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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4761 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

timeframe. We need to work with the retailers to make sure they reach the 50 per cent reduction by 2005. If it does not look like retailers are going to meet that target, then that is when we need to step in and work with the retailers to make sure that they can do so. We need to work with the community so that they know the benefits of not continually using plastic bags. So I think there is work to be done, but it is work to be done in the context of the debate that has already happened.

I commend Mrs Dunne for bringing this motion to the attention of the Assembly so that we can have debate here on the floor of the Assembly. I must also congratulate people for the work that has already been done. I recognise that there is still a lot of work to be done within that framework to make sure that the agreement that has been reached is followed so that we can see a reduction in the use of plastic bags within this community.

MS TUCKER (10.05): I do not think there is any need to articulate now in detail the environmental harm that is caused by plastic bags, especially the ubiquitous lightweight disposable plastic bags that are such a feature of our shopping culture. Suffice it to say that the impact on the physical environment and on its wildlife is significant. One helpful example of the pervasiveness of plastic bags is research into bird life on Macquarie Island where animals were found to have suffocated or starved due to inhaling or ingesting small amounts of plastic bags.

Today the report of the Senate environment committee inquiry into the Plastic Bag Levy (Assessment and Collection) Bill 2002 and the Plastic Bag (Minimisation of Usage) Education Fund Bill 2002 was released and its contents are quite interesting. The report has come forward with a number of very compelling arguments as to why a levy on the use of plastic bags is the best way to ensure that the use of plastic bags is minimised; and why, if a levy cannot be imposed, at the very least a system which ensures a charge applies to plastic bags is necessary. However, for some reason, which is not justified by the committee, the recommendation was not to support the introduction of a levy.

The key information, to which the Senate committee referred to again and again to make its secret opinion known, can be found in the submission made by Planet Ark, and I will read a few of their well-researched and considered comments:

If a 25 cents levy was introduced, 67 per cent of Australians questioned said they would bring their own bag to the supermarket to avoid paying the levy. This shows its effect as a behavioural change agent. In Ireland, 9 out of every 10 people avoid paying the Irish levy by bringing their own bags or by using no bag when shopping.

The submission continued:

For many years, Woolworths, Coles and Safeways have had plastic bag recycling facilities in nearly all of their stores. Despite this, 62 per cent of people questioned said they had never recycled a plastic bag in a retail outlet where these recycling bins are available. The actual recycling rate for plastic bags in Australia is currently about 3 per cent. This figure shows how plastic bag recycling has failed despite the best efforts of the supermarkets.

They also comment on the Irish legislation:

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