Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 December 2010) . . Page.. 5801 ..
fact that the bags are lightweight allows large numbers to be distributed and stored at least environmental cost per bag.
NARGA also made the point that if people cannot obtain lightweight shopping bags they will have to buy plastic bin liners and garbage bags, as touched on earlier. This is yet another Simon Corbell imposed cost which is entirely unnecessary. It seems that the purpose behind so many government policies now is to impose either additional costs on consumers or additional burdens, and we are seeing it again.
Concerns have also been raised with the Canberra Liberals over the safety of people who work in retail shops who have to handle bags, and how overfilling bags, because they are expensive, can lead to injuries to checkout operators. Reusable bags, we have been told by both NARGA and the chamber of commerce, can also pose health risks to people if they are packing food in a bag that has been stored perhaps in the boot of a car, or has become contaminated from food spills. Mr Corbell, what study did you undertake to ensure that these risks to retail workers and shoppers are minimised? Is this included in the secret regulatory impact statement?
The government cites a survey that it undertook prior to developing this bill. The survey, conducted by consultants on behalf of DECCEW, surveyed 560 households via telephone and via self-select surveys taken at shopping centres and online. According to the survey:
Because of its nature, the telephone survey has a high degree of statistical reliability. The shopping centre and online surveys, self-select in nature and smaller in sample size, lack the statistical validity of the telephone survey.
The results of the telephone survey show that only 33 per cent of Canberrans support a ban on plastic shopping bags. Mr Speaker, 33 per cent of Canberrans support a ban on plastic shopping bags. So the most reliable part of the survey shows that only a third of Canberrans support the ban that is proposed in this bill. The survey also states on page 2:
Opinions expressed in submissions to DECCEW or through the website, or offered in the online forum, were diverse in their nature. There was support for restrictive government action, just as there was support for the status quo: no obvious majority view was evident. In similar vein, stakeholders raised diverse concerns about the issue. In the main, however, retailers and organisations representing retailers preferred no action, or action that was consistent across jurisdictions.
Another frustrating part of this bill is the penalties, which I have touched on earlier. The chamber of commerce has told us to consider the following scenarios to which these penalties would apply. The first is a shop assistant trying to assist a little old lady who has left her shopping bags at home and the shop assistant tries to do the little old lady a favour by giving her a plastic bag to carry her bread, milk and a couple of items home. It is a $27½ thousand fine to the employer of the shop assistant or a store holder at a market like the Old Bus Depot, who was only trying to help the little old lady or someone who went to the event not intending to make a purchase, who saw a few items they liked but who did not have a shopping bag in their back pocket, if the stall assistant provides them with a plastic bag to help them carry a few items home.