WMAA Response to QLD Waste Levy Bill 2018

20 September 2018

The Waste Management Association of Australia (WMAA), the peak national body for the $15.5 billion waste and resource recovery industry, congratulates the Queensland Government on the Waste Reduction and Recycling (Waste Levy) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018, acknowledging that its introduction is a much-needed step in moving Queensland away from a “take, make, and dispose” model to a circular economy. However, WMAA is disappointed that the Parliamentary Committee only allowed nine (9) days for consultation on the Bill, considering the far-reaching impacts this Bill would have.

“This is a vital piece of legislation for our essential industry and it has impacts throughout Queensland. It is not possible to conduct appropriate thorough consultation with members throughout Queensland in these timeframes,” said WMAA CEO, Gayle Sloan.

While a longer consultation period would have been ideal, WMAA views the introduction of the Bill by the Queensland Government as progress towards catching up with the rest of Australia, and the developed world, in moving towards a circular economy. The current linear approach has adversely impacted Queensland in many ways, not the least of which is making it difficult for resource recovery industries to invest, depriving Queensland of the opportunity to create new jobs. After all, for every one job involved in landfilling 10,000 tonnes of waste, more than four (4) can be created by recycling the same material. The Bill creates an opportunity for the State to make genuine gains that will assist in the investment and development of the resource recovery industry within Queensland.

WMAA acknowledges that the Queensland Government has listened to a large number of concerns in drafting this Bill and recognises that the Queensland approach does include more discounts and incentives for industry than any other levy regime currently in Australia. Further good attempts have been made to:

  • incentivise the use of recycled material through levy discounts;
  • assist MRFs that have been impacted by changes in the global commodity market by exempting their residuals from the levy for a transition period;
  • address the transportation of leviable waste into non-levy areas of Queensland;
  • manage the dumping of asbestos, by requiring it to be lawfully managed in order to achieve an exemption; and
  • not adversely impact the management of landfill sites and their use of cover and other materials.

WMAA has provided a submission to the Parliamentary Committee for Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment regarding this Bill and outlined some key areas of concern and possible improvement.

For one, the $5 million ‘levy readiness’grant funding from government should be extended to all industry participants and not only to local government as the challenges in meeting the 4 March 2019 levy start date, including infrastructure upgrades and fee changes, are not unique to local government.

“This funding should be offered on a 100% basis as the proposed 70/30 funding split with local government will leave a shortfall in existing 2018/19 budgets, which is not ideal,” Ms Sloan added, “Further, any adjustment to the levy should also occur in line with financial year and not calendar year to avoid duplication of resources.”

At present, there are local government contracts that allow operators to extract recyclable materials from landfill tipping areas. These contracts will become unlawful with the commencement of the Act due to Section 38 of the Constitution. WMAA is urging Government to consider alternatives to the current approach, particularly during the transition to allow sites to amend their practices. One suggestion is to follow NSW’s levy rebate system.

The mandatory volumetric surveys will also add a financial impost on WMAA members operating leviable sites and these costs should be fully recovered under the available waste levy funds.

“While the Act includes more incentives for industry than any other levy currently in Australia and the government should be applauded for that, we must now ensure that unintended consequences such as site operators being stuck with bad debts from those that avoid levy payments, and bona fide contracts or the extraction of recyclables from contracts now being unlawful as a result of the new proposed regime, are rectified before the Bill’s final adoption,”Ms Sloan concluded.