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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 5500

Senator BROWN (4:01 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted

The speech read as follows—

The bill would provide for the collection of a levy of 25 cents on plastic bags at the retail point of sale which would be paid into a national environment fund. The amount charged will be indicated on till receipts.

The levy will not apply in limited exempted cases, for example on baked goods, non-packaged fruit and vegetables or fresh meat and fish. It will not apply to paper bags or other similar non-synthetic packaging, but other `biodegradable' bags are not exempted.

The national environment fund, administered by the Minister for the Environment, is to be used to minimise the impact of, and for education about, environmentally hazardous waste in Australia. However, the purpose of the levy is not to collect funds but to change customer behaviour and reduce the environmental impact of the billions of plastic bags disseminated each year in our nation—3.3 billion from supermarkets alone.

Plastic bags have a costly impact on Australia's environment—not least the living marine ecosystem. Whales, dolphins and fish die from plastic ingested in mistake for squid or jellyfish.

Similar levies elsewhere have been notably successful. A levy of approximately 27 cents per plastic bag, imposed by regulation in Ireland in March 2002, led to a 90 percent reduction in plastic bag usage within 5 months, with much popular approval.

Bans or levies on plastic bags have also succeeded in Germany, Denmark, Italy, South Africa, Taiwan, the Northern Mariana Islands and Suffolk County in New York State.

In Australia, one opinion poll, in 2002, put support for a plastic bag levy at 79 percent.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

Senator BROWN —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.