Speeches

Phasing out single-use plastics

February 19, 2019

*Check against delivery*

 

Thank you Madam Speaker.

Across the globe we are seeing increasing environmental action aimed at not only combating the impacts of climate change but also improving the health of our environment. The EU is actively working to reduce carbon emissions produced by its member states and it is also committed to phasing out single use plastics.

India has committed to ridding its lands of single use plastic by 2022, one of the farthest-reaching commitments to tackle the problem from any country.

Singapore is halfway through an ambitious plan to turn their city state into a city within a garden. 

And most recently in the USA, Congress has considered a resolution calling for a Green New Deal to rapidly transition the country to a clean economy.

Where governments are not taking action or not doing enough we are seeing people take action.

In the Netherlands a group of climate conscious activists sued the government for not doing enough to cut carbon emissions.

Closer to home in the last few weeks, we’ve seen the NSW Land and Environment Court rule a mine proposed for the Hunter Region should not go ahead, in part because of its social impacts and because it was not compatible with Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

 

In short – now is not the time for talk, it’s the time for action.

But this isn’t just about our environment, it is also about us.  After all, our environment is what provides us with air, food and water, and to put it bluntly, it’s what makes our existence possible.

The better we sustain our environment the better it can sustain us.

ACT Labor has a long history of leading in climate action at the same time as building a fairer and more just society. By 2020 the ACT will be powered by 100% renewable electricity, and by 2045 we will be carbon neutral.

We have brought in the plastic bag ban, we are undertaking the largest ever restoration of ACT waterways, and our Actsmart program is continuing to be a success with businesses and lower income households, among many other initiatives.

These are all actions to be proud of. 

In the past 2 years I am proud to say I have further contributed to this action.

Through my work in this Assembly I have called for reform of the ACT Energy Efficiency Scheme, a trial of a Virtual Power Plant, and secured a commitment for the first single use plastic free government event.

In the motion I moved in this Assembly in October last year, I called on the ACT Government to continue to find meaningful and significant ways to reduce single use plastic usage in the ACT.

I’m pleased that Minister Steel and the ACT Government are acting on this call.

In 2019 I will be advocating for even more environmental action from ACT Labor, and this Assembly. 

Action that not only responds to the challenges of climate change, but action that also looks to improve the health of our environment across a range of areas. 

With this in mind I’m pleased that the Minister Steel will be releasing a discussion paper which will consider phasing out single-use plastic in the ACT.

I appreciate the Minister has flagged a number of paths forward including adopting the recommendations made by the Commissioner for Sustainability in her report.

But faced with a mounting quantity of plastic waste that will last for generations - we need to take strong action.

Plastic pollution is harming our local waterways and causing greater damage to the world’s oceans.

We’ve all seen the images of animals strangled by milk container rings, suffocated by plastic bags and washed up dead on beaches after ingesting masses of plastic waste.

There is also growing evidence that these discarded single use plastics are harming us, with micro plastics filtering into our bodies via the food and water we consume.

We cannot continue along the path of producing and consuming harmful single-use plastics, products we use for minutes and sometimes even seconds but scar the earth for hundreds of years.

In response to Minister Steel’s Statement, today I call on the ACT Government to commit to phase out single-use plastics that have a readily available and affordable alternative.

I know constituents in my electorate and people right across Canberra are supportive of this call, and I will be encouraging businesses, community groups and individuals to take part in consultation once the discussion paper is released.

Phasing out single-use plastic is a bold move but it’s not unprecedented.

Considerable work will need to be undertaken and behaviours will need to change.

Ultimately though, not only is it the right thing to do, but we have no other choice.

We have to look after our environment so our environment can look after us.