Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 2 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 551..
MS LE COUTEUR (continuing):
Though I support this bill today, I have concerns along the same lines as my colleague Mr Coe about the idea of simply increasing penalties and imposing strict liabilities for offences that are difficult to police. In particular, I am very concerned that this bill will allow for the impounding of a litterer's car for aggregated littering offences or dumping offences. This seems unnecessary and disproportionate, as Mr Coe said. I will be seeking support for an amendment I will move to remove these clauses.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (7.40), in reply: I thank members for their contribution, though I am disappointed with their reluctance to support the bill as introduced in its entirety.
As members will be aware, the removal of asbestos-contaminated waste dumped on public land in Belconnen late last year cost the ACT government—that is, the people of the ACT—$340,000 to remove, in direct costs and waived tip fees. The site has now been cleared of all contaminated materials; however, there are still rehabilitation works required to fully restore the land. I was as appalled as I am sure all members were that people within our community—in other words, our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues and our associates—felt that such actions were appropriate with their waste, their refuse and, I think most disappointingly, their hazardous waste. There they were, apparently, loading up their trailers, their utes and their trucks, all adding their own patch of waste to this growing pile. And none of them, it seems, cared.
The site was originally used during the construction of the GDE for storing materials, site sheds and soil waste by the GDE contractor. Once that process had been completed, and prior to that initial soil waste being fully removed, the process began. It is not good enough. It is an issue around which we do need a cultural change. We as a community expect more than such a blatant disregard of acceptable practices.
This bill amends a series of acts and regulations with a view to decreasing incidents of illegal dumping and facilitating the recovery of costs, public money, involved in removing illegally dumped material from public property.
First, the bill amends the Dangerous Substances Act to clarify its operation by the insertion of new examples regarding the dumping of dangerous substances. "Dangerous substances"is already defined in the act to include asbestos, arsenic and other poisons, flammable liquids and explosives. New examples directly relating to asbestos dumping are given in relation to section 43 (1), "Failure to comply with safety duty—exposing people to substantial risk of death or serious harm".
Secondly, the bill makes some substantial changes to the Litter Act. Penalties are being increased for aggravated littering under section 9 of the Litter Act, to a maximum of $10,000, one year's imprisonment or both, for individuals, and a maximum penalty of $50,000 for corporations—effectively doubling current penalties.
The bill also introduces three new offences into the Litter Act that focus on the act of dumping litter and commercial waste. These offences are in addition to the existing offences which are characterised by the act of depositing litter and commercial waste and introduce strict liability offences for the actions.