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Libs push for bag ban results, promising to overturn ban if elected


Megan Doherty, David McLennan

File photo.

File photo. Photo: Tamara Voninski

The Canberra Liberals will overturn the territory’s ban on free plastic bags if they win October’s ACT election.

 ‘‘If businesses have adapted to the ban and would like to continue charging for bags, they are welcome to do so. But if they don’t, they won’t be lumped with a $27,500 penalty,’’ ACT Opposition Leader Zed Seselja said in a statement today.

‘‘This is about bringing sense and evidence back to government decision making.’’

The policy announcement is in contrast to the 2004 election campaign, when the Liberals promised to ban free plastic bags in the ACT.

The change in policy has prompted Environment Minister Simon Corbell to label the Liberals hypocrites, sending out copies of flyers used by Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne in the 2004 campaign which advocate a "plastic bag free" Canberra by 2006.

“It is disappointing to see the next instalment of environmental backward-thinking from the opposition leader who seems intent on wrecking any attempts to better protect the local environment in the ACT,” Mr Corbell said.

Mr Seselja said last night ‘‘a lot had changed since then’’, with information from independent bodies such as the Productivity Commission questioning the value of a ban.

He said today that his party had voted against the ban during this term of the Assembly because it did not think there was the environmental evidence to justify the move.

‘‘Britain’s Environmental Protection Agency found that shoppers would have to use the same cotton bag every working day for a year to have a lesser impact than a lightweight plastic bag,’’ he said.

‘‘The Productivity Commission found that ‘based on the evidence available to the Commission, it appears that the Australian, State and Territory Governments do not have a sound case for proceeding with their proposed phase out of plastic retail carry bags’.‘‘

It comes as the ACT government is criticised for leaving a review of its controversial plastic bag ban until after the election. The Liberals say voters should go to the polls understanding how effective the ban has been - or not.

The ACT Greens, meanwhile, say they doubt the issue of plastic bags will be a game-changer in the upcoming election and believe a repeal of the ban would be ‘‘very counterproductive’’.

Mr Corbell says under the act the review was not meant to occur until November 2013, two years after the ban started. But he had brought it forward by 12 months, saying it couldn’t be done any earlier. ‘‘A full year’s data is required as a minimum to allow for an effective review,’’ he said.

Mr Seselja said at least some preliminary results should be made available to the electorate.

‘‘The government is denying voters an understanding of the ban’s environmental impacts by not undertaking a review until after the election,’’ he said.

The review will take place in November - after the October 20 election - and for the first time provide figures on the amount of plastic bags, bin liners and other plastic packaging that has been used since the ban came into force in November last year.

The review will also look at the number of plastic bags in litter in the ACT, South Australia and Northern Territory, where bans are in force, against states that do not have a plastic bag ban.

Mr Corbell said the government would also look to a plastic bag advisory committee, set up by the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate, to ‘‘assist in the review of the ban and its impact on supermarkets and retailers through looking at data on the provision or sale of plastic bags, reusable bags and bin liners both prior to and after the ban’’.

Mr Corbell couldn’t say if the government would change its stance.

‘‘It would be premature to speculate on the outcomes of the review,’’ he said.

The new laws ban thin plastic bags of 35 microns or less but allows other thicker bags, with most supermarkets charging their customers for them.

Greens spokeswoman on territory and municipal affairs Caroline Le Couteur said while it would be preferable to have the review results before the election, it wasn’t ‘‘disastrous’’ to get them after the poll.

Ms Le Couteur said the Greens contacted every supermarket in Canberra mid-year to gauge the effects of the plastic bag ban. They received eight responses, including from some Coles, Woolworths and IGA supermarkets. ‘‘Everyone said there was no doubt the use of plastic bags had fallen,’’ she said.


  • Putting emotional rhetoric to one side, the bag ban as it stands adds noting but an extra tax to the struggling residents of Canberra and extra profit to the big chains. I look at the dollar cost involved in the production and transport of all the extra "garbage specific" bags into the ACT since the ban began and I am appalled, nay outraged, at the unnecessary burden and waste.

    No review required - bring back the bags.

    Outraged of Palmerston
    Date and time
    August 06, 2012, 7:05AM
    • The struggling residents of Canberra... right. Tone down the rhetoric. In the ACT we have probably the best standards and income in the country. I'm on a low income and I managed easily. We have already adapted to this change with a minimum of fuss and shown that taking small steps in changing attitudes towards good use of resources is easily accomplished. Regardless of what the Liberals say, the world didn't end when we made this change.

      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 10:30AM
  • I don't mid the plastic bag ban, I mean it was a realative easy adjustment, which made it an easy way to help the environment. I've hear a few people go on about using the old bags for garbage but I don't buy it. The bags were small, you'd have to be going out to the bin everyday, maybe twice a day, plus grabage bags are stronger and designed to hold that stuff while the small ones weren't.

    Date and time
    August 06, 2012, 7:45AM
    • Like the electric panels on peoples roofs the plastic bag issue only redistributes income and favours the very few.

      Labour government don't have my vote - their policies just don't work.

      Date and time
      August 06, 2012, 8:04AM
      • It would have been much more productive to legislate for the free plastic bags to be biodegradable and reusable (not the small, thin things that you can't reuse well). I myself have not used less plastic to put my waste out in since the ban. The difference now is that instead of using the free shopping bags as waste bags, I have to buy plastic bags instead. Not good for the environment, just the same effect in fact. Although I do buy the bags that break down faster.

        Date and time
        August 06, 2012, 8:07AM
        • Could not agree more. Lost free bags for garbage and now have to buy garbage bags.

          Date and time
          August 06, 2012, 9:35AM
        • "... and now have to buy garbage bags."

          You NOW have to buy rubbish bags? You must have very small bins! We have always had to buy them. The problem was that they then filled up with dozens of WASTED plastic shopping bags each week!

          Few people recycle unless there is some financial imperative - that is why the deposit on drink bottles works so well in South Australia. How about bringing in that measure here rather than repealing one which is working well - I don't see plastic shopping bags littering the streets anymore.

          Date and time
          August 06, 2012, 12:38PM
      • I take my own bag 95% of the time and still believe the plastic bag ban is absolutely ridiculous; the type of thing we'd only implement and tolerate in the ACT. Overturning it would get my vote.

        Date and time
        August 06, 2012, 8:46AM
        • South Australia has had a bag ban for years.

          Date and time
          August 06, 2012, 1:10PM
        • "the type of thing we'd only implement and tolerate in the ACT"
          Actually, there is also a plastic-bag ban in South Australia and in various countries throughout the world. I just wish they would bring in such a ban in NSW. I'm glad that at least some stores have done this.

          Date and time
          August 06, 2012, 2:24PM

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