Weekly Speak CEO Column
Waste levy: Does not clean up councils concerns
Heavily anticipated as it was, the Palaszczuk Government’s unveiling of its waste levy legislation has local councils continuing to grapple with how they are expected to collect this new tax for the State, without the confidence that costs will not be shifted to them. This is even with the 105% rebate on offer for council waste.
The LGAQ on behalf of its members has sought to focus on the benefits that could come from a waste levy, particularly its potential to forge a clear path towards a zero-waste future and jobs for Queensland through investment in technology and new industries.
Our pragmatism though has always been tempered by our vigilance in ensuring the Premier is held to her very welcomed commitment that no household will be worse off.
The devil is always in the detail and it is never prudent to react before you have your facts tested, but local councils can be assured we continue to advocate strongly for a position that genuinely respects the role local governments are to play. We are not just another stakeholder in all of this. Councils, as with so many other policy reforms the Government is pursuing, stand ready to be a valued partner.
I want to personally thank the Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch for approaching the waste levy issue in that spirit, seeking us out to advise us of the legislation and its path. She is very aware of our key concerns and has given us a commitment to work with us, where practicable, to make this work for the sector. We will certainly use the time the parliamentary process affords to do this.
Specifically, we will continue to make a case that the Government’s decision to include Maranoa and Mt Isa councils in the waste levy zone, when you look at the costs involved, fails the common-sense test.
And while the offset for the domestic waste levy is welcomed, we cannot ignore that councils are up for 30 percent of the cost of any new infrastructure that will need to be built because of the levy. A cost councils have not budgeted for. We will also be forensic in our understanding of what waste streams are included in the offset net to ensure that no residual costs are left for councils to recover.
These are not unreasonable asks. Don’t forget, it is councils that are being asked to collect a new state tax, councils that have control of the feedstock that can support the Government’s ambition of a job-creating recycling industry and councils that need to put in place infrastructure by March next year to make this all happen. Local governments will also be the ones who must send the bill to those businesses and ratepayers that are not levy exempt.
And for all this, we get nothing but a small fraction of the revenue. Nor will the millions of dollars raised be returned fully to improving waste management (as surveys show most Queenslanders want) so that we create a zero waste future.
Looking forward to having Greg and our local government colleagues back next week, to hear just how the rest of the world has tackled this challenge.
And, speaking of innovation, it was thrilling to see Sunshine Coast Council has succeeded in its long running bid to become the first local government in Australia to secure an investment in an international submarine fibre optic cable. It topped off a good week for the Sunshine Coast, with the council being named a finalist, along with Brisbane City Council and Ipswich City Council, for the top prize in the inaugural Smart Cities Australia awards.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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