Protection Of The Environment Operations Amendment (Balloons) Bill



About this Item
SpeakersSeaton Ms Peta; Brown Mr Matt; Debus Mr Bob
BusinessBill, Second Reading


    PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT OPERATIONS AMENDMENT (BALLOONS) BILL
Page: 9399
    Second Reading

    Debate resumed from 11 October.

    Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [8.00 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of the Opposition to the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Balloons) Bill and comment from the outset that this is a typical Labor Party blunt, command control-style piece of legislation. The Government has been forced to move. It expressed a concern on this environmental issue only when dragged to do so by the initiative taken by the Coalition some weeks ago when I gave notice of a motion in this place that foreshadowed that the Coalition would be looking seriously and strategically at the broad issue of pollution of marine environments and its impact particularly on marine mammals and birds, as well as other issues of marine pollution.

    I foreshadowed also that the Coalition would consult with industry, the balloon industry, stakeholders and experts, ecologists, and all the people who have some expertise and ownership of the issue. I was disappointed, therefore, when the bill arrived because I was hoping to see something a little broader, produced as a result of more extensive consultation, which sought to set out some environmental objectives rather than the blunt, command control-style of legislation that specifically homes in on one particular type of event and bans it.

    The Coalition will not oppose this bill but I foreshadow that notice will be given in the other place of an amendment that I will discuss in more detail in due course. I note also the absence of the Premier in the debate on this legislation. Honourable members will recall that when I gave notice of a motion on 9 August the Premier leapt up and said that he thought what I had said was a good idea and that he supported anything that would make a difference to environmental outcomes, particularly the impact on marine mammals. I was rather surprised then on the second reading of the bill that not only was the Premier absent but the Minister for the Environment was absent and the speech was read by a parliamentary secretary.

    I should have thought, with the publicity that the Premier generated as a result of trying to take ownership of this issue, that he might have followed through and given some indication that perhaps he was serious about it by taking up the bill in the House and contributing to the debate. But the Premier has not done any of those things. I am glad that the Minister for the Environment is in the Chamber this evening, but I had hoped to hear from him on the second reading exactly what the Government intended to achieve with this piece of legislation.

    The Coalition initiative that I foreshadowed on 9 August was quite wide ranging and took account of the fact that there is still a good deal of research to be done, that there are a diversity of views, that there are significant employment-related issues in the balloon industry and that many retail outlets and many families are involved throughout New South Wales in the production of goods and services to do with events, with parties and with larger events that often occur in regional towns as well. I took account also of the fact that some very innovative and courageous people are involved in this debate, including Bethany Henderson of Tuross Heads, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting with. She is a very inspiring young lady, single-minded and determined to follow through on something that she believes is worthwhile doing for the environment.

    The other person I have had the pleasure of meeting in the course of this debate is Lance Ferris, who is affectionately known as the Pelican Man, from Ballina. He has a very effective team of people engaged in seabird rescue based at Ballina and has been successful in establishing a number of teams along the coast of New South Wales, including on the South Coast, whom he is training to do the sort of work that he does. I would particularly like to congratulate him on the efforts that he has made and the success that he has had in the educational aspects of the work that he does.

    I was inspired when I met him to discover that he has measured a 60 per cent decline in animal injuries and deaths involving fishhooks, fishing line, and all the debris that otherwise finds its way into waterways when discarded thoughtlessly by people who perhaps do not realise that it has such horrible effects downstream, particularly in the food chain. One can only wonder what effect could be achieved across New South Wales if that sort of educational emphasis could be made in many of the centres along our coast. I wish Lance Ferris great success with the work he is doing with other teams, which often rely on one dedicated person in a coastal area who will go out, often in his own boat or a boat used privately, to rescue birds and educate people about the effects of discarded fishing and other equipment.

    One has to wonder how serious the Government is about this issue when the Premier is completely absent from this debate. I particularly highlight to the Government that the bill as it stands is a missed opportunity. The Government had the opportunity to take up the issue and to consult more broadly with a range of people, but it completely ignored that opportunity. I think the Premier saw it just as a race to get the bill into the Parliament regardless of its quality and regardless of the amount of thought that had gone into its production. I can understand that the industry, and particularly some of the smaller family operations around New South Wales, are angry. They feel they have not been consulted. They have information to give and some legitimate points of view, but that was something which the Government was not at all interested in following through.

    From the outset I make clear that the Coalition will not oppose this legislation as we are keen to reduce the amount and source of pollution that affects marine animals and birds, and our marine and estuary environments. This legislation is not about banning balloons or denying children the fun of balloons; it is about supporting family companies that are involved in party decorations and those sorts of things, which includes the supply of balloons to be used for decoration, at fetes, parties and shows, in a responsible fashion. It is about making sure that those who are engaged in entertainment and street entertainment in our community, particularly those who do what is called balloon art, continue to have an important place in the community. Balloon art is one of the attractions of many country shows. A young woman in my area has a vibrant balloon art business and puts on many shows for children. Recently I met her at the Belgenny horse show at the Elizabeth Macarthur Farm. She makes shapes out of balloons and makes sure they do not enter the environment. Those sorts of businesses certainly deserve, and should retain, their place in our State.

    Balloons are used successfully also as event decorations. Balloons played an important and responsible role in the Paralympics closing ceremony. Props for the opening and closing ceremonies were large balloons containing smaller balloons, all of which were held in a contained environment. When those balloons were no longer needed, of course they would have been disposed of correctly. Thousands of people who came to the stadium were each given a white balloon and instructed at a particular time to blow up the balloon and push it down into the stadium to create the effect of a cascade of balloons. Of course, all of those balloons were in a controlled environment and all ended up on the floor of the stadium to be collected at the appropriate time and disposed of properly. Those sorts of mass events, which were greatly enjoyed by everyone who attended, are certainly not intended to be banned under this legislation.

    There are many innovative and different ways for the balloon and event industry to entertain large crowds at spectacular and major sporting events other than the mass release of helium balloons. The Balloon Artists Suppliers Association [BASA] advises me that mass releases of helium balloons are a source of concern to many people and although they do not happen terribly often, of course, they are on a large scale. At the 1998 rugby league grand final 100,000 balloons were released; 72,000 were released at the 1997 Winfield Cup; and I understand that roughly 30,000 balloons are released at a time at the AFL grand final. Around New South Wales occasional events such as Australia Day celebrations or other regional celebrations release in the order of 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 balloons at a time. Balloon releases do not happen every day, but there are legitimate grounds for concern by many people about what happens to those balloons when they take off into the air.

    It is important that we understand the evidence that supports this legislation. The industry believes it takes a responsible approach because when balloons enter the atmosphere they shatter as a result of the altitude and temperature, but I am told also that balloons released from Sydney or along the coast, for example, would probably find their way to the south Pacific Ocean somewhere around Tahiti or even near Hawaii. That means once those balloons shatter and fall to the ocean we have simply moved a problem from above Sydney to above some other environment. That is why we need to understand and recognise the effect of those pieces of latex in the ocean. The industry advises also that balloons released in Western Australia are likely to fall somewhere over central Australia or even in the Great Australian Bight—again an example of a mass of material moving inland in one case and to an Australia waterway in the other.

    The industry acknowledges also that balloon shards can take between one and two years to break down, depending on the atmospheric and environmental conditions in which they end up. I acknowledge also the information from the industry that a good deal of the evidence in scientific journals and collected by ecologists and conservationists is not about the type of balloon that is used in helium balloon releases but the sorts of balloons that might be used at a party or fete. The latex involved is a different formula and behaves differently. So it is acknowledged that not all balloon debris is a result of lighter-than-air balloon releases. Nevertheless, there is sufficient evidence of latex from helium-filled balloons that it is time and timely to take action against these sorts of releases.

    Of course, on the other hand there is a good deal of scientific evidence that strengthens the argument from conservationists and wildlife experts that it is time to take a strong stand and make some changes. I refer honourable members to a 1990 study prepared by Allan Foley particularly about the effect of latex and other marine debris on turtles. Turtles, dolphins, whales and sea birds become victims through the ingestion of latex and other debris which, of course, blocks up their guts, making them unable to eat other food and consequently they die of malnutrition or other related causes, including gangrene. It is something against which we need to take some action. The results of the controlled experiment of the breakdown time of balloons state:
        Balloons that are submerged in salt water have been found to remain intact for periods of at least one year.

    The experiment points also to the fact that as many as 6.3 per cent of turtles may die with balloon debris in their gastrointestinal tracts. This is a report from a highly qualified scientist from the Department of Natural Resources, Florida Marine Research Institute. I note also the information provided by Dr Nancy Fitzsimmons, who briefed some members of Parliament today. She spoke particularly about the effect of latex balloons on turtles. She said:
        Many leather back turtles in the Pacific are in danger of extinction in less than 20 years unless protective measures are taken. Within Australia the loggerhead turtle is endangered due to population declines of 50 to 80 per cent in the last two decades.
    She underlines the relationship between some turtle deaths and latex. We need to consider carefully the opinions and experience of people such as Nancy Fitzsimmons. It is true that there is not an enormous weight of statistical evidence that directly links latex balloons with the deaths of marine mammals, but there are a number of good explanations. Despite the fact that in many cases people point to the fact that plastic bags, bait bags and other debris floating in the ocean have contributed to the death of animals, there is still a significant number of sea animals that have died through the ingestion of latex balloons. The 1996 marine debris report by Cohen Rogers gives an example specifically of one loggerhead turtle, one risso dolphin and two fulmars, which are seabirds.

    Mylar balloons—the foil balloons that are acknowledged not to be the type released in helium lifts—have been found in one common dolphin and one sperm whale. It has been clearly documented that sea animals have died as a result of ingestion of such balloons. Many injured or ill birds return to land to die, and that accounts for the often greater number of birds involved. In my discussion with groups such as Orrca Inc. and the Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities centre at the University of Sydney it has been acknowledged that very often one does not get a true indication of the effect on marine mammals. Whereas birds often find their way to land if they are injured or need to recuperate, a marine mammal that dies as a result of toxic ingestion is likely never to be found because its body would be dealt with at sea. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I am very conscious of the arguments put that the evidence is slim. However, I believe there are significant numbers of direct documented examples that we need to take very seriously.

    A couple of weeks ago I visited Lance Ferris at Ballina, who is best known I suppose for his work with pelicans, but it is also important to note that he is doing a lot of work with turtles, several species of which are endangered. He is working very hard to find ways to improve the environment for turtles. He talks to local fishermen. Sydney is not immune from the sorts of environmental effects we have been talking about in this debate. I received a letter from Merridy Cairn-Duff, who is the co-ordinator of the Georges River Combined Councils' Committee Incorporated. In that letter she reminds us that this sort of debris is very much in our own backyard in Sydney. She wrote:
        Everybody loves the release of balloons, aesthetically it's great, but I don't think many have ever given thought as to where they end up—that is of course unless they happen to be scubadivers or regular participants in Cleanup Australia Day.

        I have been diving for 14 years, primarily in Sydney Harbour. I used to be acknowledged by Australias diving magazines as a good contact for information on Sydney Harbours diving sites as I used to do a lot of writing for them on local sites. I have participated in 11 of the 12 Cleanup Australia Day campaigns, doing "underwater cleanups" in Sydney Harbour locations. In 1998 I initiated a local underwater cleanup diving group called "S.A.C.K" (the Sydney Aquatic Cleaners Klub) which met each month to do an underwater cleanup. Eventually I obtained a grant from CoastCare to take this project national. In February 1999 I was one of 5 special guest speakers at Ian Kiernans 10th anniversary launch of Cleanup Australia Day.

        As you can see, I've had a few dealings directly with the harbourside pollution. If I could only show you what ends up on the bottom of the ocean you would think you'd never seen rubbish before in your life. In some areas, it accumulates very heavily due to the tides, eddies and winds which commonly prevail.

        Balloons? - they sink! And when they hit the water and get washed around a bit and battered then tend to break up into smaller pieces … not only a danger to marine life but a real pain for persons trying to collect it – whether underwater or on foreshores, picking up little pieces of balloon is backbreaking work. And more often than not the pieces have entangled themselves in weeds or other marine life as the bits of string get tangled and the rubber goes kinda sticky.

        Any dive site in Sydney Harbour bears lots and lots of little pieces of balloons.

        I really think a good way of addressing this issue is to educate the public as to where they go and what impact they have. Most people until recent EPA campaigns didn't have the foggiest where their street drains go to … they need to be "shown".

        On the technical side of things, I don't see why with modern technology we can't invest balloons which burst at a low altitude so they come down virtually above their origin point – this may even be more spectacular, like Chinese firecrackers going off. This would solve a lot of problems without needing to take away yet another thing in life which the public enjoys.
    That is useful evidence from someone at the coalface, so to speak, of cleaning up our marine environment, and I am very grateful to Merridy Cairn-Duff for her advice. In August in my notice of motion I tried to emphasise that I believe it is important to solve environmental problems by identifying the expected outcomes and objectives in our environment and then to let those involved in influencing those outcomes find ways to deal with them. I am disappointed with the thrust of this legislation because it is very specific and its style is to control and command.

    I remind honourable members that in my notice of motion I said we would consult with the industry and stakeholders. I said that I would present legislation to the House before the end of the year following consultation with industry, ecologists, event organisers and environmental campaigners. I also said that it was very important that we set very clear biodegradable objectives for balloons, plastic bags and other materials. I said that we should engage the Environment Protection Authority [EPA] much more actively in an education campaign. At the time a campaign sponsored by the EPA showed litter advertisements on television as part of the litter legislation that we supported in this place, and I thought that was an opportunity to devote one of the television commercials to the subject of balloons and their role in the chain of pollution.

    That initiative was ignored and was not taken up by the Government. Whilst we all saw lots of advertisements about paper litter, fast food litter, et cetera, I was disappointed that we did not see anything that gave anyone a better idea about the effects of balloons in the litter chain. I was disappointed also that in the second reading speech of the Parliamentary Secretary there was not a more specific commitment to ongoing education about the role that balloons play in out litter stream. It is also important that we focus on education. Lance Ferris has explained his experience. In his view he has seen a massive and dramatic reduction in the number of sea birds injured as a result of entanglement in fishing lines because of education, and his engagement in his community has resulted in a change of attitude. Professional and recreational fishers who enjoy fishing have made changes to the way they conduct themselves, and the environment has improved as a result.

    I also acknowledge that the Balloon Artists Suppliers Association [BASA] has told me that it is keen to engage in developing a code of conduct. BASA has already made some progress, as I understand it, with organisations such as the Motor Traders Association of Australia [MTAA]. To its credit, its chief executive, Jack Gibbons, has taken the initiative of educating caryard operators who very often use balloons in their displays and promotions in their showrooms, particularly tying balloons to aerials on cars that are on display in showrooms, about the importance of making sure they do not fly away, that they are tethered securely and that they are disposed of properly. I commend the MTAA and BASA on their initiatives. I also understand that BASA is eager to continue conducting research into material that can be substituted for what is now used in balloon mass releases that might perform better in the environment.

    It is also very important to set very clear environmental targets and to make sure that anybody who is engaged in any activities that impact on the environment meets those targets. I would like to acknowledge the information that conservationists and the balloon industry have given me. Honourable members must understand that latex helium balloons are different to balloons that might be used in social events and that mylar is a different substance again. I am told that in Australia helium balloon releases often do not have strings, other ties or other pieces of material attached to them. When balloons shatter and fall to the ocean they pass through a number of stages over the two years in which they take to degrade. During that time they can be eaten by turtles and other animals. Different animals take them at different places. Some animals eat them on the surface of the water, others eat them when they fall towards the floor of the ocean. They can then blanket the bottom, particularly of an estuary. They can blanket seagrass and clog up waterways and wetlands—one of the major areas of damage.

    The balloon industry compares the two years it takes for a shard of balloon to decay to the two years it takes an oak leaf to decay. It is not a legitimate comparison. There are no oak leaves in the middle of the south Pacific Ocean, and the circumstances in which oak leaves fall and decay are entirely different. There is an entirely different context. Though 100,000 balloons might go into the air, burst and fall to the ground in small pieces, it would be totally unacceptable for me to cut up 100,000 chip wrappers and cast them into a waterway. So I am not convinced by the arguments of the industry that it is acceptable as a principle to have material go up into the atmosphere and then come down, regardless of how small the pieces might be. We should also address the issue of plastic bags and the many other things that find their way into waterways and ultimately into the food chain and the guts of animals. Again, that is a process of education. People should understand what happens when plastic bags blow away. We need better management of waste sites. Where possible, we should work with the production industry to produce plastic bags that decay more quickly.

    I mentioned earlier a foreshadowed amendment. At this stage I can do no more than outline the upper House amendment seeking to clarify the environmental objectives expected of people introducing material into the environment. The amendment will give the industry until 1 September next year to adjust to changes that will have an impact on the industry and on employment. This reflects the spirit of the draft bill that I had prepared to set environmental objectives and expectations. If it is possible for those expectations to be met, industry or anyone else should be given scope to demonstrate and prove that.

    The bill is a step forward on a very important issue but it is blunt and it misses the point. It fails to set out clear environmental objectives. It is not about stopping people, particularly children, enjoying balloons. The Opposition believes that balloons have an important and legitimate place in our community if handled responsibly. This means the Government has a role in educating people about the potential of improperly discarded balloons to affect estuarine and ocean life and the environment in general. People in our community generally want to look after our environment. They appreciate information that shows how they can take a positive individual role—for example, tying a loop on a balloon string and making sure it is attached to me or my four-year-old. To me, it means picking up the balloon if it bursts and putting it in a bin.

    It is hard to promote an education message on the safe disposal of balloons on the one hand and then, on the other hand, to explain to a child why it is acceptable in principle to release thousands of pieces of material into the atmosphere in the name of entertainment knowing that they will land somewhere, no matter how small and no matter how far away. The bill is deficient, it is blunt, it is unconsulted and it misses many positive opportunities to work with industry. But it does send a message about environmental protection, and for that reason we will not oppose the bill. The introduction of this bill is a panic attempt by the Premier to try to salvage his increasingly khaki credentials. Most people who care for our environment are resolved in their disappointment in the so-called green Premier and have already made their own judgment.

    Mr BROWN (Kiama) [8.35 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to speak in support of the bill. I am pleased also that the Opposition will support the bill in principle. However, after listening to the shadow Minister for the environment I am disturbed somewhat about the arguments she has advanced. On the one hand she said that the bill was blunt and misses the point. On the other hand she said that the bill sends a strong message of environmental protection to the community. If the point of the bill was to send a strong message of environmental protection to the community, I would assume that the bill is indeed hitting the point spot on and I congratulate the Minister and the Premier on continuing in their green objectives to make this State an environmentally friendly State.

    One of the many achievements of Sydney Olympic Games 2000 was that they were the cleanest and greenest Games of all time. This did not happen by accident. Like many visitors and residents of Sydney I noticed the cleanliness of the venues and the city during the Games. I was impressed with the wonderful efforts spectators made to ensure that they did the right thing and disposed of their rubbish in the many bins provided. This renewed concern did not come about by accident. The Carr Government made sure that the waste and litter management were given high priority by games organisers and ensured that its waste management agencies were fully involved in planning and implementing waste strategies. We should not ignore the other overwhelming factors in the Olympic success story.

    Indeed, the Carr Government's achievements in tackling the litter problem in this State include: a $60 million commitment to improve the management of urban stormwater, with a major emphasis on removing litter from our waterways; making it an offence for people to throw rubbish from motor vehicles; and this year's new Litter Act that further extends the range of litter offences and provides training to local government to properly enforce the laws. I support the new controls on balloon releases and see them as the Government responding to the wishes of the community to go further to clean up New South Wales—extending an already extensive set of regulations, laws and practices to make our State cleaner and greener. To discuss the objects of this bill more directly, the Olympics showed that we could have a great celebration without masses of balloons going into the air.

    While releasing large numbers of balloons makes for colourful spectacles at sporting events and the like, it contributes to a serious environmental problem. It is the case that helium balloons can either blow or wash out to sea. Although latex balloons may break down in seawater, there is evidence that they can remain intact for between six and 18 months. Of course, by then the damage may be done to marine animals. These animals that many in our community care about desperately need our help. Until this debris breaks down it becomes part of general marine debris. Such debris is recognised internationally as a major environmental problem to beaches and in coastal waters, estuaries and oceans.

    Studies in the United States of America have shown that marine debris threatens more than 265 different species of marine and coastal wildlife through entanglement, smothering and interfering with animal digestion. The last is a particular problem caused by balloons. After release, latex balloons tend to freeze and shatter in the atmosphere, causing widespread littering. However, tracing those responsible is almost impossible because of the distance balloons travel. These problems with balloons have received considerable attention in various countries over the last decade. Indeed, other jurisdictions have similar legislation for the same environmental protection that this bill is trying to achieve. I congratulate not only the Premier but also the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Bob Debus, on taking this step to further protect our precious marine environments. I am pleased to speak in support of this bill.

    Mr DEBUS (Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Corrective Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [8.40 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Southern Highlands and the honourable member for Kiama for their contributions to this brief debate, expressing as I do so some mystification at some of the postures adopted by the honourable member for Southern Highlands. The subject matter of the bill is a circumstance about which there has been some debate in the media and some prominence given to one particular young anti-balloon campaigner whose cause was briefly taken up by the honourable member for Southern Highlands.

    When she raised the matter in the House the Premier said, as I recall, "Yes, it is a good idea, we will do something about it." It seems rather ungracious to blame the Premier for being in some way opportunistic in relation to the matter. He openly adopted the proposal that had been made at the time by the honourable member for Southern Highlands. I find it nothing more than absurd for her to suggest that he should appear in the House today, to somehow or other defend the position that he took at the time.

    There is another aspect of the position taken by the honourable member that I do not entirely understand. She seemed to suggest that the bill should be cast in a way that has more to do with everyday black letter law than what is actually proposed in the bill. She seemed to be suggesting that some broader objective should be proposed in this bill. But the fact is that in my second reading speech I pointed out that this proposal was of modest dimension. I said that it was a proposal that filled a small but critical gap in the Government's comprehensive actions on litter prevention.

    To have heard the honourable member in the debate one would hardly have guessed that in the past 18 months the Government has continued with its great and ongoing water and forest reforms; it has substantially reformed the pesticide legislation; it has established the alternative waste inquiry, which is leading us on to the restructuring of the whole waste management industry; it has finalised the $60 million stormwater program, which, of course, includes a large element of public education; or, indeed, that it has introduced comprehensive litter reforms that have brought about a 700 per cent increase in the number of fines and warnings issued by local government. Those litter reforms also include a substantial element of education.

    The fact of the matter is that an offence such as the one with which we are concerned is one that must be dealt with by the sort of bill the Government has introduced. There is no other way to control this kind of littering—and the releasing of balloons is littering—other than to prohibit balloons at the point of release. It is clear that that is the only way one can stop people releasing balloons and having them cause the kind of damage that both speakers in the debate have mentioned. The bill introduced by the Government is entirely consistent with the way in which it has approached littering of other kinds where the source is known and where the culprits are relatively easily identified.

    In addition, I refer to the honourable member's more general remarks about plastic bags. She seemed to imply that although the Government had taken some notice of the problem of pollution of littering by way of the release of balloons it is paying no attention at all to littering caused by, and consequent pollution through, the irresponsible disposal of plastic bags. Plastic bags and all plastic items are well covered by the Government's litter-related legislation. It is worth reminding the House that the principal means of achieving a reduction in the use of plastic bags and an increase in the rate of recycling of those that are used is the document known as the National Packaging Covenant.

    The covenant is a national voluntary measure involving governments and industry in a process to reduce and better manage packaging waste. It was signed by Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council Ministers—that is to say, the Ministers for the Environment for Australasia—in July 1999. A large number of key companies and industry associations have since signed that covenant. All signatories are required to produce action plans that meet criteria that are determined by the National Packaging Covenant Council. Since the retail industry is well represented amongst the covenant signatories, the Government anticipates that there will be a range of initiatives dealing precisely with plastic bags. Those initiatives are likely to include programs that promote alternatives to the use of disposable plastic bags, programs that create greater opportunities for reprocessing of used plastic bags and, importantly, programs that reduce litter associated with plastic bags and other forms of packaging waste.

    In addition to work being done under the auspices of the National Packaging Covenant, the Government continues to undertake activities that aim to reduce the threat of plastic bags in the environment. Ongoing education associated with the litter reduction program will include specific messages about the problems associated with plastic litter in the environment. Strong consideration is already being given to a campaign that includes a message on the harm caused by litter that makes its way into our waterways and oceans. Waste minimisation education programs are being run by the Environment Protection Authority and various waste boards will also continue to promote alternatives to plastic bag use.

    Those remarks sufficiently demonstrate that, contrary to the implication of the honourable member, who seems to suggest that the Government should manage its entire program of antilitter activity through legislation on balloons, the Government is approaching the matter in a broad fashion indeed through a number of separate and appropriate instruments. The Government certainly takes these general questions seriously and, as I said, it has been more than willing to take up the suggestion of the honourable member and, in turn, the suggestion of prominent members of the community that this small but critical gap in the Government's otherwise comprehensive actions on litter prevention should be filled. I commend the bill to the House.

    Motion agreed to.

    Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.