Topics: E-waste recycling businesses
The Commonwealth Government has recently been made aware of a situation faced by some waste recycling businesses including disability service providers in South Australia and New South Wales.
Greg Hunt, you’re accusing the State Government of dumping costs onto the disabled sector. Could you put some meat on the bone on this for us?
Sure. So, what this scheme is, is a recycling scheme for computers and television and it was set up by Tony Burke, from the former Federal Government, and in particular, the then-state Premiers and the South Australian Government. It allocated a quota of televisions to be recycled and computers to be recycled and it did it through a system of annual contracts.
So, two real problems in the way it was set up. What’s happened here is there’s a fantastic local South Australian company, Aspitech. It employs many people with disabilities. Seventy five are funded by the Commonwealth Department of Social Service on a part basis and their contract ran out and they were – it was a private firm contracting to another private firm.
Their contract ran out and suddenly they have no work. This has now come to my attention. It was a scheme set up and part of the problem here, as well, is that the State is using the scheme to dump its own e-waste. So, you’ve got two problems, a contract that has expired with nothing planned at State-level, a system designed by the previous Government.
We’re aiming to fix both of these issues.
Okay. What do you want the Government to do, the South Australian Government?
Right now, the South Australian Government should enter into a contract with Aspitech. They are dumping their surplus computers and televisions and allowing the State system to dump them and that means that the quota for the industry is being filled early.
They can help resolve this problem, immediately. The Commonwealth is continuing to provide funds for the workers but my understanding is that the firm itself is struggling because they just don’t have a contract. The State can give them a contract, we don’t actually process waste but we are supporting the workers.
We did put $380,000 into the capital for them to set up their operation. So, there is something immediate for the State to do and, in the meantime, I’m writing to all of the State Premiers today to say, there’s a flaw in the system, let’s change it so as we don’t suddenly have a situation where, at midnight on one day, you go from a significant amount of work to zero work.
There has to be longer term certainty. I am, frankly, astonished that the system was set up with all of the flaws of pink batts and green loans and cash for clunkers, that were the hallmark of the sort of misunderstanding of how markets and firms actually work under the previous Government.
So, how is the Government dumping on the disability sector?
So, what they’re doing is – there was a quota in terms of the number of televisions and computers for which the levy system would pay. That’s being filled early in the year because States and, in particular, local councils are also dumping all of their waste. The South Australian Government changed the system so as none of this electronic waste could go to landfill.
That means the quota’s being finished early in the year and so you get these – this huge surge of work and then a collapse of work and at the same time, you’ve got a situation where thirty five per cent of the waste is coming from industry but sixty five per cent is coming from local and State Government.
In other words, they’re using the system to avoid their own landfill charges but, in the end, creating massive boom and bust in a sector which, in many cases, has disability workers and these disability workers, who are doing a great job, through no fault of their own, are caught between A, a change in contract where their firm doesn’t have a contract and B, a system which was, honestly, badly designed. We didn’t create the problem but we’re sure going to fix it.