Michelle Lensink

Solid Waste Levy - Financial Pressure on Councils

My question is to the Minister for Environment and Conservation. How many jobs does the minister project are going to be created through the increase in the solid waste levy, and can he guarantee that the financial pressures this will put on councils will not cause them to be forced to undertake fortnightly waste collections?

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:39 ): I thank the honourable member for—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I thank the honourable member for her most important question. The state government recognises that growth in the $1 billion waste and resource recovery sector requires working closely with industry, especially if we are able to achieve our goal of increasing the number of jobs in the sector beyond the current figure, which is close to 5,000 jobs. I think it is currently around about 4,800, but it may have changed since the last time I was briefed. In fact, we have been working with industry for a very long time on this important issue.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: You've been doing the industry over for a very long time. Get your facts right.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The Hon. Mr Ridgway makes some interjection, Mr President, about how well we have been working with industry for a very long time. Our consultation actually goes—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: I know what you think of business in this state and it's a disgrace. The only businessman is this bloke who ran a tobacco business.

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: You have no idea about business.

The PRESIDENT: Order! That is totally out of order, and I don't think you have any idea what you are talking about sometimes, the honourable leader. Will you, minister, continue?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President. Our consultation in fact dates back to when the Leader of the Opposition from another place, Mr Steven Marshall, was a member of the waste industry. Perhaps Mr Marshall conveniently forgets that he was once strongly in favour of a levy increase when he was involved in the waste industry, or perhaps Mr Marshall hopes to be able to deceive the South Australian public like some shonky magician.

He is out on radio this morning grandstanding, calling on this waste levy announcement as stupid and running around asking where we got this idea from. I will tell you where we got it from: Compost South Australia. This submission is lodged by 'Steven Marshall, Chairman, Compost SA, c/o 66 Henley Beach Road, Mile End'.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Let the minister answer the question.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The document I am reading from of course pre-dates the date that he came into parliament—well, I hope so.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I would hope so, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I would hope so. I would hope he was not actually lobbying for an industry when he was—

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: Why don't you actually tell us the date?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I am just about to. Here we are: Compost South Australia—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: This submission is lodged by Steven Marshall. The date of this document, which I will be quoting from quite extensively, is 27 March 2007.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Point 4 states:

Compost SA believes that the levy should be higher than the proposed $55 as disposal to landfill costs are not in line with other states or overseas.

Let me just repeat that for honourable members who weren't listening:

Compost SA believes that the levy should be higher than the proposed $55 as disposal to landfill costs are not in line with other states or overseas.

It continues:

The low landfill rate in [South Australia] makes it difficult to encourage (non local government ) customers to recover resource from the landfill stream. A substantial differential is required to ensure that source separating of clean organic material is attractive and economically viable for customers.

So, here we have the Leader of the Opposition—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Your behaviour in this chamber is quite appalling. I know some people on the opposition bench are quite upset about events of the weekend. The reality is we have to get on with life, run this state and allow the honourable minister to answer the question.

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: I will stand up and make a point of order if you make political statements like that again.

The PRESIDENT: Do what you need to do. Just allow the minister to answer the question.

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: He was actually not answering it.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: In fact I am, Mr President, and thank you very much for your protection.

The Hon. K.J. Maher: You can't handle the truth!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: That's the Hon. Terry Stephens who can't handle the truth, Hon. Mr Maher.

The Hon. T.J. Stephens: We're going to sell Medicare—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Here it is. It's on Hansard now.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Here we are, Mr President—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Minister, take your seat. There are a number of crossbenchers who have very important questions to ask today. By wasting time, you are denying that right. So, minister, will you please now get up and answer the question.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: So here we are, with the Leader of the Opposition in a previous life telling us that the levy should be higher than the proposed $55. Lodged by the member for Dunstan himself, although not at that time. As I have outlined in this place previously, we listen to industry, which has been telling us for some time that an increase in the waste levy would generate jobs. It could improve the industry's infrastructure and, importantly, develop end markets—I think that came from some submissions at some stage—and I have read to you some of the statements which support that position, statements lodged by Mr Steven Marshall, member for Dunstan, then chairman of Compost SA.

Compost SA's chairman, who, at the time, had a very cogent argument, but unfortunately he seems to have forgotten that he made that argument in the past—rather conveniently, I think. He asked the government to look at the viability of increasing the landfill levy and rebating some of this increase to processes. Well, goodness gracious, isn't that what the government has just announced?

An honourable member: No, it's not.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: In 2007, Zero Waste SA commissioned a review of the solid waste levy, overseen by Hyder Consulting, and Compost SA also made a submission to that inquiry. Compost SA made clear their views, and they advocated for waste levies to apply for incineration, thereby extending where the levy would apply, and revenue from the levy to be directed to projects that increased the market for recycling and further support the work of the EPA. That is exactly what the government's position has been—announced yesterday.

This same decision that Mr Marshall, the member for Dunstan, called for in 2007, but went on radio this morning and called 'stupid' and feigned anger towards it. I can only assume that he had forgotten that he had made these statements on behalf of the compost industry in 2007, but it is important because it goes to the question of leadership.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Compost SA, under Mr Marshall's leadership, called for a levy higher than $55 a tonne to bring landfill costs in line with other jurisdictions. Now, which is it: was Mr Marshall deceiving listeners on radio this morning in calling this decision 'stupid', because when he was an industry corporate lawyer the man himself called for an increase to the levy—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I'm sorry, not lawyer, he wasn't qualified. An industry corporate player—the big end of town—the man himself called for an increase to the levy, a fact that he conveniently forgot to share with people when he led with his chin in response to this announcement today. An announcement that will create jobs that will better protect the environment; an announcement that will invest in the industry. He cannot have it both ways. Well, he might try, depending on which audience he is talking to, but it cannot be both this time, because we have him in black and white advocating one position which he has absolutely repudiated.

Mr Marshall needs to come clean with his party and with the people of this state. He himself supports our decision to increase the levy to bring it in line with other jurisdictions. Here it is in black and white. This submission is lodged by Steven Marshall. He supports investing that money with the EPA and Green Industries SA; he just does not want the people of South Australia to know that he supports it. We know this, because the sector has consistently called for the waste levy to be increased in line with that charged in New South Wales, which I am advised is $135.70 per tonne in 2016-17 in metro Sydney and other regulated areas.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Point of order, Mr President. In light of your request that crossbenchers get an opportunity, this answer has been going for over eight minutes.

The PRESIDENT: Minister, can you get to the point, there are others who are wanting to ask questions.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President. This sector has consistently called for the waste levy to be increased in line with that charged in New South Wales. By example, responding to the government's waste reform discussion paper last year, the industry said:

It is also strongly believed that increasing the landfill levy to be in line with NSW ( and advanced economies elsewhere in the world ) will provide transformational improvement and growth in resource recovery, which will generate associated employment and improved environmental outcomes. The additional levy can be reinvested into the waste generating and services industry, and the regulation and compliance of it.

That was made by Mr Ben Sawley.

Overall SAWIN members are supportive of an increase in the levy that will drive improved resource recovery. As an economic tool, the levy has been a driver of investment in the industry and we believe that an increase in the levy together with the introduction of mass and upfront liability will further drive new investment and job creation. This in turn will drive improved outcomes for the environment and lower levels of landfilling.

Mr John Fetter.

The current waste levy for solid waste disposal—

at that time $57 per tonne—

is not reflective to the full social and environmental costs of landfill —

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Point of order. It is now a minute since you asked the minister to wind up. It is in defiance of you and the crossbench. I ask him to withdraw the call.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! It is not in defiance. I asked him to wind up; if he needs to say this to finish his answer he needs to do it. Minister.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President.

The current waste levy for solid waste disposal (i.e. $57 per tonne)—

that is at that point in time—

is not reflective to the full social and environmental costs of land fill. ACOR would like the government to consider an increase of the waste levy that will maximise the economics, social and environmental benefits to SA. Earlier this year, ACOR engaged Deloitte Access Economics to provide a report to investigate the economic effort of solid waste levy in SA… T he report shows that a higher waste levy will;

  • inject hundreds of millions into the SA economy;
  • drive better environmental outcomes;
  • create 600 new direct jobs—


this is the ACOR report by Deloittes—

  • facilitate investment in recycling and resource recovery facilities; and
  • support additional employment in the construction, servicing and maintenance of those new facilities.


Mr Grant Musgrove, Mr President.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Point of order. We have now got to 11 minutes in the answer to this question.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister will answer the question as he sees fit, but, in saying that, if he needs to go through this speech to allow him to answer the question that is the minister's right. Minister.

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Can the Leader of the Government please desist.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Increasing the levy will help grow jobs and investment in this important sector. This is also reflected by public modelling released by ACOR last year; as I said, it was conducted by Deloitte and is specific to this state.

I understand from media reports last year in the Adelaide Advertiser, that the modelling showed that if the waste levy was increased to the levels of New South Wales it could generate up to almost 600 jobs in this state. These are ongoing full-time jobs. I am advised this number does not include construction and other jobs as a result of new facilities that could be constructed.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Point of order. We have now gone past 12 minutes.

The PRESIDENT: If you hadn't given your three points of order he might have been finished by now. Minister.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I am also advised that ACOR has further suggested—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Sit down, minister. If you keep on interjecting and calling points of order the minister will never get through his answer. Minister, I notice you have only a couple of pieces of paper left; will you please get to and finish your answer.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I also advised that ACOR has further suggested that some $100 million in investment in new facilities could also occur as a result of the levy changes. Using a market mechanism to help improve environmental outcomes and grow jobs is not new to this government, nor to this side of politics. The New South Wales Liberals have said this of their levy:

The waste levy is the NSW government's key market-based instrument for driving waste avoidance and resource recovery to meet the state's recycling targets.

That was a quote from the then NSW Liberal minister for the environment, Ms Robyn Parker MP, in a media release dated 23 February 2013. Minister Parker's comments used to be close to what those on the other side used to think. Now we know the truth: back in 2006 the now Leader of the Opposition, in a written submission to the Productivity Commission, argued for an increase in the waste levy and for some of that increase to be reinvested back into industry. He said this would improve infrastructure and develop new markets.

Well, this is exactly what this government is doing, and those opposite are engaging in nothing but an opportunistic, baseless smear and fear campaign. It is time the Liberals—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —returned to their market-based roots and stopped pandering to the—

An honourable member interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —fiscally irresponsible conservatives amongst their ranks. It is time Mr Marshall was honest with the people of South Australia—

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Point of order. It is now 14 minutes, Mr President, and I ask you to take control of the chamber and ask the minister to desist.

The PRESIDENT: The minister has the right to answer the question, as much as we might get frustrated with it. You have had four interjections. He would have been finished but there have been four points of order. We would have been on to the next question if we had not done that. Minister, can you please wind up your answer?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I always obey you, Mr President, in all things. It is time that Mr Marshall was honest with the people of South Australia and told them that really he does support this plan; really, truly he does because he is a market-based leader. That's what he is and that's what he was. This plan for jobs and investment in the sector and in the environment will grow South Australian jobs into the future.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:55 ): Supplementary question: what about fortnightly waste collections?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:55 ): Again, the honourable member opposite is trying to give me the power over council decision-making, and I thank her sincerely for that, but really what she needs to think about is what is her leader doing. What is Mr Marshall doing when he is saying one thing and doing another? Today he is saying that this is horrendous but, when he was in another position, he said, 'No, this is a brilliant idea. Why doesn't the government do this?' He is lightning fast to talk this state down, lightning fast to dismiss a measure, that he called for himself, that will grow the industry and will grow jobs in this state; now he wants South Australians to forget his earlier position. Like a shonky magician, he says, 'Don't look at what I'm doing here with this hand; look over here at this, bright and shiny.' I think South Australians are a little bit smarter than Mr Marshall gives them credit for.

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