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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 2813


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (11:34): I move opposition amendment (1) on sheet 7081:

(1)   Clause 5, page 8 (lines 1 to 34), omit the clause, substitute:

5 Product stewardship criteria

      The product stewardship criteria are satisfied in relation to a class of products if:

   (a)   the products in the class are in a national market; and

   (b)   at least one of the following applies in relation to the products in the class:

      (i)   the products contain hazardous substances;

      (ii)   there is the potential to significantly increase the conservation of materials used in the products, or the recovery of resources (including materials and energy) from waste from the products;

      (iii)   there is the potential to significantly reduce the impact that the products have on the environment, or that substances in the products have on the environment, or on the health or safety of human beings.

Note:   Whether the product stewardship criteria are satisfied in relation to a class of products is relevant for determining whether:

   (a)   to accredit a voluntary arrangement in relation to that class of products (see subsection 13(3)); or

   (b)   regulations can be made under this Act in relation to the class of products (see sections 19 (co-regulatory product stewardship—liable parties for class of products) and 39 (mandatory product stewardship requirements)).

[criteria]

This amendment seeks to replace section 5 of the bill. Section 5 outlines the product stewardship criteria and was a section that was the subject of intense debate and concern during the Senate committee inquiry into this bill. As drafted, section 5 'Product stewardship criteria' states that the criteria are satisfied in relation to a class of products if two or more of a range of paragraphs apply. Those paragraphs are, in some cases, quite broad when compared to the objects of the bill that we have just been discussing. These criteria, as drafted, include a statement that 'the products are in a national market' and a statement:

… taking action to reduce those impacts will offer business opportunities that would make a contribution to the economy.

They would have been two criteria in the bill that would be satisfied, and obviously for those who looked at it and thought this was an extremely broad way to apply criteria and a way that did not necessarily ensure that criteria were applied to ensure that the overriding intention and objects of this bill, which of course are to reduce environmental impacts, to better conserve materials and to ensure an increase in recycling, were the core criteria that had to be met with regard to the legislation.

As I did in my second reading debate speech, I thank the government in particular as well the Greens for working with us on redrafting these criteria and coming up with a tighter, neater form of criteria for the bill, which I believe the amendment does. The amendment provides that products will meet the criteria. Firstly, they must be in a national market and, secondly, they have to meet one of three other criteria. The first, namely that they contain hazardous substances, relates to some of the issues I discussed in regard to Senator Ludlam's amendment. Of course there are chemical substances that we do wish to better regulate and better manage the treatment of, either by Australia's own initiative or as a result of compliance with international obligations, and this legislation could provide a framework to do so. The other two criteria relate very specifically to the objects of reducing environmental impact, achieving better re-use of materials or conservation of materials and minimising the impact or use of those virgin materials that we were just discussing. The other two parts a product category would have to meet have been drawn from the words used in the original section 5 to ensure that we have not thrown the baby out with the bathwater in regard to all of the good consultation that the government did with industry and others with regard to working through the types of words and phrases. But they do ensure that products regulated by this legislation will have to significantly increase the conserva­tion of materials or significantly reduce the impact that the products have on the environment or on health or safety.

So we have very clear tests now. There are essentially three ways for a scheme to be accredited under this legislation: the products contain hazardous substances; there is the potential to significantly increase the conservation of materials used in the products, or increase the recovery of resources from waste from the products; or there is the potential to significantly reduce the impact that the products have on the environment, or that substances in the products have on the environment, or on the health or safety of human beings. These are three very distinct criteria. Under the amendment, one of them will have to be met. I know that it does not totally satisfy all of the concerns of industry or of those who wanted a very prescriptive criteria standard to apply, but I think it provides a far more certain criteria framework, a very clear test that has to be met. In applying that test, the parliament can have far greater confidence that this bill and the operation of this bill and the application of regulations under this bill will actually achieve what we all believe to be the objects of introducing a product stewardship bill.

I commend the amendment to the chamber. I thank in advance the other parties for their cooperation. This amendment works in tandem in a sense with some other amendments that form part of a package that we have all agreed upon to ensure better operation of this bill and of course to ensure the passage of this bill. I will be happy to address any other issues that may be raised by Senator Ludlam or the parliamentary secretary.