Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment Bill
Extract from Hansard [ASSEMBLY – Wednesday, 19 August 2009]
MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [1.46 pm]: I concur with my opposition colleagues in opposing this bill. We Greens are strong advocates of sound waste management and would be supportive of this bill if the landfill levy was to be used to provide resources to fund projects for advancing waste reduction and recycling, but it is not. What we have here is a cash grab for the underfunded Department of Environment and Conservation. I am advised that the levy will add $39 million a year to DEC’s revenue, based on landfill levy predictions, but even that amount fails to make up for the $50 million worth of annual cuts to DEC elsewhere in the budget. The actual revenue from the levy may well fall short of the projected amount, widening the funding gap between DEC’s previous consolidated revenue-based budget and the 2009-10 budget.
Even if the levy is effective in reducing the amount of waste disposed of – in other words, if people start recycling more – then under this regime DEC will get less money. DEC’s budget will also be eroded if waste contractors and businesses simply start dumping waste in un-gated landfill sites, particularly on the fringes of the metropolitan area. There are also problems with the issue of enforcement. The Minister for Environment has said that there will be fines for illegal dumping, that she will be increasing these significantly and that WA Police will have a role in enforcing this. However, the Commissioner of Police has stated to the media that he was previously unaware of the planned police role in monitoring illegal dumping. As such, it is highly unlikely that the police will have allocated resources or have made plans to fulfil this role in the medium term. The police may therefore resist moves to have police officers monitor illegal dumping. There is also no levy on regional sites, so contractors may simply opt to haul waste to unregulated, un-gated tips, such as that at Northam.
Another problem is the lack of consultation for this bill. The bill creates an unfair burden on local councils. We have heard a lot of what WALGA has had to say about this. It will have to deal with irate residents who will query why they are suddenly being expected to fund DEC through their rates bills. It is unreasonable to expect local councils to collect what is essentially a tax for DEC. I emphasise that the Greens are not opposed to a landfill levy. We would welcome an equitable, well-based and well-policed levy with a responsible flow of revenue to waste reduction initiatives in this state. The Greens want a landfill levy that creates incentives to reduce waste that goes to landfill. We would achieve this through the following mechanisms: providing government assistance and promotion for home composting programs that prevent kitchen and garden waste from entering the domestic waste stream; implementing a container deposit scheme for Western Australia as a matter of urgency; increasing funding for DEC staff to better regulate waste management facilities and landfill support; and funding comprehensive recycling programs in Western Australia. The landfill levy should be about creating financial incentives to divert waste. The way in which this government is increasing the levy, however, amounts to diverting household income into the coffers of an agency that should instead be properly funded from consolidated revenue. The Greens want to see the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act used effectively so that it can support our transition to a waste-free society through product stewardship schemes and extended producer responsibility schemes. This current attempt to manipulate the landfill levy and this important environmental legislation is of grave concern to the Greens.
To conclude, we are very concerned about the state of the environment in Western Australia. We are concerned at the low priority being given by the government to environmental matters in Western Australia, as evidenced by the current funding cuts to the DEC. We are seeing an erosion of environmental protection in this state. Environmental approvals are being given without proper scrutiny, consultation and assessment. This bill is an example of the governments cavalier attitude to the environment. This bill is ill-conceived and has been hastily introduced without consultation, and we cannot support it.