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Second Speech on the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Plastic Items) Amendment Bill

March 10, 2021

(Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef
and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs) (6.07 pm), in reply: I would like to thank all members of this
House for their participation in the debate on the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Plastic Items)
Amendment Bill 2020. I want to take this opportunity to address some of the issues that have been
raised during this debate.

On this important day we take another step forward in protecting Queensland’s environment. I
think it is important that we set the record straight on some of the opposition’s claims when it comes to
the environmental record here in Queensland. We know that when in government those opposite
scrapped tree-clearing laws, cut funding for climate change programs and sacked staff. They have also
been quite vocal throughout this debate about the Commonwealth’s Recycling Modernisation Fund.

I think it is important to note that in Queensland we are already acting on recycling. In 2018 we
committed to a three-year funding program to stimulate investment in priority recycling infrastructure,
and in 2019 we released the Resource Recovery Industry Development Program. Through our
Resource Recovery Industry Development Program 29 businesses and local governments have
received $34 million in funding to divert 1.3 million tonnes of waste per annum from landfill. These
projects will deliver an additional $193 million in capital investment and create 362 jobs across
Queensland.

We are absolutely committed to reaching an agreement with the Commonwealth on the Recycling
Modernisation Fund, and our officials are working on finalising a deal that will deliver the best possible
outcome for Queensland.

When it comes to the implementation date of the single-use plastics bill, we have committed to
implementing the ban on 1 September 2021, which gives business the time to adapt, source new
alternatives and work through stock they already have. We will work proactively with stakeholder
organisations, our stakeholder advisory group and businesses to communicate these changes and
support them to ensure this change is as seamless as possible from the time the ban comes into effect.
In recognising the wishes of communities and members of this House to further enhance our
plastics response and look at the impact of the current exemptions, I have also instructed my
department to begin the review within 12 months—well within the two-year window prescribed in this
bill—so we can see how these bans are being implemented, how successful it has been to date and to
look at future measures.

I know there has also been considerable comment around schools as an exempt business.
Schools have been identified as being an exempt business to ensure that teachers, students and other
staff with a disability and healthcare needs have continued access to items that will otherwise be
banned. Including schools as a business permitted to continue to provide these banned items does not prevent schools from providing alternative sustainable items. I would like to acknowledge that many schools are already leading on the war on waste with the Straw No More and many other campaigns. I
know that the Minister for Education has already commented on this.

We have also spoken and agreed on the importance of supporting their leadership whilst also
providing single-use plastics for students with additional needs. As such, we will engage with schools
in the coming weeks and inform them of the alternatives to single-use plastics to help more students in
our communities transition to sustainable options. I know from talking to kids and teenagers that they
are some of the most passionate about this issue and I know many schools will voluntarily adopt
measures, spurred on by their students.

With regards to pre-packed items, this exemption is consistent with the approach taken in other
jurisdictions. The recently released South Australian regulation includes exemptions for otherwise
banned single-use items that form an integral part of a food or beverage product. The ACT government
has also announced similar exemptions. As there is often no or limited suitable alternatives for these
products, these items have been specified as an exempt item in the ban. This will be considered though
as part of the review of the bill within one year of commencing. It is something I will also continue to
discuss with my state and federal colleagues, and I will endeavour to keep the House updated on
progress as we continue to work towards eliminating single-use plastic items. Of course we encourage
businesses to make this transition as soon as possible.

I also note the member for Maiwar asked for clarity of definitions. We will continue to work with
key stakeholders to ensure that there is clarity on what items are banned and what items are not
banned. We will develop guidelines, Q&As and other materials through our ongoing engagement to
provide certainty to retailers, consumers and individuals with a disability. The Queensland Disability
Advisory Council has been heavily involved already in the design of provisions in relation to the disability
sector. We will continue to work with the retail and disability sectors to develop and share information
so people are aware of where and how they can still access single-use plastic items in their daily lives.

There has also been some comment on the ability of councils to be able to deal with compostable
straws. Members have raised concerns today about their ability to recycle these plastics, and I
acknowledge that the needs of South-East Queensland communities will differ from regional and remote
communities. I can advise that we are proactively working with the LGAQ to build the capacity and
capability of councils across Queensland and I look forward to sharing more about this in the future. We
have committed to developing that organics plan as well, working with local councils across
Queensland.

This bill builds on the good work the Queensland government has already delivered. Our
commitment started with the introduction of the single-use lightweight plastic shopping bag ban on
1 July 2018 and the highly successful container refund scheme on 1 November 2018. In just over two
years, the container refund scheme has had more than three billion containers returned for a refund
and employs over 700 Queenslanders through over 300 container refund points across Queensland.
That is a pretty impressive feat for a scheme that the Leader of the Opposition said ‘wasn’t working’,
the member for Moggill called ‘a debacle’ and the member for Maroochydore called ‘botched’. The fact
is that the LNP has not done anything but talk down this scheme and discourage uptake when we were
rolling the scheme out.

Fortunately, the people of Queensland did not listen to their whinging and instead got on board
with the container refund scheme, just as they are now getting on board with the measures in this bill.
That is probably why the LNP are now trying to take credit for the scheme. We know the member for
Nanango and her colleagues like to rewrite history on this issue. While I may not have been in this
House, I still have a long enough memory to know that investigating a container refund scheme was a
commitment we on this side of the House brought to the 2015 election. In fact, I table a page of our
2015 progress report that shows the big tick—delivered.

Tabled paper: Extract, undated, from the Progress report on government election commitments, page 72 297.

While they are focused on claiming credit for press conferences from five years ago—and not
implementing the measures when they were actually in government—we on this side of the House are
delivering. This bill will improve the economy of Queensland through the identification of innovative and
sustainable alternative products and also through the creation of opportunities for local manufacturing
and the supply of materials for those items. In addition, this ban will contribute to improving
Queensland’s beautiful environment and marine environments by eliminating these single-use plastic
items that end up as litter and pollution.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the work of the Single-Use Plastic Items Stakeholder Advisory
Group members for the advice and collaborative approach in working with the Department of
Environment and Science in the design of the ban, and going forward the information and awareness program for the implementation of it. I would also like to acknowledge and thank all the staff in the Office of Resource Recovery in the Department of Environment and Science for their work in progressing this
bill as well as my own staff for their efforts.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the work of the former minister and her staff who brought this
bill to the House last year and who have been passionate advocates on this issue on behalf of all
Queenslanders. I also acknowledge the former committee and the current committee that looked at
both pieces of legislation. I feel very honoured to have been able to continue the work of the former
minister on this important bill. I commend the bill to the House.

Question put—That the bill be now read a second time.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.