Morrison’s $167 million waste package draws a big blank

Published on Tue 19 May 2020 12:10pm

The Morrison Government’s signature funding commitments to address Australia’s waste crisis have not advanced a single dollar since they were announced last May, as confirmed in responses to Labor’s questions in Senate Estimates.

In relation to questions about how much funding support had yet been provided through the government’s much vaunted $167m waste and recycling package, the Department gave the following details:

In other words, a year after announcing these measures, not one dollar of investment has been made.

At a time when our economy needs urgent investment in local manufacturing, self-sufficiency, and jobs, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has confirmed that not a single cent of the PM’s $100 million Australian Recycling Investment Fund has been loaned to support much-needed infrastructure. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment have also confirmed that a $20 million product stewardship investment fund still remains in the design phase, and there is no grant application process in place.

Both commitments were first announced in May last year, and in September the Prime Minister talked up his government’s action on waste in an address at the United Nations. Frankly this inaction makes a snail look like Usain Bolt. And remember that it was only through Labor’s inquiries that Angus Taylor was reminded in December of his blunder in not managing to sign the piece of paper authorising the CEFC to establish the $100 million fund.

With the 1 July 2020 commencement of the first stage of the government’s waste export ban imminent, and Departmental data showing Australia exported 187,354 tonnes of plastic waste in 2018-19, it is astounding that Minister Ley and Prime Minister Morrison cannot point to a single dollar invested through either of these key programs.

Indeed, all the Morrison Government has managed to do so far is commission independent analysis that reveals Australia will require a 400% increase in recycling infrastructure in order to respond to the export ban, and hold a Plastic Waste Summit at which no clear policy or funding was announced.

There is still no detail on regulatory reform – and it is ridiculous that after two years we are still waiting for the final review of the Product Stewardship Act. Despite the urgency of the waste crisis there is still no detail on how demand for recycled content will be supported through meaningful procurement targets and mechanisms at the Commonwealth level.

Australia’s waste and resource industry and our environment cannot afford such a cavernous gap between big promises and infinitesimal achievements.

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