Here's Queensland Premier Anna Bligh on plastic bags, as reported by the Brisbane Times:
Queensland will oppose a levy on plastic bags at tomorrow's meeting of federal and state environment ministers. Premier Anna Bligh today told state parliament the levy would be another impost on families already struggling to meet rising household costs.
"Queensland does remain committed to completely phasing out non-biodegradable plastic bags," Ms Bligh said. "In this government's ongoing fight to protect our environment, Queensland will push for a total ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags..."
Let me get this right. Putting a 10c levy on plastic bags would hit struggling families too hard, so we'll just ban the things altogether? Well I admit there is a certain logic to that. Maybe we could apply that to petrol too when the emissions trading scheme comes in?
My government understands that effective action on climate change requires an
immediate and substantial reduction in fuel use. However, placing a carbon price on fuels would be another impost on families already struggling to meet rising household costs. My government will not take steps that hurts families. Accordingly, we will push for a ban on petrol use from next year.
Hmm, maybe not.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett doesn't seem to have much in the way of solutions:
"I think all Australians really want to see much less use of these ... plastic bags we get at the check-out and when we sit down with the states today we've got to come up with something which is nationally consistent, which doesn't impose additional costs on families, and which starts to see much less of these bags ending up in the litter stream."
Sounds great Peter. And that something would be?
Meanwhile, the opposition's well-thought-through policy is to hope the problem just fixes itself:
"It's extremely important that we move to biodegradeble bags as quickly as possible," [opposition spokesman Greg Hunt] said. "We need to decrease the number of bags, but let's not ban them or put a levy on families that are doing it tough."
Yeah, we urgently need this serious problem to end but, given the pressures facing struggling families, we must be particularly careful not to do anything that might help fix it.
I'd love to hear Greg Hunt on fighting inflation:
It's extremely important that we reduce inflation as quickly as possible. I call on the Reserve Bank and government to do everything in their power to restrain demand - other than raising interest rates, increasing taxes or reducing spending at a time when families are doing it tough.
Victoria and South Australia have announed that they'll go ahead with a levy (starting with a pilot) and ban respectively.
Australians currently use some 40 billion plastic bags a year. Leaders who suggest that we can motivate a big change in people's behaviour in a completely painless way are lying to us. Let's be honest, there will be costs. The question is, are those costs worth the environmental benefits? If plastic bags are the serious problem that all these leaders say they are, then the answer is clearly yes. It then just remains to choose the option that has the greatest impact at least cost. For my money, that's a modest levy.