Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 938 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
However, the real project of cleaning up Australia is something bigger than a day in a year when we scrape up all the plastic bags, cigarette butts and shopping trolleys lying around. It is a project to restructure how we cost materials. It is a project about how we build social and environmental priorities into our economic organisation.
The value of Clean Up Australia is that it gives a public value to a less despoiled environment. In its own fairly simple, nice way, it is a visionary project, in that over time it seeks to influence our expectations and desires of the world we inhabit. So some of the signs of rubbish that Clean Up Australia draws our attention to, such as plastic bags, take-away food containers and cigarette butts, provide a useful focus for action.
The issue of plastic bags and take-away food and drink containers has come up in this place on several occasions. Before I was here, there was a committee inquiry into container deposit legislation, chaired, I think, by Michael Moore. Since then, the Greens have certainly raised the question in this place. I remember that we asked Mr Wood to take a strong position on this issue to the ministerial meeting he attended-from memory, last year.
The Greens here tabled a bill aimed at reducing plastic bag use. However, we have some problems with it because it can be perceived to be a tax or levy. So that is still on the notice paper. In 2002, Senator Bob Brown tabled a bill in the Senate to provide for the assessment and collection of a 25 cent levy on all supermarket plastic bags, except those necessary for fresh meat, fish and poultry. That legislation mirrored the Irish plastic bags levy, introduced in 2002. That has caused a 90 per cent reduction in the use of plastic bags.
There is a problem in Australia. Under the Australian Constitution, the Senate cannot instigate a bill for a levy, so Peter Andren, the Independent member for Calare, has agreed and moved complementary legislation in the House of Representatives to impose a 25 cent levy, which will go to a fund for environmental purposes. They are still on the table there, and it will be interesting to see what happens. I notice the industry is lobbying furiously against it.
Another issue I would like to raise in this debate is one raised recently by a constituent-that is the question of syringes. The comment was made that an adult person found a syringe in the area of Dickson and chose to pick it up. They could not find a sharps container. They thought there would probably be one in the toilets at Dickson. However, this person was not able to find a sharps container in the toilets at Dickson.
I am not quite sure what the government's policy is concerning sharps containers. This person was left in the uncomfortable situation of not knowing what to do with the syringe. They ended up putting it, sealed, into an ordinary bin. I don't know that that is what we really want!
Cigarette butts are always an issue. Whenever I have participated in Clean Up Australia Day, a big issue is cigarette butts. It is a problem because they do not decompose easily at all. I do not know why that is, and why cigarette manufacturers will not make butts that decompose.