Bag ban would ‘hurt the poor’

An upper house Liberal MP has moved to block Fremantle council's bid to ban plastic bags.

An upper house Liberal MP has moved to block Fremantle council’s bid to ban plastic bags.

FREMANTLE’S proposed ban on plastic bags would be a bourgeois law hurting poor folk, says the Liberal MLC planning to smack it down for a second time.

On Wednesday, Leederville-based upper house MP Peter Katsambanis moved a disallowance motion against the council’s local law aimed at reducing the amount of plastic bags heading into the environment.

He was also one of the chief critics when the ban was first overturned in 2013.

Mr Katsambanis had argued that as well as imposing an unfair burden on shop-owners in Fremantle compared to their neighbours, retailers recouping the cost of non-disposable alternatives would have to pass the cost on to customers.

“As a percentage of items purchased, it may not matter to someone who is buying $100 items, but if people are buying items of a small value, it could add up to a high percentage of the total cost of their purchases,” he said.

“Of course, it would have a disproportionate impact on people of low income.”

Mr Katsambanis, who grew up carrying his mum’s shopping from Coles New World in paper bags, says allowing the ban opens a Pandora’s box.

“I guess it is open to any level of government to impose some sort of levy on, for instance, the sale of coffee in plastic cups or paper cups for that matter; the sale of soft drinks in plastic, aluminium or glass containers; or the sale of some forms of fast food and the like.”

He says to avoid punishing one retailer over another, such legislation should be enacted at the state or federal levels.

Fremantle acting mayor Josh Wilson says the council followed good process, including consultation with business, in putting the bylaw together.

He notes the government is looking set to ignore the recommendations of its own committee in order to block the initiative.

“There are several other local government authorities, both in Western Australia and in other parts of the country, who are eagerly awaiting the outcome before they move to implement similar laws, so there will be a lot of interest in this decision,” Cr Wilson says.

Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk supports the council’s attempts.

“While it may take shoppers a little time to get used to, it’s an innovative step that is now commonplace in other Australian states and around the world,” she says.

“The fact the Liberals are still trying to block the plastic bag ban is both obstructive and reactionary. The Liberals have absolutely no credibility when it comes to protecting the environment.”
Local Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren says Freo could have been a trial run for the rest of the state.

“There can be no mistake now, that the current state government is deliberately standing in the way of the City of Fremantle which has done its homework and developed a local law that its local constituents demanded.”

by STEVE GRANT

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