You are here

NSW Parliament Question Time 19th September

27 September 2019

Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (15:22): My question is addressed to the Minister for Energy and Environment. Will the Minister update the House on how the reuse and recycling of plastic bags can help protect the environment?

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (15:23): I thought I would never get the chance. We know that there are no such things as single-use plastic bags in the Labor Party. The fishes are meant to jump onto the hook in this place.

Mr Clayton Barr: Point of order: My point of order relates to the use of props.

The SPEAKER: The Minister will continue his answer without the use of props.

Mr MATT KEAN: Do not worry, member for Cessnock, I got it out of the way early. What a great question from a great member. She is probably the hardest working member in the Parliament. She does outstanding work and no-one is more committed to the environment than the member for North Shore. I thank her for that commitment. She is like all of us on this side of the House, which is why we are going to take responsible and decisive action to tackle the issue of climate change and why we are also going to expand the footprint of our National Parks network. I know the green member for Baulkham Hills is very excited about this, and I cannot wait to make a big announcement with the member for Baulkham Hills. We are not only going to do that. We are also about protecting our threatened and endangered species. Just look at our Saving our Species program in New South Wales, a $100 million program to protect the bilby and the quoll.

Mr John Barilaro: And our brumbies.

Mr MATT KEAN: The member for Monaro wants some things protected, but they are not in my Saving our Species program. They do not need any protection. But these are not the only things we are going to do to protect the environment. That is why we are going to tackle the issue of plastics in New South Wales. Plastics are having a detrimental impact on our environment and a devastating impact on our marine life. I know the member for Hawkesbury is very concerned. As a diver and a marine park lover, she is very concerned about plastics in our natural environment. In fact, 30 per cent of turtles and 90 per cent of our seabirds have ingested plastics. It is shameful and terrible. Plastic is so pervasive in our community—not just in the Labor Party—that on average every New South Wales citizen ingests about a credit card's worth of plastic every week.

Luckily for them, the New South Wales Government is taking decisive action to tackle the issue of plastics. We have already rolled out the Return and Earn scheme. We have collected two billion containers since that scheme was rolled out and not just from the member for Baulkham Hills's backyard. The scouts are raiding his bins all the time, I am told. They are making a motza. It is the largest litter reduction program in New South Wales's history. It is a great thing because not only do we protect our environment, but we also enable community groups to earn much-needed income to support their great causes. We have also signed up to ban the export of plastics, restricting the export of our waste overseas. That is a great thing which will not only protect our global environment, but also catalyse the development of new recycling industries right here in New South Wales. This is all about creating jobs and growing our economy.

Mr John Barilaro: Hear, hear!

Mr MATT KEAN: I note the interjection of the member for Monaro, who is keen to see these facilities built in the regions. There is a great opportunity in Parkes to do something similar, and we are working on it at the moment. These are some of the great things that we are already doing. I also take this opportunity to update the House on how we are developing a comprehensive plastics policy in New South Wales. I know the members for Fairfield and Lakemba are very interested in these issues. The policy will tackle the issue of straws, cutlery, takeaway containers and a whole range of things that are causing plastic pollution in New South Wales.

Ms Kate Washington: Why won't you ban the bags?

Mr MATT KEAN: I note the interjection from the member for Port Stephens, and doesn't she wish we had banned the bag a bit earlier. We are going to come up with a response to deal with these issues. It is very important that we tackle plastics. That gets me to the point of the plastic bag. One of the biggest causes of plastic pollution in New South Wales, indeed in Australia, is the plastic bag. Australians use about four billion plastic bags every year. That is about 10 million plastic bags every single day. [Extension of time]

I thank the member for North Shore for giving me the additional two minutes to get to what I actually want to talk about. Some 50 million plastic bags end up in our oceans and waterways every year, so we have to ban the bag. But we also need to encourage people to reuse and recycle the bag. I am delighted to see that the Labor Party has fully embraced this strategy. We thought its motivation was environmental, but it turns out it was logistical—how best to carry dirty cash into Sussex Street? Is it any wonder brown paper bags are so passé in the Labor Party? There is a risk that they will break.

Mr Ryan Park: Point of order—

Mr MATT KEAN: There are so many reasons why we need to ban the bag.

The SPEAKER: The Minister will resume his seat.

Mr Ryan Park: Point of order: My point of order relates to Standing Order 129. That carry-on is clearly irrelevant.

Mr MATT KEAN: I know that the people in the gallery care deeply about ensuring that we are reducing plastic waste. That includes banning the bag. That also—

The SPEAKER: I will let the Minister continue, given that he has been relevant for the overwhelming majority of his presentation.

Mr MATT KEAN: Sorry, were you making a ruling?

The SPEAKER: I was ruling on a point of order.

Mr MATT KEAN: I feel there is a great shortage of them in today's question time.

The SPEAKER: Would you like another one?

Mr MATT KEAN: It is not only about banning the bag, we also have to encourage reuse and recycling. I tell The Greens on the crossbench that our motives are pure on this. We want to make sure we are protecting the environment, not looking after the logistics of getting dirty cash into Sussex Street. We are committed to the environment, we are going to tackle climate change and we are going to expand the footprint of our national parks.

Ms Yasmin Catley: Point of order—

Mr MATT KEAN: We will also make sure we reduce plastic pollution in New South Wales, and I am the man to do it.

The SPEAKER: The Minister has completed his answer.