Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment Bill 2009
Extract from Hansard: Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Ms A.S. CARLES: My amendment proposes to delete the words “25% of” from line 16 on page 4 of the bill. This is a very simple amendment that will restore the integrity of the waste avoidance and resource recovery account. The Greens (WA) are very concerned about the way money will be diverted to the Department of Environment and Conservation under this bill. The original legislation allocated 100 per cent of the waste levy to the WARR account, but if the minister’s amendment is passed today, only 25 per cent of the levy will be allocated to the WARR account.
My amendment would restore the original intent of the levy so that 100 per cent of the levy would go into the WARR account. It is absolutely essential that we fund the Waste Authority as an independent body if we are genuinely serious about addressing waste reduction in this state. The current bill creates a direct conflict of interest between the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Waste Authority. The department will have a financial incentive to encourage more waste to landfill because its funding is tied to the levy. There is no incentive for the DEC to promote waste reduction, as this would reduce the funding it receives. This is like the police retaining speeding fines to offset budget cuts. A similar conflict arose with the former Department of Conservation and Land Management in relation to forest logging. The conflict was removed through the creation of the independent Forest Products Commission, which took on responsibility for logging and left CALM with the responsibility for forest conservation. My amendment will ensure that the new levy amounts are fully hypothecated to waste reduction programs in Western Australia under the control of the existing Waste Authority. This will also remove the unacceptable burden on our local councils of being tax collectors for the Department of Environment and Conservation. It is a simple amendment to restore the integrity of the waste management system in this state. Such a change will, of course, require that the government ensure that DEC’s funding is secured, as it always has been, out of
appropriations from the consolidated account.
Ms A.S. CARLES: I certainly support what the member for Rockingham said. As a matter of democracy, there is absolutely no reason why this legislation cannot be brought on for debate tomorrow. We all know exactly why it is being rushed through today.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Fremantle!
Ms A.S. CARLES: This is a matter of great public importance.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Fremantle, sit down please. I have given a lot of latitude in the debate on whether this bill should be debated today, tomorrow or next week. We have heard what the member for Rockingham said and what the Leader of the House said. I just warned the member for Rockingham not to traverse this question again and now the member for Fremantle is traversing the question again. Would the member please refer her comments to the amendment before this chamber.
Ms A.S. CARLES: I can see the headlines tomorrow: “Member for Kalgoorlie places races ahead of waste management”. It is important to note that last week the member for Balcatta alluded in his reference to the crux of this argument – that is, the 25 per cent or 100 per cent of the forecast levy being used for waste management – to the issue of illegality. I absolutely agree with him. We are calling something a waste levy, and it is simply not. The government’s constituents would be horrified if they understood what is going on here today. It is a waste levy and it is similar to the emergency services levy. Imagine the public reaction if the government decided to give only 25 per cent of that levy to emergency and rip off 75 per cent for superannuation funds or something. That is what is going on here.
Dr G.G. Jacobs: It is not for superannuation funds, and the member knows that. We have talked about this.
Ms A.S. CARLES: No, it is for a different purpose. My point is that the emergency services levy is for that purpose and this waste levy should be for the purpose of waste management in this state and it is not. There is an issue of illegality in this legislation. Did the minister seek legal advice about calling this a waste levy and asking local councils to collect it for the government when it is not a levy, it is a Department of Environment and Conservation tax? I would like a response to that question, please.
Ms A.S. CARLES: The minister just referred to the legal advice that he sought on a timing issue and stated that the amendments in the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Amendment Bill 2009 had to be in place prior to the 300 per cent increase in the levy. That is not what I was alluding to when I talked about the illegality of this waste levy. I was talking about the waste levy being set up under the waste avoidance and resource recovery legislation and going 100 per cent into the WARR account. The proposed amendment would direct 75 per cent of that money to an entirely different purpose. Has the minister sought the State Solicitor’s advice about whether it is legal to change the purpose of that waste levy? I would appreciate it if the minister tabled the legal advice.
Dr G.G. JACOBS: In answer to the member for Fremantle, I am advised that this is covered by the levy act, which places a levy on the disposal of waste. It does not specify how the funds should be used. This levy is about a disincentive to create landfill waste and encouraging recycling; it is nothing more and nothing less. The State Solicitor’s advice was that when the legislative amendments are in place, the increase will be valid.
Ms A.S. CARLES: The minister does not see any problem with ratepayers having to pay a waste levy that is ultimately a tax for the DEC. Can the minister honestly not see the inherent problem here?