Changes to Recycling – Too Little, Too Late


Peter Khalil: I congratulate the member for Higgins and the federal government for finally doing something on recycling. It’s really wonderful. Anything would have done. It’s been six long years. In relation to the environment, this is nowhere near good enough. It’s short of the mark, it’s limited, it’s superficial and, as we heard on this side, it’s too little too late.

In contrast, look at the plans that Labor took to the last election: a broad range of policies, policies of substance, policies which, if implemented, could have had a real effect on cleaning up our environment. We proposed a national ban on microbeads and single-use plastic bags; the creation of a national container deposit scheme; the appointment of a national waste commissioner to work with state and local governments; $60 million to a national recycling fund—three times the government’s commitment—to encourage innovative waste solutions, recycling and processing facilities; and a plan to help our international neighbours tackle marine pollution. In addition, we had an extensive range of progressive climate change policies, which were praised by both policy analysts and scientists. Real action on climate change—not this government’s superficial actions that merely touch the periphery of the challenges that we face. On this side, Labor aimed at a Renewable Energy Target of 50 per cent by 2030 and a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. We proposed massive household rebates for solar batteries—a couple of hundred thousand households, in fact—solar panels on every public school roof top, and so much more.

Australians are calling out for action on climate change and the Liberals are literally washing their hands of responsibility to future generations. It simply isn’t good enough. This weak announcement by the Morrison government—$20 million, some 30 per cent of the announcement we made during the election campaign—is weak not just because of the money; it’s weak for other reasons. It broadly fails to address the needs of the Australian recycling industry. We don’t need more research; we need more action on the ground to mainstream recycling. This $20 million investment does not cut it. Pete Shmigel, the CEO of the Australian Council of Recycling, said that in his understanding most of the funding will be used for research and design. We need to create a market for recycling plastics so that Australia can stand on its own feet. Australians want to recycle—that’s self-evident. This was a choice made decades ago. I think they are rightly astounded that we recycle so little of our plastic in Australia while there have already been existing recycling facilities in this country.

The Morrison government still haven’t caught up with what needs to happen. Last year the peak body for the Australian waste industry called for urgent implementation of a national strategy to deal with the excessive stockpiles of recyclable materials caused by the change of China’s import policy. This included a $150 million plan to reboot the recycling industry. The coalition has a long way to go. The government has basically gone backward on climate change. While I congratulate the member for Higgins for this motion, as I said at the start—her heart is in the right place, and I congratulate her for that; at least we’re rowing in the same direction—you guys on the government benches need to row a bit harder. Maybe you should to put an engine on the boat. Because right now you’re as slow as a little tinny—

Mr Tim Wilson interjecting—

Peter Khalil: with the member for Goldstein sitting at the back of it. The member for Goldstein is probably the one weighing it down!

We need real action on climate change, not more superficiality and not little things at the periphery. Let’s tackle this crisis for what it is: a global crisis. That’s simply not happening under this government’s policies. The Morrison government is choosing to ignore the most important issue facing our generation and future generations. If we don’t get this right, nothing else really matters. Australians deserve more than window-dressing when it comes to the environment. They deserve a government that will actually take real action on climate change and reduce carbon pollution. We cannot keep wasting time.