ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AMENDMENT (LANDFILL LEVIES) BILL

Posted on 28. Apr, 2010 in Speeches

Second reading  Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I rise to speak in support of the Environment Protection Amendment (Landfill Levies) Bill 2010. I should say from the beginning that this bill is particularly close to my heart in the sense that it affects my electorate probably more than that of any other member in this house. You only have to look at a Google map of the south‑west end of my electorate to see that it is just like a moonscape out there, to put it politely. This is simply because that part of the Clayton electorate has been used for decades now as a dumping ground and tip for the whole of Melbourne, if I could say it politely.

It is a horrendous situation. We are talking about operators in the so‑called recycling industry as if they are really contributing, as if they in fact care that much. Time and again operators have been just horrendous. Unfortunately, going back through successive governments our Environment Protection Authority has been a toothless tiger. No matter how hard the residents complain, we do not seem to be getting anywhere.

I now have a concrete crusher operating in my electorate. We call this a ‘recycling industry’ and it sounds very nice, but the fact of the matter is they are now using chemicals to break the concrete, and these chemicals are seeping into the water system. The residents are up in arms because they are fearful and worried about the consequences of this and how it is affecting their houses. We have schools nearby, and the dust coming from this operation is going to kill people’s livelihoods. The stories just go on and on.

This is not even to mention the horrendous trucks that bring in the garbage, sometimes to sites that are not supposed to be receiving such rubbish. However, they still bring it in, and the mud from the tyres of the trucks is making life a misery for residents in the surrounding areas.

I could go on and on, but let me come back to the bill. I hope with this amendment bill we will see a better environment. I hope we will come to a time when these operators act in accordance with their consciences. I understand that they are big worldwide companies, the owners of which probably do not reside here, but simply employ Australians and earn millions of dollars for themselves and their countries.

We trust that the fees being charged for the disposal of waste to landfill will pay for the provision of the service. But an equally important role is to promote recycling and encourage a reduction in waste disposal. There are both economic and environmental imperatives in this approach, and this is very much common knowledge. The government set out a 10‑year strategy in its Towards Zero Waste strategy released in 2005. These imperatives are articulated on page 5 of that document, and I quote:

The amount of waste generated will be substantially reduced. There will be less squandering of recoverable materials and our valuable natural resources will be protected. There will be less greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and litter and our environment will be cleaner and healthier for all Victorians. This will be achieved with a net economic benefit to the state.

The 2005 strategy points out that over the previous 10‑year period Victorians recycled something like 35 million tonnes of waste, which was four times that of 1993. In 2002–03 Victorians recycled a record 51 per cent of the total solid waste stream. That is quite an achievement and amounted to 222 kilograms per household, or something like 393 000 tonnes of recyclable containers, paper and cardboard, and 167 000 tonnes of green organics. Page 18 of the strategy quantifies the benefit as:

saving 7320 megalitres of water — enough to fill about 3000 Olympic‑sized swimming pools

preventing 237 000 tonnes of greenhouse gases — equivalent to taking 40 000 cars off the road

saving another 237 000 tonnes of solid waste — enough to fill 259 quarter‑acre blocks with garbage.

I can envisage all these figures because people living in my electorate are living with it every day.

Recycling has been working. However, more remains to be done. The 2005 strategy set targets to 2014, and these were reviewed in the government’s report Toward Zero Waste Strategy Progress Report 2007–08, which found the following:

61 per cent of all Victoria’s solid waste was recycled in
2007–08 (compared to 62 per cent for 2006–07).

Victoria’s commercial and industrial (C&I) and construction and demolition (C&D) sectors exceeded their 2007–08 resource recovery targets by 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

I have mentioned the collateral damage to the community when they are not really operating by the book and in line with the expectations of the community.

Victoria’s municipal sector fell 2 per cent short of the 2007–08 resource recovery target of 42 per cent. Meeting the target of a 1.5 million tonne reduction in total waste compared to business as usual remains a significant challenge, especially in light of Victoria’s projected population growth.

When one looks at the municipal figures, one realises more needs to be done. The bill amends schedule D to the Environment Protection Act 1970 to increase the metropolitan/provincial municipal levy to $30 per tonne on 1 July and then to $40 per tonne on 1 July 2011; to increase the metropolitan/provincial industrial levy to $30 per tonne on 1 July and then to $40 per tonne on 1 July 2011; to increase the rural municipal levy to $15 per tonne on 1 July and then to $20 per tonne on 1 July 2011; and to increase the rural industrial levy to $25 per tonne on 1 July and then to $35 per tonne on l July 2011.

I mention this increase in the levy because I was perturbed by the front page of my local paper reporting on the chief executive officers and mayors of five municipalities complaining about the rate. If you look at the rate, you realise it is pretty insignificant. The action taken under this bill will be not only economically responsible but also hopefully the right thing environmentally. I commend the bill to the house.

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