Victoria reviews dangerous goods laws

A comprehensive review of the Victoria’s dangerous goods laws is being undertaken to help stamp out unsafe chemical stockpiling.

The Victorian government has appointed Andrew Palmer, QC, to conduct the review of the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 and associated regulations.

According to a government statement the review is the latest step in its ongoing response to chemical stockpiling after two large chemical fires in West Footscray in August 2018 and Campbellfield in April 2019.

Immediately following the 2018 fire, WorkSafe led a blitz on industrial premises to ensure dangerous chemicals were being stored correctly.

Government agency investigations led to the discovery of waste chemicals stockpiled at 13 sites in Melbourne’s north last year.

A WorkSafe-led taskforce has so far removed more than 13 million litres of the stockpiled waste chemicals, clearing four sites in Epping, three in Craigieburn and three in Campbellfield. The final three sites in Campbellfield are currently being cleared.

The minister for workplace safety Jill Hennessy said that the government knows that the unsafe storing, handling or disposal of dangerous chemicals poses a real threat to local communities.

“This review will make sure dangerous goods laws remain effective and keep Victorian’s safe. Mr Palmer brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this important review which will safeguard all Victorians,” she said.

Tough penalties

The Labor Government last year introduced tough new penalties of up to 10 years in jail and fines of more than $6.4 million for rogue operators who recklessly manufacture, store, transport, transfer, sell or use dangerous goods in a way that places another person in danger of death.

Meanwhile, WorkSafe has charged Bradbury Industrial Services with 35 breaches of the Dangerous Goods Act in relation to five of the sites in Campbellfield and Craigieburn.

Review timely

Hennessy added that a review of the Act was important to ensure our laws are up to the task of protecting the community from the unacceptable risk that stockpiling of dangerous goods poses and to deal with those who do it.

A final report and recommendations are expected to be delivered to the Government next year, with opportunities for public comment and stakeholder engagement later this year.

WorkSafe has also charged Graham Leslie White, 58, of Harkness with 55 offences over the alleged illegal stockpiling of dangerous goods at four warehouses he occupied in Epping and one in Campbellfield and investigations are continuing.

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Vic government creates waste crime body to clean-up industry

The Andrews Government will create a $71.4 million funded Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate within the Environment Protection Authority, which will work closely with WorkSafe Victoria, emergency service agencies, councils and other regulators to improve information sharing and coordination. The initiative is part of Recycling Victoria the government’s 10-year vision.

Speaking at CEDA in Melbourne yesterday, February 26 the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio explained that the strategy would tackle waste crime and keep Victorians safe, with more resources to stop illegal dumping and stockpiling, and deal with high-risk sites and high-risk substances.

“For too long, waste crime has undermined Victoria’s recycling sector with dangerous and illegal stockpiling. Our investment will help to clean up the industry and make it fairer for businesses that do the right thing,” D’Ambrosio said.

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), has responded positively to the initiatives.

WMRR CEO, Gayle Sloan said that she considered Victoria’s Government was again leading the way by committing significant new funds towards our essential industry to help solve the challenges that we continue to face.”

“Waste crime should be addressed by both government and industry, as it impacts the economy and local communities and pays no heed to the value of scarce resources.
I strongly believe that licensed operators within the waste and resource recovery industry do not engage in these practices, however to assist in addressing we do need improved and consistent tracking, management and descriptions of waste nationally.
The crime often starts at the generator stage, be it unintentional (wrong description of waste classification) or intentional.  I think the question one has to ask as a producer is “is this price really too cheap”, and “where is my waste really going”, it really is no longer acceptable to look for the  cheapest disposal prices and no longer care where your waste goes- the community and the environment deserves better.”

Recycling Victoria will completely overhaul Victoria’s recycling sector, create 3,900 jobs and reduce waste going to landfill.

The primary purpose of the $300 million plus package is to bring together a suite of landmark reforms, dedicated to shifting Victoria to a circular economy, including a state-wide four-bin recycling system, a container deposit scheme and nearly $100 million to support businesses, drive innovation and create local jobs.

Victoria’s landfill levy is significantly lower than our neighbouring states, meaning Victoria is too often used as a dumping ground for waste coming from New South Wales and South Australia.

The change reflects an agreement reached by state and territory Treasurers to work towards the harmonisation of landfill levies and will provide a strong incentive to reduce and recycle waste and drive innovation in new waste technologies.

 

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