Pages tagged "Environment and Climate Change"
31 May 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in support of this motion to declare a climate emergency. I will speak to the merits of the motion, but first I want to address the amendment from the Leader of the Opposition and indicate that the Greens will not be supporting that amendment.
Rather than what the honourable member contends, that amendment would actually rob this motion of its veracity by inserting a clause that says that we will transition to net zero emissions by 2050. It would lock this council into supporting the inadequate policy position of the failed Morrison government. Might I say that the people of Australia have made their views on that known quite recently, just a few weeks ago, where we saw the Teal independent revolution sweeping our nation and where we saw record support for the Greens in traditional Liberal held areas.
A big factor there was the failure of the Liberal Party, under the leadership of failed Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to deal with climate change seriously, to address the challenge head on. Quite frankly, Australians do not want politicians talking about what is going to happen over in the never-never in 2050. I might as well say I am going to cut out carbs, I am going to cut out sugar and I am going to cut out booze, so that I can do it by 2050 and look like Premier Peter Malinauskas. Anyone can make those pledges—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: —by 2050. We need to actually take action now. The Liberal Party has really missed the mark with this amendment, so we will not be supporting it.
To speak to the motion that has been put forward by the government, which we welcome, this is really about South Australia joining other jurisdictions around the world in recognising the seriousness of climate change and resolving on the need to act. In South Australia we have seen the effects of the climate crisis firsthand. We have seen drought, we have seen fire, and this is only just the beginning. Everybody will be affected by climate change.
We talk a lot in this place about the great disruption that has come from COVID-19, but really COVID-19 will be the curtain-raiser for the climate crisis in terms of the disruption and what that means for every element of our society unless we take action. The IPCC report tells us that we are not doing enough to curb climate change emissions this decade. The 2022 IPCC report warns that cascading, compounding and aggregate impacts are projected to grow due to concurrent increases in heatwaves, droughts, fires, storms, floods and rising sea levels.
Major impacts across multiple sectors could disrupt supply chains to industries and communities and constrain the delivery of health, energy and water. The impacts will not just be environmental but socio-economic as well. The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action and now is the time for us to do something decisive. If we continue without substantial and effective action, we will see more health impacts from air pollution, we will see climate refugees who have lost their homes due to fire or flood, and we will see less rainfall for our primary producers.
These past decades of inaction and incrementalism have taken us past one degree of global warming and are driving us towards a world that is potentially even three or four degrees hotter. The last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the air was at least 2.6 million years ago, before humans existed. Back then, temperatures were more than three degrees warmer. Many, if not all, of the emergencies will already create casualties and damage before they are met with a response, and this is particularly the case when a response is unreasonably late. We risk finding ourselves in that situation if we do not act now.
I know that many people feel held back at the moment by despair and panic, but this is not the time for panic; this is the time to keep our heads, to show our strength and to fight to protect all that we can, not to hesitate, not to give up and not to despair. This is the time for us to roll our sleeves up. We need to plan and we need to speed up our actions and ensure that we reach zero net emissions as soon as we can. The Greens are campaigning for that to happen in 2035, not in 2050, not over in the never-never. All political parties in this place need to work together to make that happen.
In my time as a councillor at the City of Adelaide, I successfully moved a motion to declare a climate emergency back in 2019, and currently 16 of South Australia's local government jurisdictions have declared climate emergencies. In that same year, my predecessor, the Hon. Mark Parnell, moved a similar motion to declare a climate emergency in this place. While it was passed, it was stalled in the House of Assembly. The Greens want to recognise the work of Mark Parnell in bringing the climate emergency declaration to this place in 2019 and his efforts to try to make the South Australian parliament the first jurisdiction in the country to declare a climate emergency.
In that same year, we were pipped at the post by the ACT. They became the first territory to do the same and they successfully passed a declaration through both houses. Again, that was moved by one of my Green colleagues, Minister Shane Rattenbury. I also note that Greens leader at a federal level, Adam Bandt, has previously moved a Climate Emergency Declaration Bill in the federal parliament, which was rejected by the Morrison government. This, of course, was the Prime Minister that famously brought in a piece of coal, such was his indifference towards the climate crisis.
It has been baffling in the past to hear people such as the now Leader of the Opposition, David Speirs, dismiss the declaration of a climate emergency as being purely symbolic, as if symbols are not important. If we refuse to acknowledge that we are in the middle of an emergency, we will never act with the urgency that we know is required so that we can deal with this existential threat.
Globally, climate emergency declarations have been made in 2,094 jurisdictions and local governments covering one billion citizens. While the Greens recognised that a motion on its own is not going to solve the climate crisis, this parliament as an institution recognising the seriousness and scale of the problem is a big and meaningful step towards real action. I do want to acknowledge the leadership of Deputy Premier and environment minister the Hon. Susan Close in this regard. We really welcome the House of Assembly bringing this forward.
This is not the end of the matter. This is the beginning of a much deeper conversation around how we respond to the climate crisis in our state. We in the Greens have been arguing for a long time around the need for a Green New Deal that ensures we address climate, along with growing inequality. We need to invest in green jobs, we need to build and retrofit sustainable homes, we need free and frequent publicly owned public transport, we need an emissions target of at least 75 per cent by 2030 and we need to reach net zero by 2035. The year 2050 is just far too late. Now is the time for action. With that, I commend the motion.
10 February 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this council—
- Notes the unanimous opposition of Barngarla traditional owners to the federal government's planned imposition of a national nuclear waste dump (repository and store) on farming land near Kimba on SA's Eyre Peninsula;
- Notes that Barngarla traditional owners were excluded from the federal government's 'community ballot', that federal parliament's Human Rights Committee found that the nuclear dump proposal is a violation of the Barngarla people's human rights, and that the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation has initiated a legal challenge against the declaration of the Kimba;
- Notes that the National Health and Medical Research Council's 'Code of practice for near-surface disposal of radioactive waste' states that agricultural land should not be used for a radioactive waste repository;
- Notes that an overwhelming majority of waste destined for the SA dump (measured by radioactivity) is long-lived intermediate level waste (including reactor fuel reprocessing waste) that will be stored above ground indefinitely;
- Notes that the SA Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 2000 bans the import, transport, storage and disposal of nuclear wastes in SA; and
- Calls on the SA government to oppose the federal government's attempt to impose a national nuclear waste dump in SA and condemns the SA government for its failure to do so to date.
It is good to have the opportunity to talk about this issue, which is very important for the people of South Australia. The decision of the federal government late last year to dump nuclear waste in Kimba is a decision with profound implications for our state. South Australians could not have been clearer. We do not want a dangerous radioactive nuclear waste dump in our farming country and one that is imposed against the wishes of the Barngarla, the area's traditional owners.
From the get-go, the Greens have been steadfast in our opposition to SA becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste. There needs to be appropriate scrutiny of this decision, including at the very least a wideranging parliamentary inquiry to consider the implications of this decision not only for the community but for our pristine agricultural land.
What this decision will result in is the passage of radioactive waste through South Australia's regional roads, our streets and our waters for decades to come. A radioactive waste dump in the heart of our food bowl would put at risk our clean, green reputation and our state's key grain export industries.
According to the SA Conservation Council, the current plan would mean that Australia's highest rated radioactive waste, which needs to be kept isolated from human contact for 10,000 years, will be temporarily parked in above-ground shedding while the authorities work out where to build a permanent below-ground repository. So it is just going to be dumped there. The government says it will take decades, while the federal nuclear regulator says it could take a century.
One of the direct concerns that has been raised with Kimba relating to the site is the lack of Barngarla consent. The traditional owners do not want this. There has been a tightly managed consultation process—and I say 'consultation' because it has been a sham because it has excluded the wider Eyre Peninsula and the wider SA community. It is also unlawful. The federal plan is in direct contradiction with longstanding SA law. It is unnecessary.
The recent allocation of $60 million to extend secure waste storage at ANSTO in New South Wales means that there is simply no pressing need for this facility. However, there is also a lot of uncertainty around this. Key project details are missing, including what it means for the transport routes, emergency service capacity and the impact on the reputation of sensitive industries, including, of course, our agriculture and our tourism industries.
We have talked a lot over the last few days about the terrible impact the poor planning of the Liberal Party in relation to COVID and opening up the borders has had on our economy. Why on earth would we be risking more uncertainty for our economy in the middle of this crisis? Why would we be putting farmland at risk? We know that radioactive waste is extremely hazardous to people and to our environment. It can pollute water. It can kill wildlife. It can cause a number of deadly human health issues such as cancer.
The proposed double handling of intermediate level radioactive waste is inconsistent with international best practice. Alternatives should be canvassed here, especially given the Barngarla traditional owners were not only excluded from the federal government's community ballot but that the federal parliament's human rights committee found that the declaration of Kimba as the chosen site is in direct violation of the Barngarla people's human rights. It is a complete slap in the face to the traditional owners and it is a complete slap in the face to the people of South Australia who have consistently said they do not want SA to be the nation's nuclear waste dumping ground.
I think all South Australians would be interested to know whether or not the Marshall government has sought advice from the Crown Solicitor on the impacts of Kimba being selected as the nation's radioactive site—something that is in direct contradiction of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act of 2000, an act that was passed under the then Liberal Olsen government.
I think the honourable Treasurer would have been the only member of this place who was there at that time. Perhaps he would like to shed some light on whether he has sought advice on the implications of what the federal government is doing and what it means for that act. Perhaps he will shed some light on that when he comes to provide a contribution on behalf of the government during this debate. While the Greens recognise that responsible management of radioactive waste is of course needed, we do not support the current deeply flawed, unnecessary and divisive Kimba plan.
I had an opportunity to travel to Kimba during my time in the federal parliament. I travelled there with my then state parliamentary colleague, my predecessor in this place, the Hon. Mark Parnell, and Senator Scott Ludlam, who was the Greens' nuclear spokesperson. We met with traditional owners, we met with people in the local community. It is very clear to me from those interactions that there is not strong community support for this, that it was incredibly divisive in the community, and that people do not want to see their local community becoming the state's nuclear waste dumping ground. That is not what they want for their local community, and who could blame them?
Given that Barngarla traditional owners have launched a legal campaign to block the federal government's plans to build this nuclear waste dump, I want to assure the voters of South Australia that the Greens will continue to do what we can in this place to ensure that parliamentary scrutiny occurs and that the concerns of the Barngarla people are heard.
I want to put members on notice that I will be calling a division on this matter because I want to ensure that the views of the members of this place are put on the public record, so that as the voters of South Australia head to the polls in a few weeks' time they know who is in favour of the Liberal Party's radioactive agenda and who is against it and so that they know who in the crossbench will stand firm in support of environmental protection and who will roll over and acquiesce to the Liberal Party and their radioactive vision. It is an important test and I will be calling a division.
30 November 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the federal government announced that it has acquired more than 200 hectares of land near Kimba on Eyre Peninsula to build a nuclear waste storage facility, confirming the site, which is home to some of the country’s best agricultural land, and it was also recently announced as the Agricultural Town of the Year. The traditional owners, the Barngarla people, have been vehemently against this proposal from the beginning, with this announcement also at odds with South Australian law, under which this proposal is deemed illegal. My questions to the Treasurer, therefore, are:
- Has the government sought advice from the Crown Solicitor on the implications of Kimba being selected as the nation's radioactive site, which is in direct contravention of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, an act which was passed under the former Liberal Olsen government, of which the Treasurer was a part?
- Given the government has announced Kimba as the 2021 Agricultural Town of the Year, are they concerned that their status as a thriving farming community will be compromised once this radioactive waste dump is established?
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am happy to refer the honourable member's questions to the Premier and/or other ministers and bring back a reply.
17 November 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I will speak very briefly, because I am conscious that we have a lot to get through tonight. I will not reprosecute the arguments, but the Greens will not be supporting the amendment from the government. I recognise, as I have done previously, the work of all sides of politics in this place in terms of taking action on climate. However, the purpose of this motion is not a collective backslapping exercise or some sort of celebration of the virtues of the Marshall government, as the honourable Treasurer has proposed. We do not share that assessment.
Indeed, the motion does call on the government to go further, to set meaningful targets for a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy for South Australia, and also calls on the government to block the ruling by the Australian Energy Market Commission to allow networks to charge solar customers fees for exporting solar energy to the grid.
The honourable Treasurer has made the point that this issue was dealt with yesterday. My motion on notice was lodged some time ago, well before we dealt with yesterday's bill, which had been pushed back many times. This may provide an opportunity for members who perhaps made an error yesterday to think more carefully about their position and to remedy that today. That is always a positive thing.
Just to conclude, to sum up the contribution I made previously, this sun tax that is being proposed is going to allow networks the power to charge solar households in a way that was previously prohibited under the national energy rules. It has been argued that this is justified as necessary to fund required upgrades on the grid, but this is despite the fact that solar surges have been shown to occur at night and in areas of low solar uptake, and we are very concerned that these charges will unfairly impact those who in good faith have made long-term investments in renewables.
These are South Australians who are wanting to do the right thing, who are doing the right thing for our environment, and the Liberals want to stand by and allow them to be penalised. I do not wish to be divisive, as the honourable Treasurer has inferred, but when a party has got it wrong, when a government has got it wrong, we have to call it out. I urge members to support my original motion and to reject the amendment proposed by the honourable Treasurer.
The State Government’s proposed rezoning of the Park Lands could open the door to permanent cafes, restaurants, shops and multi-story buildings in the Riverbank area. This would change the character of our Park Lands forever.
We secured an important win in the battle to protect our public space when the Legislative Council backed my motion opposing the rezoning of Helen Mayo Park to enable a sports arena on the Riverbank, but there are still some big challenges ahead.
I have introduced a Private Members Bill to ensure that the Minister can’t implement any rezoning of the Park Lands without the support of the parliament. This is an important safeguard.
Watch my second reading speech here.
Momentum is building in the campaign to protect the Park Lands but we need your help. Can you write to the Leaders of the Labor and Liberal Parties and urge them to support my bill?
Steven Marshall MP
State Administration Centre,
200 Victoria Square, Adelaide, South Australia 5000
(08) 8429 3232 / [email protected]
Peter Malinauskas MP
Adelaide SA 5000
(08) 8237 9137 / [email protected]
Our Park Lands belong to all South Australians. Let’s send the Labor and Liberal parties a clear message that they are not for sale!
27 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In summing up, I do want to thank the honourable members for their contributions. I thank the Hon. Ian Hunter and recognise his work as a former environment minister. I also thank the Hon. Connie Bonaros and the Hon. Michelle Lensink, Minister for Human Services. I recognise that all sides of politics have been committed to wanting to address the climate crisis here in South Australia.
Of course, from the Greens perspective there is more that can be done. We have been advocating very strongly to move away from gas and other fossil fuels and will continue to do that. I also recognise the role of the Greens in this place in terms of pushing for investment in solar energy and the work of my predecessor as well in that regard.
The fact that South Australia has done so much good work in this space does put us in stark contrast with the federal government. In summing up, I do have to recognise that when I put this motion forward that was before the federal government had announced their I-can't-believe-it's-not-a-policy policy of zero net emissions by 2050.
I pledge to cut out carbs and sugar by 2050. I will probably still be here in this chamber; you will be able to hold me to account for that promise. It shows how ludicrous it is to be making pledges 30 years into the never-never at a time of climate crisis when really what we need is leadership now. When asked to explain this new policy position, the Prime Minister said, and I quote from a column in News Limited:
We won't be lectured by others who do not understand Australia. The Australian Way is all about how you do it, and not if you do it. It's about getting it done.
I do not actually know what that means. A totally banal and meaningless statement from our Prime Minister that really sums up the Coalition government's position on climate change. They do not understand it, they do not want to do anything about it, most of them do not believe it, and it really is an appalling state of events to see the Prime Minister pedaling such a ridiculous policy at a federal level.
I do recognise the commitment of the Liberals in South Australia to supporting us hosting the COP. I think that would be a fantastic outcome. It is terrific to see all political parties supporting this and it would be a real opportunity I think to showcase South Australia's credentials as a leader on fighting the climate crisis, and also an opportunity to put even more pressure on the federal government to step up and to show the leadership that we know our planet desperately needs. With that, I put the motion.
27 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak on the escalating damage that inappropriate off-road vehicle usage is doing to our coastal environment and our ecosystems in South Australia. Our beaches are the busiest they have ever been, but our presence is starting to have an environmental impact on the landscape that should not be ignored. Off-road four-wheel driving is a popular recreational activity and one that has only grown more popular as these vehicles have become more powerful and more widely accessible.
Unmanaged off-road vehicle uses cause significant long-term damage to our environment. In coastal dune environments, four-wheel driving can contribute to physical changes in the structure of the beaches, the destruction of dune vegetation and to the introduction and spread of pest species and diseases into the coastal environment, leading to a significant loss of biodiversity. A healthy dune system is also an important buffer, acting to protect the mainland from erosion and storm events.
This loss of habitat and native vegetation has profound impacts on our animal life. Macroinvertebrates, macrofauna and shorebirds are particularly affected by this disruption. South Australia has four species of resident shorebirds and all except for one species are listed as vulnerable or rare. The most critically endangered of these is the hooded plover. The hooded plover preferences high-energy beaches and breeds exclusively on ocean beaches in South Australia. They, among other species, are utterly dependent on these beaches and do not have the option of going elsewhere. The birds lay their eggs in the summer, coinciding with the peak period of beach use.
In addition to loss of habitat and food supply, vehicles can impact coastal bird communities directly by crushing their nests and their chicks. Indeed, studies along the Coorong ocean beaches showed 81 per cent of hooded plover nests had been crushed by vehicles—81 per cent. The disturbance caused by vehicles can also lead to distress for the nests to the point of abandonment by the birds. Recent surveys in the Fleurieu Peninsula only counted 29 breeding pairs, and beach nesting bird population numbers are subject to rapid decline. If we do not provide a helping hand, it will not be long before these species face extinction. We cannot allow that to happen.
We must strike a better balance between our enjoyment of the beach and the health of our coastal ecosystems. All signs would indicate that we are getting that balance wrong. The right to access beach areas must depend on keeping the environmental impacts of vehicles within acceptable limits. If we do not do this, we then risk permanent degradation of our unique habitat and the destruction of our animal life.
Other states have been able to recognise that unrestricted vehicle use on beaches is a significant threat. Let's look at what is occurring interstate. New South Wales and Queensland maintain permit systems whereby four-wheel drives require permits to access and drive on the beaches, thereby introducing greater accountability and protections. In Victoria, off-road and recreational vehicles are prohibited from driving on public beaches entirely. Sadly, that is not the case in South Australia.
The brunt of the work done to combat this coastal damage has fallen upon the shoulders of community groups who have spent their time rehabilitating damaged beach areas, and groups such as Birds SA are working very hard to protect our resident shorebirds in peak seasons. The negative effect of unmanaged beach vehicle use is mounting, and it is well past time for the government to show some leadership here. It needs to work to bring us up to speed with other jurisdictions in Australia.
Recently, I had the opportunity to host a screening of the film On the Right Track, looking at the fate of the plover and the impact of unregulated practices on our beaches on our native birdlife. We need to do something about this, particularly as we head into our summer months. We cannot afford to put our beautiful native birds at risk during this summer season. Really, it is time for the government to step up and to show some leadership.
27 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this council—
- Affirms that renewable energy is the future of South Australia;
- Recognises the potential of rooftop solar to lower wholesale power prices for all consumers;
- Calls on the Marshall government to set meaningful targets for a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy for South Australia by:
(a.) rolling out community-scale batteries;
(b.) subsidising solar-panel and battery installation;
(c.) rolling out dynamic operating envelopes; and
- Calls on the Marshall government to block a ruling by the Australian Energy Market Commission that allows networks to charge solar customers fees for exporting solar energy to the grid.
Back in August, the Australian Energy Market Commission ruled that distribution networks can now charge fees to solar homes and businesses to export their electricity. Known as the 'sun tax', this rule change will see networks given the power to charge solar households previously prohibited under the energy rules. This has been justified as necessary to fund required upgrades on the grid resulting from an excess of solar energy—at least this is the argument that has been put. That is despite the fact that solar surges have been shown to occur at night and in areas of very low solar uptake.
These changes will unfairly impact on those who in good faith have made long-term investments into renewables. We know that energy networks make significant profits so why is it that the cost burdens of future proofing the network is being passed on to a whole solar household, those who are already leading the way in trying to reduce their carbon footprint?
The cost for the distribution network should be shared among all generators including large multinational companies and fossil fuel generators, not just households. Australia's National Electricity Market's data showed energy contribution from renewables during 2020 in South Australia was the highest on record at 53 per cent, up from 7 per cent in 2019 and 5 per cent in 2018.
We need governments to encourage the uptake of rooftop solar, not penalise those who are doing the right thing for our environment, those who have already made this change. Despite both the Victorian and Queensland energy ministers stating their strong opposition to charging solar households in their states, our minister in South Australia has refused to follow suit and protect rooftop solar. Indeed, they have remained silent and in support of this solar tax.
South Australia's abundant wind and solar resources mean we are ideally suited to lead the nation and the world to a 100 per cent renewable energy future—a renewable-led recovery that would create jobs and tackle the climate change crisis and reduce energy prices. We know that as we transition away from coal and carbon we can create new jobs of the future in green innovation and renewable energy and we should be encouraging people to continue to switch to solar, not penalising those who are doing the right thing.
I do hope that members of this place will support this motion and send the Marshall government a clear message that they should be supporting those who are supporting our environment and they should be doing everything they can to reject this unfair solar tax.
12 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise in support of this bill on behalf of the Greens. In so doing, I recognise that, as is the case with all political parties, there are different views within the Greens on this matter. My predecessor in this parliament, Mark Parnell, organised a forum of Greens members when this issue first came on the agenda. I had the opportunity to talk with many members about this issue at that time, and indeed over the months and years when corflutes have been debated.
It is very clear to me that there is strong support for this change within the SA Greens membership. This has also been a strong campaign for the Greens interstate. In the ACT, for instance, the Greens have been campaigning strongly on this issue. Indeed, the parliamentary inquiry into the ACT election has recommended banning corflutes from roadsides. It is a parliamentary inquiry that has involved representation from the Labor Party, the Greens and others.
More importantly, there is strong support for this reform among the South Australian community. Most voters find these signs to be an eyesore and to be visual pollution, not to mention highly wasteful. There are a few exceptions, of course. I know my mum and dad will miss seeing my face on Stobie poles. I know the member for Kaurna, Mr Chris Picton, will be very disappointed, as he has a growing collection of my corflutes dating back to our days together at Flinders University. I can assure him that these signs will still be available for his personal collection, they just will not be in the public realm. He can still display my corflute on his private property or post it on his fan wall or whatever else he wants to do. There is no prohibition on that.
It is worth noting that the views of political parties on this issue have changed over the years as well. Back in 2009, the then Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, first attempted to ban corflutes from public streets. The move at that time was opposed by the Liberals and the crossbench. I am sure Mr Atkinson will be tweeting in delight to see the Greens have changed our position on this.
Both former Labor minister Kate Ellis and former Liberal minister Christopher Pyne have argued for corflutes to be banned. Back in 2019, the Hon. Kate Ellis of the Labor Party told The Advertiser, and I quote directly from her statement:
It is a massive amount of resources, the public don't particularly like them and it's a huge distraction for the first week of the campaign.
Your office gets inundated with calls about 'you've got too many posters here, or you don't have enough posters there'.
Wouldn't it be great if we had an election campaign where we were talking about the issues that were going to be determined and how that would impact on our community?
She goes on:
There are too many of these signs, they don't serve much purpose and we have this debate every couple of years; the rest of the country do not do this the way that we do…Get rid of them, I say.
'Get rid of them, I say,' says Kate Ellis, former Labor minister. I could not agree more.
For my part, my views on corflutes have been on the public record for many years. As a city councillor, I advocated for corflutes to be banned for council elections. That move was opposed by the majority in Town Hall, but it did receive strong support from the local community. I welcome the fact that this change was legislated as part of the government's local government reforms.
For me, there are three very important considerations in this debate. The first is the impact that corflutes have on the environment. At a time when our state has taken bold and decisive action on single-use plastics, it seems absurd that the political class would be exempting ourselves from this through producing these costly and wasteful plastic signs, many of which will end up in landfill. Not all political parties recycle their candidates in the same way that I have been recycled, so that can lead to increased waste.
I do concede that you could legislate to use other materials less damaging on the environment, but there are also other issues for us to weigh up here. There is another fundamental consideration, and that is: who owns the public realm? The public realm belongs to all South Australians. Intrusion onto the public realm, onto our public streets, is heavily regulated for this reason. The idea that these streets should be populated with election signage in this way is a form of visual pollution and I think it offends that basic principle. I have heard it said that voters will not realise there is an election on if there are not corflutes on the streets. I do not accept that argument.
There are plenty of other ways that candidates and campaigners can engage with their electors. Signs really do not say anything about the policies or principles of a political party or a candidate. I mean no disrespect to anybody in this room but politics is hardly a beauty contest. A sea of smiling faces does nothing to advance the quality of political debate in our state. Under this bill, party members, supporters and volunteers can still display signs on their private property as is the case in other jurisdictions around our country, so there will still be plenty of opportunities for people to get the message out without dominating our streets in this way.
The final issue I want to touch on is equity. I have heard it argued—indeed the Leader of the Opposition made this point—that somehow banning corflutes will damage smaller parties. I do not accept that argument. The current regime is an arms race. It means that all parties are required to invest huge amounts of money and people power into putting up these signs and finding the volunteers to distribute them. This really favours those candidates or political parties who have deep pockets. At $7 a pop, corflutes can blow a very big hole in a campaign budget, particularly for a small party or a candidate. This bill just levels the playing field.
I know the Leader of the Opposition has argued that this would be the end of democracy as we know it in the state of South Australia but the reality is, if the Labor Party feel so strongly about this, they can go into the next election and say, 'Vote for the Labor Party and we will reverse this legislation. We are the bring back corflutes political party.' It is their choice to do that. If they want to run as having that as a key part of their platform at the next election, saying to the people of South Australia, 'We will bring back corflutes and reverse these changes,' then they should do so and let the people of South Australia decide. I suspect what they will find is that there is a huge amount of public support for these changes and that people will be very excited to see the parliament take action on this.
In concluding, the Greens have been in negotiation with the government and I understand that some amendments will be moved in the committee stage. These have been alluded to by the Leader of the Opposition and I will talk to those a bit later. What those amendments do, I think, is provide certainty in terms of ensuring that people can have signage at public rallies and events, street corner meetings and the like and the amendments that the government will talk to later will address those points.
I do hope that this will be the last time the parliament is required to debate this issue and I think that the public would overwhelmingly welcome this parliament's action on the matter.
22 September 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill is a simple measure that is consistent with the Marshall government's phasing out of single-use plastics, an initiative supported by the Greens and I think everybody here in this place. My former colleague the Hon. Mark Parnell first introduced a similar bill in 2018, around the time there was a debate around the use of single-use plastics. While there was opposition to the bill by some in the business community, I think this, a new version, addresses many of these concerns, and it is in a revised form that the bill appears before the parliament today.
We already know that eight million tonnes of plastics leak into our oceans each year, with estimates suggesting that, if this trend continues, by 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish—more plastics in our oceans than fish. That is a frightening prospect and one that we should all be looking to reverse as quickly as we possibly can.
While we have already seen single-use straws, cutlery and stirrers prohibited from being sold in South Australia, from next year there will be a ban extended to the sale, supply and distribution of polystyrene cups, bowls, plates, clamshell containers and oxo-degradable plastic products. We welcome that. This bill is a logical extension of the measures that the government has already set in train.
Essentially, what this bill does is allow a consumer to bring in their own reusable container to buy food. For example, you could go to your local supermarket deli section and, instead of having your gourmet and continental goods wrapped in plastic and then butcher's paper, you hand over your container and, instead, you have the goods packaged up in that. In effect, you can bring in your own container, fill it up and take it away with you.
The reason we are amending the Civil Liability Act instead of the Food Act is that this is due to a liability issue. Businesses could at the moment allow customers to bring in their own containers if they wish, but they would then assume responsibility if something goes wrong. If I bring in a container that is not suitable, or I have not properly sterilised it, or I do not store it, there is a concern that the business could be liable for that. This bill makes it very clear that it is not the business that assumes the liability; rather, the responsibility rests with the consumer for the container that they own and have bought into a store. I think that makes sense.
There is of course an exception provided in this bill in terms of general immunity, and that would be if the person who is selling the food did so knowing that the food was unsafe for consumption or that it was subject to a food recall order. In other words, if a food provider knew that the food was not fit for human consumption and they sold it to the consumer in their own container, of course this bill would not provide them with immunity. It is certainly no protection against negligent conduct. I also want to make the point that there is no mandatory requirement in this bill that requires businesses to adopt this practice. If a business decides they do not wish to allow customers to bring in their own containers, they are free to make that choice, and no-one is going to be penalising them.
What I will say, however, is that there is an overwhelming movement towards reducing single-use plastics and wastage here in our state. We know that South Australia has been leading the way in this regard over many, many years, so I think consumers will be excited by this reform and I think businesses will too. There is the possibility here, too, for businesses to say that they are going to offer a discount to consumers who bring in their own container. I think many businesses would jump at that chance. I commend the bill to the Legislative Council, and I hope that all parties will get behind this commonsense reform.