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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4760 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

In addition, we should be looking at a whole range of solutions for encouraging people to use alternative bags. If the government works with the community, we might find that from time to time there is need for some subsidy. In the long term this is about getting an environmental outcome. This territory has a proud history of being proactive in waste reduction. It was the first polity in Australia, and probably in the world, to set targets for the reduction of waste.

Under this present government I think we have dropped the ball. It would be useful for this government to show that it is committed to reducing the waste stream by supporting this motion, rather than just sitting on its hands and saying, "We have signed up to the protocol."I ask the government to support this motion so that we can make serious progress on reducing the number of plastic bags in the waste stream. I commend the motion to the house.

MS DUNDAS (10.01): I note that the government has circulated an amendment to the motion moved by Mrs Dunne, and I hope that the Chief Minister will join us in the debate and move that amendment.

The ACT Democrats are supportive of any measures which significantly reduce plastic bag usage. Mrs Dunne has provided us with a lot of information about use of plastic bags in the community and the work that is already under way to reduce plastic bag use. I note that in Ireland the 15 Euro cent levy on plastic bags has been operating for over a year. Reports show that usage has fallen by 90 per cent and that the Irish government has raised almost 10 million Euros in revenue.

I understand that in September, Bunnings introduced a 10c levy on plastic bags and that that has cut plastic bag usage by approximately 43 per cent. Introducing a plastic bag levy is not the only means of cutting plastic bag usage but so far, at least from the examples that have been provided, it has been proven to be the most effective.

I think we also need to look at other work that is being done with the introduction by a lot of retailers of canvas bags and paper bags. We have to look at what we as a community can do to look at our own plastic bag use. The whole idea of using a canvas bag or reusing bags is not new. My family always used string bags or a little box cart on wheels when they went shopping. These ideas are now slowly being used throughout the broader community. I think we need to recognise that there are different ways of approaching this problem. A lot of work is being done by the Australian Retailers Association, by individual shop owners, and by governments across the country.

The minister's amendment-I will speak to it pre-emptively, if I may-is something that the ACT Democrats are supportive of. It talks about setting targets and achievable goals. I think we have passed the point of needing to trial a plastic bag levy or the use of biodegradable or degradable plastic bags, as called for in the motion moved by Mrs Dunne. We have the information and results to show that these trials have worked, and it is time to start implementing them.

While I disagree with the recent Environment Protection and Heritage Council decision not to implement a plastic bag levy, it is constitutionally difficult for the ACT to go it alone. Retailers do not have a deadline to work with in order to reduce plastic bag usage, and the Assembly cannot alter the decisions but needs to work within the 2005

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