action to protect the environment and the planet. Every single high school in my electorate of Dunkley—every single high school—has amazing young people who are in clubs like the Environmental Club, where they are working to make their schools single-use-plastic free and to encourage recycling within their school environment. Frankston High School, Elisabeth Murdoch College—the young people there have come to me time and time again to say, 'This is what we're doing where we live and where we go to school. Can we have a federal government that does this on a national scale?' And, whilst this bill is better than nothing, and it's one that Labor will support, it has to be said that this federal government is still lagging behind the people that it's supposed to represent, particularly the people whose future it's supposed to be protecting when it comes to matters of environment and climate change.

When this bill was being debated last week, I was in the chamber and I heard a member of the government say that climate change should be a matter of science and not a matter of politics. Once I'd picked my jaw up off the ground after hearing that said by someone opposite, I of course agreed. I wondered why he was going to the effort of saying this, and then I realised that, in the pushing-18 months that I've been privileged enough to be in this parliament, I have not seen a speakers list for a piece of legislation that had so many members from the government benches on it as this one.

Often—and this is something the public don't really get to see—the government puts forward legislation that, outside of this place, it trumpets as essential and important reform, but in the chamber the only people who speak on it, apart from the minister introducing the bill, are members of the opposition or the crossbench. I'm not sure what those on that side of the chamber are doing, but they don't seem to come in to speak on their own legislation. But, lo and behold, we have a long list of government members speaking on this bill. The conclusion I've reached is that they're speaking on this bill so that they can go home to their electorates and say to their high schools, to their young people, 'Of course we're doing something about the environment. Of course we're doing something about climate change. Look at what I said in the chamber. Look at this speech I gave where I said climate change was a matter of science.' If only that rhetoric were matched by real action. I know that the young people in my electorate aren't fooled by announcements that aren't followed by delivery, because they are switched on, and they care and they are worried about the future.

Last week, when I thought I was speaking on this bill on Wednesday or Thursday, I put a post on my Facebook page for my electorate saying, 'I'm waiting to get on to speak about recycling and the environment. Anyone have any suggestions they would like me to raise?' And, because I have an amazing electorate, there were a lot of things that were raised. Incentives or tax offsets for small businesses that can demonstrate a percentage of waste reduction or a percentage increase in sustainable products and practices—that's a great idea. Melissa says, 'We need all levels of government investing and supporting businesses to improve waste, to have cost-effective, sustainable packaging and composting options.' Composting options are cost prohibitive at the moment, but there's more that can happen in this space. That's a role for government. It's a role that this government hasn't taken up.

Government owned or subsidised recycling plants are a must. I got a comment on my Facebook page from someone I know who is not usually a fan of government-run industries but can see the need for government support in this area, because recycling is cost prohibitive for many in private enterprise—so bring the industry back for government to run was a suggestion that was made. I am going to read this comment in full as it really reflects the sentiment I hear over and over again from across the electorate of Dunkley. They said: 'We need to move away from single-use plastic. When single-use plastics break down into microplastics they infiltrate all components of the natural world and of course humans. Research is starting to show that this microplastic is being ingested by humans at an alarming rate—a credit-cards worth of plastic a week, humans are ingesting. Why? Because it is in the atmosphere and it's being absorbed by plants and been ingested by the animals that we then eat, and has been found in water that all research has so far touched. Studies are also indicating that it is a contributor to global warming through the process of its breakdown in the environment.' This constituent of mine suggests that I ask Scotty to go and do some homework and get back to me.'

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Point of order: I'd ask the member to refer to members by their correct title.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Did the member not refer to the member by their correct title?

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was reading a quote from a comment on my Facebook page asking 'Scotty to go do some homework and get back to me.' That was what it said. It was a quote.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It would help the House if you quoted the correct title as well.

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you.

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I read those out. They are just a snapshot of comments from my electorate to show the commitment in my electorate to doing more in this area and to show the requests that I get over and over again for the government to do more. Now, we are very proud in my electorate in Carrum Downs that we have the company Repeat Plastics Australia Pty Ltd, or Replas as we refer to it in my electorate. This business has a manufacturing base in Ballarat and the head office and some work in Carrum Downs. Replas takes plastic waste and turns it into seats, tables and all sorts of equipment to be used in the community. For example, the Belvedere Bowls Club put in an application to the Dunkley Stronger Communities fund, which I was pleased to support, to get new seats at the bowls club. Those bench seats were made by Replas with recycled material.

I was speaking to the company today and I asked what they need to continue to contribute to what must be said to be this fledgling circular economy in Australia. What they need is their product and products like theirs from other manufacturers to be promoted, because they can't recycle more waste unless people are buying their products. As they say to me, the local council is the first port of call for procurement, because they are the ones that are often putting in all of the local infrastructure, but it's something that the state and federal governments should be doing as well. This federal government needs to be looking, as part of its procurement policy, to not just procure from Australian manufacturers, but to build in requirements for recycling and recyclable materials. That will help this circular economy to grow. As I said, we are very proud to have Replas in the Carrum Downs industrial estate. This is the sort of smart, sustainable manufacturing that we are keen to build in my electorate of Dunkley. All we need is a government that's also committed to doing that.

Other countries have been tackling recycling and the circular economy for quite some time. Of course, in Australia it was the previous Labor government that introduced the first version of the legislation that we're debating today, but, sadly, we've seen seven years of neglect in this area. I hear one of the members on the other side laughing—a bit like when I laughed when he said that climate change should be a matter of science and not politics, because it was one of the most astounding things for someone on that side of the chamber to say. Welcome to the debate, but, honestly, with a straight face, it's unbelievable. Other countries haven't been wasting time like this government has. From Japan to Finland to the Netherlands, these countries have understood that recycling is one element of the bigger shift that we need in our economy and our society. We need to move towards a clean and circular economy. We need to do that for the economics of it, for the jobs of it and for the future of our environment.

Apart from when the Prime Minister wants to make announcements that make it seem as though they're doing something for the environment, we don't hear sustained debate and conversation from the other side of the chamber about the fundamental need for this shift in our economy and our society. This government has wasted seven years and hasn't forged a new clean and circular economy. It's one of the great wastes of our time, as well as the tearing down of climate change policy and the lack of a coherent and positive vision for the future. They've been left behind by everyone—every state in this country. The business councils, the unions, industry, countries around the world are all committed and signed up to net zero emissions by 2050, but not this government.

I'm newly appointed to the House of Representatives economics committee and I attended my first hearing on Friday. Our financial regulators understand the importance of dealing with climate change and climate change risk being taken into account in investments. Our key economic regulators get it and this government needs to get it and to do more. We haven't seen anything that would give us confidence that this government is going to move forward in a way that builds our economy, recovers from the recession and protects the environment. We hear the suggestion that it's one or the other, and we've heard that for so long now, but it's just wrong. We do not have to choose between economic growth and sustainable development, between jobs and the environment. They go hand in hand. There's an opportunity for us as well as a moral imperative. The challenge to lead our country and to once again be seen as a leader on the world stage through climate change, to mitigate its effects, is also an opportunity to build a clean, circular economy and to build a vibrant economy with new jobs at the same time, and we can do it.

Every single one of those school students who talked to every single one of their members of parliament about getting rid of single-use plastics, about recycling, believe we can do it. They want to do it and they want us to do it for them. It's beyond time that this government stops tinkering at the edges, getting expert reports and plucking out one recommendation but ignoring others and pretending it's doing something, re-announcing money to be spent on important projects but not delivering. It's time this government just rolled up its sleeves and did the young people of our country the credit of listening to them and delivering for them, because if we do that they are going to deliver for us in the future.

1:10 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a pleasure to speak on the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020 at this time because it's also National Recycling Week. The theme of National Recycling Week this year is 'Recovery: A Future Beyond the Bin'. The Planet Ark website states:

We invite you to value your resources, giving them a second life by reducing virgin resource use, reusing and recycling.

How timely that is given the nature of the bill that we are speaking about here today.

I've just listened to the member for Dunkley's contribution and I want to pick up on some of her closing remarks about the future of our kids and the stuff they're doing. What really impresses me is the fact that our kids and our young people are taking seriously the responsibility for our looking after our environment. What's even better is that they are taking that opportunity themselves, without government interference mandating what they should or shouldn't do. The true value of our democracy is that society makes decisions along the way, not that governments impose those decisions and choices that people make. On this side of the parliament, we fundamentally believe that Australians have a free choice about the things they do or don't do.

The importance of this legislation is that it's about us taking responsibility for the waste that we generate in this country. As I said this morning with Assistant Minister Evans in a video on National Recycling Week, it gives us the opportunity to reuse again and again the raw materials involved in our manufacturing processes. In the long term, that can only be good for us as a country. Nearly 650,000 tonnes of waste was exported overseas in 2018-19, or some 40,000 shipping or containers. They would span from Sydney to Canberra if laid end to end.

Through this legislation, the Morrison government is introducing the important notion of responsibility for our waste. It's the first time ever that a Commonwealth government has shown true commitment to taking this important environmental and economic policy reform. The Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill will provide a national framework to manage waste and recycling across Australia now and into the future. It implements an export ban on waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, and was agreed to by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments in March this year. The waste export ban is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our waste management and recycling sector to collect, recycle, reuse and convert waste into a resource. This reform is expected to see the Australian economy turn over an additional $3.6 billion and potentially generate $1.5 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years. Importantly, this is ultimately about jobs. These new industries and new opportunities that will be created have the potential to create jobs—as I said when I was with the assistant minister this morning, jobs in the city of Logan and the northern Gold Coast. In many regards, those things are already occurring.

I note that the member for Dunkley, in her speech, referred to kids in school. Well, I want to mention two great programs that are been funded by the Commonwealth government through the Community Environment Program grants process. Beenleigh State High School received $18,500 to implement recommendations to improve waste management systems and Marsden State High School received nearly $7,000 for a waste compounding and recycling centre, where they can sort their general waste in order to reduce their carbon footprint. They discovered through this process that they have reduced their landfill by over 85 per cent, and they've also introduced a container deposit scheme.

Importantly, local businesses in my electorate of Forde are already highly involved in the resource recovery and waste recycling process. Gold Coast Resource Recovery has established a dedicated agency and service network to provide recycling solutions for used lead-acid batteries and used non-lead batteries in such a way that it ensures long-term environmental sustainability. V Resource is another local company based in Loganholme who are also researching and harnessing the latest technology to advance battery recycling. They say their goal is to protect the environment and produce cleaner, higher quality lead goods through recycling lead-acid batteries by using particular pre-treatment processes. In addition, there is Molectra. One of the items that we've got on that list for non-export is tyres. Molectra are dedicated to reprocessing tyres into a range of products. The are used in road surfaces. They create rubber car-stops for car parks and a range of other products from these recycled tyres. He's built this business from the ground up over many years. It continues to grow and is now moving to bigger premises as a result of the expansion of the business over the past few years. These are just a couple of the businesses in my electorate of Forde that are doing terrific work in the recycling space.

I'd also like to mention Recycling Developments. They take over 90 per cent of in-coming waste to be transferred into useful, cost-effective environmental products such as soil, mulch, aggregate and recycled timber products. Also, the federal government, through I think the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, invested $6 million in a trial with Logan City Council to take sewerage waste solids at the Loganholme sewerage waste treatment plant to be converted into biochar. These are just another couple of examples of what is being done in conjunction with the private sector with the assistance of government funding. I note the member for Dunkley referred to plastics. That is, indeed, a huge problem—the issue of plastics getting into our waterways and oceans. But I note with interest something I read recently. Redland City Council, which our good colleague the member for Bowman represents, have built a one-kilometre stretch of road on Princess Street at Cleveland infused with recycled plastic called Green Roads PolyPave.

So we can see from those examples, and a number of others that I will refer to, that there are an enormous number of initiatives going on right across the country, separate from this legislation that we have introduced and are debating today, for people already looking for opportunities to recycle and reuse the waste we create. The member for New England in his contribution earlier remarked on the importance of water. At Teys abattoirs in my electorate, they have put in a new treatment plant which has reduced their carbon footprint. As a consequence of doing that, the methane gas emitted in the treatment process is now captured and used to generate heat for their boilers, cutting the facility's natural gas consumption by over 30 per cent. Also part of that was a major water recycling initiative at the Beenleigh plant, through its utilities reduction program. As a result of that, the abattoir has been able to reduce its daily water consumption at the Beenleigh site by some 30 per cent. These are good, practical, on-the-ground measures that are ensuring our valuable resources are well used, not overused. That's important, especially considering that we've come out of a drought in Queensland in the last little while. Water security and the use of water have been critically important in that.

Another business that I've had the pleasure of meeting with recently is BlockTexx. BlockTexx recycle textiles. Until I met with them, I wasn't aware that textiles are one of the major contributors to our landfill problem. Blocktexx are looking to unlock the value of discarded textiles by recycling and reprocessing them. That way, they can be reused to make new garments. That is another tremendous example of an area that we probably don't talk about. It is not on the list we refer to. But still these products are filling up our landfill sites. The member for Moreton, on the other side of the chamber, well knows—not that it's in his patch, but it's not too far from both of our parts of the world—the enormous issues they're having in and around Ipswich with landfills taking rubbish and waste from South-East Queensland and also interstate. So these are pressing issues that need to be dealt with for the future health of our communities.

One product that is not often talked about but a product I have followed with a bit of interest over the last little while is solar panels. In a report several years ago, the Japanese government noted their growing concern about how the millions of solar panels that are being used around the world—specifically those in Japan—are going to be recycled, given the volume of toxic materials in those solar panels. I'm very pleased to say that the LNP Queensland opposition have recently announced that, if they are elected to government on the weekend, they will open a solar panel recycling facility in South-East Queensland, to work with councils to build new roads from recycled plastic as part of a plan to create new jobs and protect our environment. That is a tremendous initiative, especially when you think that solar panels have a life of 20-odd years and many are now coming to the end of their useful life. Given the number of solar panels we have in our roofs, particularly in Queensland but also in other states, how those solar panels are possibly going to be recycled is a real issue of concern. We certainly don't want them going into landfill, given the toxic materials that they create.

Earlier I reflected on a program by Redland City Council. A number of years ago Gold Coast city council paved a trial patch of road with recycled rubber in the road surface to see how that worked. I'm aware of a number of governments overseas that are using recycled plastics and rubber for conduits to run electrical cables and other things under footpaths so they're easily accessible. There are a range of these initiatives, and I'm very pleased to see that the LNP state government has committed to making Queensland the recycling state, whether it's building green roads from recycled plastic, establishing the solar panel recycling industry or banning batteries and e-waste from landfill. With Minister Evans, I recently had the pleasure of meeting, in Yatala in my electorate, with TES, who take computers and old phones, break them down and recycle them. There is support for a recycling research and development centre and the fast-tracking of approvals for recycling infrastructure. All of these initiatives, whether they be at a school, community or private sector level and whether they are proposals by the LNP state opposition or the work that this government is doing through these bills, show that the Morrison government and this side of the House are committed to ensuring the long-term future and sustainability of our environment for the generations to come. I commend this bill in its original form to the House.

1:24 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Recycling and Waste Reduction 2020 and the associated bills and note the amendment moved by the member for Freemantle: 'whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes the government's poor handling and chronic delay in delivering meaningful regulatory reform for waste management and product stewardship in Australia'. I say upfront that, obviously, Labor will be supporting the legislation, but there is the opportunity to draw the attention of the people of Australia to what the government has actually been doing.

These bills will introduce a ban on the export of waste through the establishment of a new licensing and declaration scheme and will also make some small adjustments to existing product stewardship laws, many of which are long overdue. But, as all of the speakers on both sides of the House have noted, there is a waste crisis in Australia. We've seen press conferences from those opposite. We've seen the Prime Minister come out and say, 'We're going to ban the export of tyres' et cetera, as if the Prime Minister has decided to stop Australia from exporting waste. But all of us who follow the news know that this is actually a result of the China Sword policy and countries like Malaysia and Vietnam having decided to stop the importation of these materials, which had been going on for a very long time. Many people in the suburbs had taken the time to recycle this relatively low-quality material by putting it in their yellow bins, and through other recycling programs. Unfortunately, even with those efforts, there's still a relatively high rate of contamination. So I understand why these countries have decided to stop taking our rubbish. It would have been nice to believe that those materials that were taken overseas were being reused, recycled and then sent back to us as a different product. But the reality, more often than not, was that rubbish was being burned or buried in fields or, even worse, thrown into rivers and was coming back to Australia as pollution, as some sort of environmental damage. So we can understand why those countries have decided to stop that practice.

I am very cynical about a Prime Minister who says, 'I am going to take control.' It's like when you're a kid and you say to someone, 'You can't come to my birthday party,' and then that kid turns around and says, 'I have decided not to go to your birthday party.' This is what the Prime Minister is effectively doing by saying, 'We've got a great waste reduction policy.' In reality, he is just trying to put an advertising agency employee's spin on a global situation—the ad man trying to turn a bad situation into something positive. We do know that there is so much more to do, and it is hard policy. To get Australians to reduce waste material, to reuse it and to recycle it as much as possible does come down to individual choices. I guess it is that classic intersection of the Liberal Party saying, 'Oh, no, it's just individual choices,' against the Labor Party saying, 'It's a collective responsibility.'

There are some things underway. I am glad to be a member of the committee chaired by the member for New England, with the deputy chair being the member for Cunningham, that is looking at recycling. We know it is a big problem confronting people. We heard from the member for Dunkley that it was suggested by one of her constituents that people ingest a credit-card's worth of plastic every week. There is the horrible figure of Australians producing 100 kilograms of plastic waste per capita every year. Obviously, we do make a bit of an effort to reduce waste, and we have changed. But, sadly, when you look back over the last 30 or 40 years, we see we are in a worse position than we were even in 2005. There is less infrastructure in Australia to deal with recycling now than there was in 2005. We know that the amount of plastic being produced is likely to increase and that part of big plastic's approach to business is to keep producing plastic well into the future.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order. The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.