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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4764 ..

Government's voluntary approach fails

The Federal Government has failed to take mandatory measures to reduce plastic bags consumption in Australia. I predict that the voluntary code agreement that has been reached with state governments and industry to reduce plastic bag use by 50% will fail.

Voluntary tax

Consumers will not have to pay the levy. It is a voluntary tax. Only consumers who use plastic bags will pay.

Meanwhile the current situation, whereby plastic bags are given away "free"by supermarkets means that the cost of the bags is built into increased prices of goods purchased by all consumers, whether they take the bags or not.


A levy has been demonstrated to work overseas and in Australia, and it has huge public support.

The overwhelming body of evidence presented to the committee suggested that the number of plastic bags presents a large and costly environmental problem and that a levy should be imposed.

The Senate should agree to the passage of these bills.

Bob Brown.

So, I cannot support a motion that does not include a commitment to take mandatory action. I do not have a problem with the government congratulating itself on some of what it has done but I will not support their amendment if it means ruling out Mrs Dunne's motion because at this stage, despite the irrelevance of a lot of the other propositions, it is Vicki Dunne's motion that comes closer to doing something concrete to address the real issue.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (10.15): Mr Speaker, I think it is important that we acknowledge the work that has been done by jurisdictions around Australia-jurisdictions led, indeed, by the Commonwealth minister for the environment-in relation to a regime for the management of plastic bags. I think we all acknowledge the significant environmental issue posed by plastic bags, both in their manufacture and in their disposition, and certainly the extent to which they create very significant hazards, particularly in the marine environment.

The ACT has been a very keen and active representative on both the Plastic Bags Working Group and the National Waste Working Group, which reported to state and territory environment ministers on these national waste issues. We have been very heavily involved through departmental officers in the Department of Urban Services.

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