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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 December 2010) . . Page.. 5802 ..

Minister, the question for the Assembly becomes: what problem are we trying to solve? Do we really want to impose these kinds of penalties on people for simply handing out a plastic bag, given what the Productivity Commission has said and given what the EPA has said on the issue? Do we really see this as a serious policy response? I think the chamber of commerce summed it up best: this bill is a solution looking for a problem. That is why the Canberra Liberals will not support this clumsy piece of legislation.

This law makes handing out a bag a criminal offence, one as bad as selling alcohol to a minor, worse than taking a minor into a brothel. We saw the argument fall apart when the environment minister’s EPA said, “Well, they’re not that much of a problem.” So the minister had to come out and say, “Well, it’s about the perceptions; it’s about the fact that they’re one-off use and it seems a bit wasteful,” even though all those arguments are easily refuted.

I think the explanatory statement actually sums it up. It sums up the motivation of this government, this nanny state approach to policy. It says, “Plastic bags have become a symbol of excessive consumption.” There it is. It is not because they hurt the environment, because the EPA says they are not much of a problem. It is not because they are a serious problem, because the Productivity Commission has looked into it and said, “No, there are no serious problems.” It is because plastic bags have become a symbol of excessive consumption.

I just wonder what other products we could ban that have become a symbol of excessive consumption. Pick a corporation that has been vilified for its products. No doubt there will be an argument that they encourage excessive consumption. Is it Coca-Cola? Is it McDonald’s? Who is it going to be? Whose products are we going to ban because they present a symbol of excessive consumption—these terrible symbols of capitalism and excessive consumption?

That is the true rationale behind this bill. It does not stack up environmentally. It does not stack up when you do a detailed study. The only detailed study in Australia by the Productivity Commission undermined the case for it. It does not stack up in commonsense terms. The community knows it because only one-third of them actually support the ban. Two-thirds understand that this ban will not actually achieve what it is claiming to achieve. It is about dealing with perceptions, we are told; it is about dealing with excessive consumption.

Madam Deputy Speaker, we have serious issues in this community. The prison is already full. Infrastructure is collapsing. Planning is falling apart. There are any number of issues, including the health system. We have the longest waiting list in the country. Yet the Greens and the Labor Party are seeking, through legislation such as this, to turn the bush capital into the nanny state. That is what they are concerned about. They are not concerned about fixing the serious issues but with coming up with solutions to non-problems. For all those reasons, the Canberra Liberals will not be supporting this bill.

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (11.03): The Greens will be supporting the Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Bill today. This bill gives effect to an important environmental

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