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The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL (Cheltenham—Minister for Environment and Conservation, Minister for Early Childhood Development, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Minister Assisting the Premier in Cabinet Business and Public Sector Management) (14:02): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to restrict the supply of single use plastic shopping bags. Read a first time.

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL (Cheltenham—Minister for Environment and Conservation, Minister for Early Childhood Development, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Minister Assisting the Premier in Cabinet Business and Public Sector Management) (14:03): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill will prohibit the supply of lightweight plastic shopping bags to reduce littering, prevent environmental harm and improve resource efficiency.

The estimated national consumption of plastic bags for 2007 was 3.93 billion, of which 40 million were estimated to have ended up as unsightly litter on our beaches and in our parks and streets. They also kill marine life and damage waterways on land. Most go to landfill, where they take many years to break down. In comparison with reusable ‘green’ bags, lightweight plastic bags have been found to be less efficient in terms of resources used for manufacturing, embodied energy, contribution to global warming, and primary energy used.

The former governor, in her speech to open Parliament on 27 April 2006, stated that ‘South Australia has set the pace nationally by announcing the abolition of single-use plastic shopping bags from the start of 2009.’ A voluntary scheme to reduce the use of plastic bags has only been partially successful, while attempts at agreement on a national regulatory approach have not been realised. Whilst South Australia cannot solve the plastic bag problems of the entire nation, we can show leadership in our own backyard by preventing retailers from supplying lightweight plastic shopping bags to customers. The ban will not prevent retailers from providing customers with plastic bags that are biodegradable in accordance with the relevant Australian Standard.

The bill describes the product to be regulated (plastic shopping bags) and the policy objective (avoidance of waste). The bill provides that a retailer must not provide a plastic shopping bag to a customer as a means of carrying goods purchased or to be purchased from the retailer. The government's intention is that this prohibition will come into effect on 4 May 2009.

Bags that would be subject to the ban are those made from polyethylene which are used or intended for use for the carrying or transporting of retail goods, which have handles and which are less than 35 microns in thickness. Other thicknesses or types of bag could be prescribed by regulation in the future to ensure that the intent of the bill is preserved.

Barrier bags will be excluded from the ban. These are bags without handles, typically presented on a roll in retail outlets, which are used to hold unpackaged foods—for example, loose fruit and vegetables, nuts, breads, cakes and products that may leak or contaminate other foods if not placed in a barrier bag. Boutique-style reusable plastic bags are also excluded from the ban. These are not subject to the ban, because they are made of a heavier material than conventional shopping bags and are designed to be reused on a number of occasions.

The ban will occur following a transitional period. The intention is for the transitional period to begin on 1 January 2009. The transitional period has been requested by retailers to overcome challenges associated with introducing an absolute ban in the Christmas retail period. During the transitional period, retailers who supply plastic bags will also be required to supply alternatives. This will provide consumer choice and ensure that retailers are adequately prepared for the introduction of the ban. The types of alternatives that would be stocked are prescribed as either being biodegradable, that is, designated as compostable through testing against the Australian Standard, or reusable, that is, designed for regular use over a period of approximately two years.

Signage requirements will apply during the transition phase, from 1 January 2009. Signage requirements will be prescribed by regulation, requiring notification of a prescribed size to be displayed in a prescribed locality within retail outlets. The signage will remind customers that a plastic bag phase-out is in place and notify customers that alternatives to plastic bags are available.

A public information and education program will be undertaken in the lead-up to the ban coming into place. Consumers and businesses will be targeted to assist in managing all the impacts of the phase-out. Occupational health, safety and welfare education will be included to assist retail staff to be ready to manage alternative shopping bags.

A Plastic Bag Phase-Out Task Force has been established, chaired by Zero Waste SA, which comprises representatives from the Environment Protection Authority; Restaurant and Catering SA; Keep South Australia Beautiful; the State Retailers Association; the Local Government Association; the Consumers’ Association of SA; the Conservation Council; the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association and the Hardware Association of SA. Throughout the lead up to the phase-out, the task force has advised the government of impacts on industry.

Offences apply to retailers who provide plastic shopping bags to consumers following the introduction of the ban. Retailers have a defence where it can be shown that the retailer had reasonable grounds to believe that the plastic shopping bags were not of a type prohibited by the legislation. An additional offence applies to persons who supply, sell or provide plastic shopping bags and represent that these are not plastic shopping bags. The bill allows for a maximum penalty of $20,000 (supply offence) and $5,000 (retailer offence), and an expiation fee of $315 (for the retailer offence only). Compliance will be undertaken by the Environment Protection Authority.

I seek leave to have the explanation of the clauses inserted in Hansard without my reading it.

Leave granted.

Explanation of Clauses

1—Short title

This clause is formal.


This clause provides for operation of the measure to commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.


Clause 3 provides definitions of a number of terms used in the measure.

An authorised officer is a person who is an authorised officer for the purposes of the Environment Protection Act 1993 . A biodegradable bag is a carry bag comprised of material of a type that has been assessed and tested in accordance with Australian Standard AS 4736/2006 and can be designated as 'compost able' in accordance with that standard. A carry bag with handles is a plastic shopping bag for the purposes of the Act if the body of the bag comprises (in whole or part) polyethylene w ith a thickness of less than 35 microns. Other kinds of bags may also be brought within the definition of 'plastic shopping bag' by regulation. Biodegradable bags, and plastic bags that constitute, or form an integral part of, the packaging in which goods are sealed prior to sale, are not plastic shopping bags. The regulations may exclude other bags from the ambit of the definition of 'plastic shopping bag'. The prescribed day is a day prescribed by regulation. This will be the day on which the prohibition against the supply of pla stic shopping bags under clause 5 will commence.

4—Retailer must provide alternative shopping bag until prescribed day

During the period beginnin g on the commencement of clause 4 and ending on the day before the prescribed day, retailers who make plastic shopping bags available to customers as a means of carrying purchased goods will be required under this clause to also be in a position to provide alternative shopping bags. An alternative shopping bag is a carry bag that is a biodegradable bag or is designed to be used on a regular basis o ver a period of approximately 2 years. The regulations may bring other kinds of carry bags within the ambit of the definition of alternative shopping bag . Retailers will not be prevented from charging a fee for the provision of an alternative shopping bag.

Retailers will also be required to display a notice, or notices, in compliance with requirements specified in the regulations.

The maximum penalty for a failure to comply with these requirements is a fine of $5 , 000. An expiation fee of $315 is also included.

5—Retailer not to provide plastic shopping bag

If a retailer provides a plastic shopping bag to a customer as a means of carrying goods purchased, or to be purchased, from the retailer, the retailer is guilty of an offence. However, if the retailer proves that he or she believed on reasonable grounds that the bag was not a plastic shopping bag, he or she has a defence to the charge of the offence. This prohibition has effect from the prescribed day. The section applies whether or not a fee is charged to the customer for provision of a plastic shopping bag.

The maximum penalty for a breach of the section is a fine of $5 , 000. An expiation fee of $315 is also included.

6—Person must not represent that supplied plastic shopping bag is not a plastic shopping bag

A person who sells, supplies or provides a bag to another person knowing that the bag is a plastic shopping bag is guilty of an offence if he or she represents to the other person that the bag is not a plastic shopping bag. The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $20 , 000.

7—Interaction with Environment Protection Act

The Plastic Shopping Bags (Waste Avoidance) Act 2008 and the Environment Protection Act 1993 are to be read together and construed as if the two Acts constituted a single Act. This clause authorises authorised officers to exercise their powers under the Environment Protection Act 1993 for the purposes of the administration and enforcement of the Plastic Shopping Bags (Waste Avoidance) Act 2008 .

8—Review of Act

This clause requires the Minister to appoint a person to prepare a report on the eff ect on the community of section 5 and the extent to which the Act has been effective in restricting the supply of plastic shopping bags. The Minister may also require the person to report on other matters determined by the Minister to be relevant to a review of the Act. The person who is to conduct the review must be appointed as soon practicable after the second anniversary of the prescribed day and must report to the Minister within six months of his or her appointment. The Minister is required to have copies of the report laid before both Houses of Parliament.


This clause provides a power for the Governor to make regulations contemplated by, or necessary or expedient for the purposes of, the Act.

The regulations may exempt specified persons or classes of persons from the operation of the Act or of a specified provision of the Act.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Griffiths.