Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 5798..
MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.47): Mr Speaker, members of this place have a responsibility to work to protect the environment, and those on this side of the chamber always support sensible, reasonable and well thought through measures to protect the unique natural environment of our bush capital.
Unfortunately, the bill before the Assembly today is not an environmental protection bill, nor is it sensible, reasonable or well thought through. First, it is not a bill that will protect the environment. It just makes life harder for small businesses. It makes life harder and more expensive for shoppers. It is a bill that contains outrageous penalties for a not-so-outrageous offence. We are turning people whose only act is to offer a plastic bag to shoppers into criminals. Seriously! In the words of Dr Chris Peters from the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it is a "solution looking for a problem".
The Canberra Liberals will not support the passage of this bill through the Assembly today. I would like to spend a few moments reflecting on why this bill should not be passed. My office has been in contact with many stakeholders on this bill over the last few weeks and I have heard a variety of concerns about the impact this bill will have on business. I remain unconvinced that the government has done its homework on this bill; so the concerns that have been raised with my office appear to have fallen on deaf ears on the government side of the chamber. Perhaps the most important reason why this bill should not be passed is that it is a lazy effort by a lazy government—a government that has not properly consulted business and consumers or considered the impact of this bill on Canberrans.
This bill was introduced in the October sitting of the Assembly earlier this year. The minister for the environment, Mr Corbell, informed me at the recent annual reports hearing in November this year that a regulatory impact statement had yet to be finalised. Therefore, this bill was introduced to the Assembly and had presumably passed through cabinet without the government properly considering its regulatory impact. I am now advised, today, that the regulatory impact statement is cabinet-in-confidence. They did not have a regulatory impact statement when cabinet considered the bill, but they rushed away after they introduced the bill and prepared a regulatory impact statement. Apparently it is being considered by cabinet now and cannot be seen by anyone else.
Mr Speaker, not only has the government not done its homework but also it has not considered the full costs and benefits of the policy. In 2006 the Productivity Commission stated in its waste management report:
Based on the evidence available to the Commission, it appears that the Australian, State and Territory Governments do not have a sound case for proceeding with their proposed phase out of plastic retail carry bags.
Has the government listened to the Productivity Commission? Can Mr Corbell enlighten us today as to how this scheme is a sound case? The Productivity Commission also highlighted other environmental factors which should be considered.