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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 December 2010) . . Page.. 5807 ..


Attempts at voluntary measures have unfortunately failed in the past. As Minister Corbell has pointed out, despite the presence of a voluntary retailer code of practice, usage of plastic bags increased by 10 million bags between 2005 and 2007. I am also satisfied that new retailers will be assisted with compliance by ORS. We have just seen a similar situation with the introduction of new signage requirements for retail eggs. ORS has worked with retailers that were not complying and ensured that they complied; there has been no resort to the use of criminal sanctions. ORS does retain the ability, though, to fine a retailer if this is required to ensure compliance in this case. I believe that criminal sanctions are similarly appropriate in the case of plastic bags.

As I have said before, this is legislation to change behaviour, not to fine anybody. I agree with Minister Corbell’s explanation in relation to a due diligence defence. I accept his reasons that due diligence is not necessary in relation to the plastic bag offences in this bill, given that the offences are not ones that directly deal with “harm caused” or “risk of harm caused”. As Mr Corbell also noted, a corporation does retain the “mistake of fact” defence for a strict liability offence.

I will briefly touch on some of the matters that Mr Seselja touched on. He spoke about the throwaway nature of plastic bags and said that this is one of the reasons that we wanted to regulate them. Yes, he is quite right; this is one of the reasons we wanted to regulate them. As Mr Seselja did so rightly point out, one of the reasons we wanted to regulate them is that we are concerned about consumption. The latest copy of the State of the Environment Report by the commissioner for the environment said that the ACT’s inhabitants had, on average, a global footprint of 8.4 global hectares. That means that it takes 8.4 average global hectares to support the lifestyle of each and every one of us in the ACT. Unfortunately, if we look at the average number of global hectares available in the world, there are only 1.9.

In other words, the ACT needs to look at ways of reducing its consumption. The use of plastic bags is a very appropriate, very easy way for us to reduce our consumption. This is very appropriate legislation. I am very pleased that the government has introduced it in response to an item in the parliamentary agreement with the Labor Party, and I commend the bill to the Assembly.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.21): In speaking to the business community, the big concern on this bill is the lack of consultation. Yet again, we have got a minister who makes pronouncements without consultation and then, when the business community react, they get sent letters or emails saying, “Here we are consulting with you now.” Consultation does not occur after the fact. If you are genuine in your consultation and you are genuine in the approach that you want to take and you actually believe in your case, then you would go out and you would have these discussions with affected industries before you start.

I guess when you do not have a regulatory impact statement it is very hard to go out and consult. And that is the problem with this bill as it stands before us. We, as members of the Assembly, are unaware of what the government understands of the impact that this legislation will have. If it is a positive impact, then I am sure the government would have dropped the regulatory impact statement.


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