Push for plastic bag levy continues

December 3, 2002 - Greens (WA) MLC, Robin Chapple has pledged to continue lobbying the State Government for a levy on the purchase of plastic bags despite government statements that the State could not enact legislation to implement the levy.

In response to a parliamentary question asked by Mr Chapple, the Minister for the Environment advised that the Environment Protection and Heritage Council would write to the National Packaging Covenant Council of Federal, State and Territory Government and 530 companies, the organisation set up to reduce the amount of packaging waste.

Though Minister has urged the council to provide a uniform response to the issue of plastic bags in Australia, she says that National Competition Policy requirements adopted in 1995 prevented WA from enacting its own legislation.

Mr Chapple said today that the Minister's response was inadequate and there was a need for further investigation into WA's ability to implement a levy.

“This is a cop out. WA can do what it likes within this state. While I do agree that there should be a national approach to such a levy, why wait for that to happen when we can lead by example from WA?'

“This state has an immense geographical area and beautiful bushland in the north and south which needs protection from the indiscriminate disposal of plastic bags. A levy will drastically reduce the number of plastic bags supplied by supermarkets and it makes sense that there will be a corresponding decrease of bags visible in the natural environment. It has worked in Ireland – there's absolutely no reason why it cannot be successful here,' he said.

Mr Chapple said that he had written to every state government MP asking for their thoughts on the matter and had only received a handful of responses, most from Government members who had referred the correspondence to the Environment Minister. He said that some of those who had responded indicated concerns with the way such a levy would be administered.

“I do not believe that the administration of this type of tax would be a burden on business, in fact businesses, particularly the big supermarket chains need to take some level of responsibility for the burden the large amount of plastic bags places on our society. The figures I have seen on plastic bag usage is something like 6-13 billion plastic bags per year Australia-wide,' he said.

Mr Chapple will be investigating options for the Greens to introduce legislation in State Parliament as well as further researching the implications of the 1995 National Competition Policy decision relating to the imposition of state taxes to determine if there is any way the state can introduce the levy.

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