Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Civil Liability (BYO Containers) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 4 May 2022.)

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (17:00): I am pleased to be able to speak on behalf of the opposition and indicate we fully support the Civil Liability (BYO Containers) Amendment Bill 2022. This bill amends the Civil Liability Act to provide food sellers with immunity from civil liability from the use of reusable containers brought in by the customer.

I am speaking on this bill today as it relates strongly to the incredibly successful and nation-leading single-use plastic ban, an initiative by the Marshall Liberal government, and a testament to the Liberal Party's environmentally friendly focus and agenda. As the shadow minister for the circular economy, I am a huge supporter of waste reduction measures and I think there is a great opportunity here.

On 1 March 2021, South Australia became the first state in Australia to ban plastic drinking straws, stirrers and cutlery from sale, supply and distribution. In March 2022, the ban was extended to include polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and clamshell containers. This bill is a sensible next step in promoting reusable and recyclable options, as considerations continue in relation to banning more items as market demand increases and more sustainable alternatives become available.

This bill will allow customers to bring in their own containers and alleviate concerns about the seller's liability for consequences that are beyond their control—for example, where the customer does not properly sterilise the container or store the food in a safe manner once it leaves the store. The bill also includes proper safeguards to ensure that sellers are not immune from liability for unlawful or negligent conduct. I thank the honourable member for persevering with this bill and I am glad to see it before this place again.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (17:02): I also join the opposition in supporting this bill on behalf of the government. I know the honourable member has been pushing this and so has his predecessor. The bill would amend the South Australian Civil Liability Act so that vendors who sell food and drinks to customers may do so using containers supplied by customers without fear of being held liable should a customer suffer an illness or injury caused by the use of the container.

The purpose of the bill is to remove barriers to the use of reusable containers and to encourage people to move away from single-use plastics. Many environmentally conscious customers already can and do bring their own takeaway containers when they go and get a coffee or meal. But what they may not realise is that currently businesses face legal risk every time they supply food or drinks in a customer's container. This risk could act as a deterrent for businesses who are otherwise mindful of their environmental impact and sustainability to facilitate customers' use of reusable containers.

The bill would give business owners peace of mind that their support of customers who making the environmentally friendly choice to bring their own containers will not cause them any legal headaches. Importantly, the bill also builds in protections for customers who are consistent with the South Australian Food Act. Customers would still have legal recourse should the seller's use of the container be negligent or unlawful or should they purchase food or drinks that have been recalled.

The amended bill clarifies a legal position of customers and businesses with regard to the reusable containers, and strikes a sensible balance between the respective interests. In doing so, it encourages customers and businesses to support the environmentally-friendly choices of BYO containers. This is important because the environmental and social impacts of plastic wastes are enormous and are well known within this chamber.

ABS data shows that in Australia only a small portion of plastic waste is recyclable; a massive 84 per cent of plastic waste is still sent straight to landfill. Of this 84 per cent, some is buried, where it will take up to hundreds of years to decompose. As it decomposes, we all know that it will leach pollutants into the soil and the ground water

It is clear that reducing the amount of plastic that is produced, which this bill aims to do, is extremely important. It is why my belief is that this bill is a logical next step in South Australia's history of strong policies that promote waste reduction, which Labor governments have proudly championed in the past and will do into the future. It is why it is my hope, as it is the government's, that this bill will further increase the uptake of reusable containers and will reduce plastic waste and the environmental damages they cause.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (17:06): I rise on behalf of SA-Best to indicate our wholehearted support for this bill, and look forward to it being a case of third time lucky, with the two previous bills falling victim to the prorogation of parliament. On the last occasion, the same bill enjoyed the unanimous support of this place, but unfortunately, as we know, stalled at the eleventh hour in the other place, through no fault of our own, in this chamber in any event.

The bill continues South Australia's national leading agenda of limiting our reliance on single-use plastics, which began with the ban of plastic straws and disposable cutlery in March last year. We have all had to learn to deal with those measures. I think we are all still getting used to soggy straws and waiting for the ultimate alternative to the sturdy plastic straw, but it is a very small price to pay compared with the legislation that was passed with the cross-party support of this parliament.

We are all on notice about our duty as tenants on this planet, and the Greens are always here to remind us of that as well. We cannot continue to produce and dump waste for future generations. As the Hon. Rob Simms has highlighted previously, if we do not reduce the rate of plastic polluting our oceans, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. That is absolutely deplorable and a very scary thought indeed. It is terrifying for our children and terrifying for our children's children.

The bill, as we know, seeks to amend the Civil Liability Act to provide immunity to a food business which may choose to fill a container provided by a customer at their request. That is one of the points we had to deal with in this bill, but that immunity relates to the container and not the food itself, which SA-Best believes is a very important distinction. If food was sold with the knowledge that it was unfit for human consumption, for example, that immunity would not apply to the contents of the container. It does not obligate a business to fill a container presented to them, should they choose not to for whatever reason, and there may be very legitimate reasons a business chooses not to fill a container presented to them.

All in all, I think this bill is a win-win for food businesses and customers who choose to participate. All in all, it is another step forward in what has already been, I think, a very good demonstration by this parliament that we are committed to stamping out the use of plastics more broadly in the community. There are a few more steps to go before we get there. Obviously, there are some provisions that are being phased in as well. But with those words, I commend the member for bringing this bill before us again and look forward to its swift progress and passage through this chamber and the other place.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:09): I would like to thank all members for their thoughtful contributions and for their support of this bill. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the former ministers with whom I engaged on this bill: Ms Vickie Chapman in her capacity then as Attorney-General, the Hon. Stephen Wade in his capacity then as health minister, Mr David Speirs in his capacity then as environment minister, and of course the now Deputy Premier and environment minister, the Hon. Susan Close, with whom I also engaged and who is also supportive of this bill.

I am a big believer in the Pantene effect in progressive politics—it does not happen overnight, but it does happen—and this bill is a good example of that because my predecessor, Mark Parnell, first introduced this back in 2018 and put it on the agenda then. I took it up with a few tweaks when I came into the parliament and so it is back again. I am hoping that this time it will progress swiftly through this house and then be quickly passed in the lower house so that it can become law. I hope that the government will make it a priority there for that to happen.

I want to flag for members' benefit that when this was introduced in the previous parliament, the then Liberal government had some sensible amendments that were supported by all parties, and I will be moving those amendments. They are the same amendments that were supported by the previous parliament and have been circulated to members previously.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1 passed.

Clause 2.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

Amendment No 1 [Simms–1]—

Page 2, lines 16 to 19 [clause 2, inserted section 74B(3)(a)]—Delete paragraph (a)

Amendment carried.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

Amendment No 2 [Simms–1]—

Page 2, line 20 [clause 2, inserted section 74B(3)(b)]—After ‘container’ insert:

by the person selling the food

Amendment carried.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

Amendment No 3 [Simms–1]—

Page 2, lines 24 and 25 [clause 2, inserted section 74B(4)]—Delete ‘, recall order, unsafe and unsuitable all’ and substitute:

and recall order

Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.

Title passed.

Bill reported with amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:14): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.