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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 18


Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business) (13:07): The Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 was introduced by the Hawke government to implement the provisions of our obligations under the Basel convention of March 1989 by regulating the export, import and transit of hazardous waste. The act is in place to make sure that hazardous waste is disposed of safely so that people and the environment, both within and outside Australia, are protected from the harmful effects of the waste. Labor believe in action on environmental protection, in particular with respect to hazardous waste and e-waste. We established the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act and we also established the Product Stewardship Act in 2011.

It is important that we manage our electronic waste in a way that protects human health and the environment. People, when they think of pollution, often do not think of the extraordinarily dangerous chemicals that can leach into the soil from something as simple as a television set being improperly disposed of. TVs and computers, actually, were the first products regulated under the Product Stewardship Act in work led—though I was minister—by Senator Don Farrell as my parliamentary secretary at the time. The legislation helps to reduce hazardous substances going into landfill, avoid and reduce waste, and increase recycling and resource recovery. Each time you go to your local tip now you will see, as a result of those changes, the special section that is there for those sorts of electronic products.

The amendment bill that is before the House will allow for full cost recovery for activities that require a permit under the act and aims to make administrative efficiencies and improvements to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses. The bill also introduces a levy, which is payable on permit applications and would allow for the recovery of the indirect costs of administering the permit system. This is a good levy. This is a good cost-recovery system. Had we introduced it, we would have heard the other side saying that this part of it was 'green tape' and we would have heard that it was a dreadful impost on business. Now, faced with the reality of this in government, they are implementing the exact same thing.

The amendment bill and the levy bill will bring the hazardous waste permit scheme in line with requirements and commitments for cost recovery that were put in place during the term of the previous Labor government. The bills mean that the permit system for hazardous waste will continue for waste that is exported from Australia or imported into Australia or that transits Australia. The scheme uses a system where permits are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the requirements of the act. Assessment would take into account issues such as the current domestic capacity to treat the waste, and environmentally sound and sensitive management of the waste in the importing country compared to what is available in Australia.

It is important that any movement of hazardous waste is carefully assessed and all options considered. This may not be an issue that is as high-profile as other environmental challenges that we deal with but it is critically important for the environment and human health. It is also an area of the portfolio where departmental officers have always taken a very strong leadership position in dealing with the states and with industry. A number of those officials are present in the chamber, and I certainly commend them for their work. I acknowledge that we in the chamber making the speeches deal with the end product of an extraordinarily long process that officials work very hard on, and in this area in particular they have to deal with a very high level of technical detail. Labor supports the bill, and I commend the officials for their work.