MP calls for national ban on plastic bags
Inspired by the advocacy work of students from Kangaroo Island, Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has challenged NSW and Victoria to join the rest of the nation in banning lightweight plastic bags.
Photograph: Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie with Kangaroo Island Community Education students Koby and Chaeli who showed her their soft plastics bin initiative. The students' research and advocacy for a national ban on checkout-style plastic bags encouraged Rebekha to introduce her plastic bag ban motion into Federal Parliament.
This week the Nick Xenophon Team MP introduced a motion to Federal Parliament calling on all State Governments without a ban on checkout-style plastic bags to introduce laws with “speed and urgency”.
Rebekha also called on the Federal Government to work with the states to bring in a national ban by the end of 2018.
“Implementing a single-use plastic bag ban in every state and territory sends a strong, consistent message that all Australians will make small changes to protect our environment,” Rebekha said.
“I strongly support those states and territories that already have their bans on bags or are in the process of heading towards them, and again I strongly encourage the New South Wales Government to demonstrate the same leadership shown by the rest of Australia.
“It can be done. For nine years in South Australia we have had a plastic bag ban, and it's about time that our most populous state joined the team.”
In 2009 South Australia became the first state to introduce a widespread ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.
University of South Australia review in 2011 found about 80 per cent of the community supported the ban and South Australians were prepared to consider extending the ban to cover thicker and heavier plastics.
The ACT, the Northern Territory and Tasmania have since followed South Australia’s lead with the Queensland and Western Australia Governments committing to introducing a ban in 2018 and the Victoria Government undertaking public consultation on the issue.
“Last year I wrote to both the New South Wales and Victorian Premiers, urging them to join the rest of the country in banning the plastic bag,” Rebekha said.
“I was encouraged by the comments from the Victorian Environment Minister, and I understand that the Victorian Parliament has now made a commitment to ban the plastic bag.
“However, I must say that I was incredibly disappointed with the New South Wales Premier's response to me.
“Gladys Berejiklian welcomed the leadership of Woolworths, Coles and Harris Farm Markets to phase out single-use plastic bags but was then pointedly silent about committing to any such leadership herself.
“I would urge Premier Berejiklian to consult with her community. This ban can be done, and it is the most populous state in our nation.”
Rebekha was inspired to take up the cause of a national ban on plastic bags after Kangaroo Island Community Education Year 4 and 5 students shared their research about the impact of lightweight plastic bags on the marine environment.
“The class I visited were so passionate about the environment that they started several local initiatives, including a clean-up at the local beach and a soft-plastics bin in their schoolyard,” Rebekha said.
“The students had also investigated and reported on a number of different environmental schemes, including the importance of a national plastic bag ban across Australia.
“It's so important that we get rid of soft plastics because our marine life appear to see them as jellyfish, and we are killing our marine animals.
“I want to sincerely thank the students of Kangaroo Island Community Education; their infectious enthusiasm encouraged me to put forward this important motion.”