Zero Waste SA

08 May 2008 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Environment and Conservation a question about Zero Waste policy.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Observers of environmental issues may have recently read an article by Jeff Angel, the director of Total Environmental Centre, who, in commenting on the environmental ministers conference, stated: Apparently the bureaucrats are spooked by the 'net benefit to the community test' devised by the Productivity Commission. He went on to explain that this narrowly based ideology, accredited by COAG and implemented by Productivity Commission staff, gives great weight to alleged business and convenience costs and little support to real environmental, resource and social costs from waste. I received the long awaited Zero Waste SA commissioned benefit cost summary through freedom of information. That document states that the report was commissioned on the grounds that it delivers a net economic benefit. My question to the minister is: is it Zero Waste's policy that all strategies must have a net economic benefit, or does it not consider the environment a greater priority?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Environment and Conservation, Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Minister Assisting the Minister for Health) (14:37): These are often difficult issues for us, in terms of balancing our priorities. Clearly, this government has a policy to maximise environmental benefits to preserve and protect our environmental values, and the management of our waste is a very important arm of that. Indeed, South Australia has an extremely good track record when it comes to waste management. We have one of the highest recycling rates in the nation, of which we should be very proud, and we have quite low litter streams, largely due to our container deposit legislation. Also, Mr President, as you are aware (and as I have said in this place many times before), we have a very committed policy to improving recycling rates and reducing waste to landfill. One of the policy initiatives that we introduced not so long ago was the doubling of the waste levy to help drive up recycling rates, given how cheap it was to simply dump waste into landfill.

This was done in an attempt to help to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and to improve recycling rates. In terms of the cost benefit analysis, I have said in this place before that many of those formulas are very much based on an economic rationalist approach. I am very keen for more work to continue to ensure that we develop and refine environmental values so that they are considered more acutely in some of those cost analyses. I have said that before in this place. The sort of policy directions we attempt to take are those that produce economic benefits or at least do not create large economic imposts for our community, but at the same time our job is to preserve, protect and conserve our environment and ensure that we retain good environmental values and that we have a planet here for our children and our children's children, and a sustainable future for thriving industries as well as a beautiful environment for people to enjoy.