Hidden waste cost to hit builders and customers
THEY say in politics, it's always the cover up that gets you.
This truism has proven to be correct time and again throughout the Palaszczuk Government's ham-fisted efforts to reintroduce a waste levy in Queensland.
The principle behind putting a price signal on waste is sound. If Queensland wants to stop the interstate trash trade there are few other credible options other than spoiling the business model with a local levy.
This state also has a woeful recycling rate and the "stick and carrot" approach of a waste levy and a container deposit scheme should, in theory, start to address that.
However, while the Palaszczuk Government's motivations are right, its methods are not.
Ministers have repeatedly told porkies to the public about the levy, only to be caught out later. That's left the administration looking arrogant and untrustworthy, which has become a recurring theme this term.
Right from the start, Labor has tried to spin this issue.
There was po-faced surprise and anger late last year at ABC reports that NSW rubbish was coming to Queensland even though this was well known.
Then a three-month investigation was launched in the weeks before the state election, with a hand-on-heart promise this would not culminate in a waste levy.
Former environment minister Steven Miles went as far to claim the Government would reject any recommendation for a levy, saying "our commitment stands that we won't be introducing any new taxes, fees or charges".
However, when the report recommended a levy, the Government's rhetoric shifted.
A levy was essential, but it wouldn't be passed on to Queensland households.
"We want to make sure that it is the big polluters, particularly the big polluters from NSW, who pay the cost for dumping their rubbish here in Queensland, and not Queensland households," Treasurer Jackie Trad reckoned.
Now, those claims by Trad and Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch are being exposed for the rubbish that they always were.
The LGAQ says households can expect rate rises because upfront rebates to councils won't fully offset the extra cost of weekly wheelie bin disposal and self-haul dumping.
"We believe the figure is somewhere around $10 to $12 million per annum," LGAQ supremo Greg Hallam said.
Enoch (above) obviously subscribes to the theory that when you're caught in a hole, the best approach is to dig deeper.
"The only way this will cost households more is if councils don't use the advanced payment as it is intended," she offered.
Well, the Waste Recycling Industry Association, which has supported the levy, disagrees.
"The introduction of the levy is a new additional cost for disposing waste that will impact every Queenslander," the association says in its submission to the Parliament committee probing the levy legislation.
It has crunched the cost of the $70 per tonne tax on building a new four-bedroom home and found an extra $3650 will be passed on to southeast Queensland buyers.
In regional Queensland the impost will be much more.
Master Builders agrees.
"We believe that the inability of the construction industry to reduce their waste to landfill will most certainly impact householders building a new home or renovating their existing home," it says.
Maybe in the mind of Palaszczuk Government ministers, buyers aren't yet householders?
While self-haul costs are supposedly covered, what about those who don't have a tow ball and a trailer and require a skip?
Sunshine Coast Skip's Simon Bardsley wrote to Enoch earlier this year warning he'd have to pass on the cost to households.
"As a small locally owned business, any levy we would incur would have to be passed on to the end-user customer," he said.
Maybe Enoch never got the email?
That's okay, however, because the funds raised are going to a good cause, right?
The Government has repeatedly claimed the levy has a dual purpose of stopping the interstate trash trade and creating a recycling industry.
However, while $1.3 billion will be raised over four years, a third of the funds will be raked for other purposes.
So what do we have in the end?
We have a tax that the Government said it wouldn't introduce to solve a problem it has ignored for years.
We have minister doing an impersonation of Monty Python's Black Knight by claiming households won't pay when everyone else says they will.
We have a treasurer plundering the levy proceeds to fund things the state can't afford because the Budget is lumbered with debt.
Had the Government been frank rather than frugal with the facts, it might have made a virtue out of the levy's introduction.
Instead, because of a compulsion to cover up, the whole thing stinks.
GOOD MILEAGE FROM THE JOB
DUCK farmer Ray Hopper has earnt the dubious honour of clocking up the most expensive travel trip taken by a former MP last financial year.
Politicians who served three terms, and at least seven years, are entitled to one return flight a year to anywhere in Australia, New Zealand or Papua New Guinea for themselves and spouse.
One stopover is allowed as long as it is en route to the destination and no accommodation is included.
Somehow, Hopper chalked up a bill of almost $12,000, adding to the $11,000, $4000 and $9000 costs for the previous three financial years he's been out of politics.
Not a bad perk for a bloke who was never made a minister and repeatedly changed political parties.
TOO MUCH INFO FOR RENT REVIEW
IS THE Labor Party using the Government's rent review as a data mining exercise?
Green MP Michael Berkman certainly believes so.
He has a point.
The public wanting a say are being pointed towards a website run by Labor and asked for their gender, age, email, postcode and renting experience.
At the same time, there is a formal government website where people can post a response that shouldn't put their information in the hands of a political party.
Surely, after the controversies around politics and big data, this isn't appropriate.
GRUMBLINGS IN THE TOWER
THERE'S growing angst within the Government about the fiefdom being created in Annastacia Palaszczuk's office.
The bottom nine ranked ministers have all been stripped of an adviser position to pad out the Premier's new digital, regional and rapid- response media units.
It is modelled on how Victoria runs its premier's office, however, a six-month trial has turned into 10 months, and no word whether it's permanent.
The ministerial expense report does not reflect the secondments, and there's concern that might spell trouble at some stage.