Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Afternoon Agenda, SKY News Live

6 July 2020

KIERAN GILBERT:
Joining me now is Trevor Evans. He's a Liberal MP and the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management. Trevor, thanks very much for your time. How much potential is there for this industry?

TREVOR EVANS:
Well, thanks Kieran, it's great to be with you. There's a huge amount of potential for the recycling and waste industry in Australia. Today's announcements mean that in total now there's more than a billion dollars across Australia committed to growing the recycling and waste reduction sectors. We estimate that that's going to create upwards of 10,000 direct jobs across the country and that's actually going to mean job creation and opportunities in some of the parts of the country where we need to see them the most. So, that's in regional Australia and in the outer suburbs. But in terms of the environmental outcomes as well, we're looking at upwards of 10 million tonnes of recycled material that would otherwise go to landfill or be dumped. That's going to be recognised as a valuable commodity. It will stay in the value chain. It will be able to create value as it's used by subsequent industries and in manufacturing, and all Australians will be able to see the things that they put in the recycling bin turn up again as products on the shelves.

KIERAN GILBERT:
When you talk about the 10,000 jobs, Trevor Evans, how soon would we see those jobs created? And beyond that, is there scope for an even larger industry once this investment is realised?

TREVOR EVANS:
Yeah. So, the jobs are being created in Australia right now. These aren't the first funding commitments that the Federal Government's made since the election and since the Prime Minister saw the opportunity that exists in these sectors and appointed myself and the Environment Minister Sussan Ley to lead the Federal Government's first foray into the recycling and waste reduction space. We've got investments already on the table, we've got funding already committed in Australia and across our region. So, we're already seeing jobs grow, not just because of that government investment, but because business and industry have become confident to invest themselves in their own projects and their own proposals because they're seeing the Federal Government message and they're gaining confidence in the policy settings that will be here to support them. And in terms of where this could go, well, we're very keen to see these first forays pay off and succeed. We're going to see shovels in the ground I think before the end of the year on some of these projects. But of course, we can apply our focus to more and more areas of the waste stream going forwards.

KIERAN GILBERT:
And give us - our viewers - a sense of what you know, what plastics, what products can be made from recycled materials.

TREVOR EVANS:
Yeah, our first focus is on some of those waste streams that we've banned the export of. So, that's things like plastics, glass, it's tyres and it's those pulp products like paper and cardboard. All of these products are obviously used by consumers every single day. And the first obvious point is that they can be turned back into the products where they've already been used. But there's a much wider array of end destinations or uses for them. A couple of weeks ago the Federal Government announced that we had secured the agreement of all of the states and territories around Australia to create new standards for using things like crushed glass in road base, for using things like tyres and mixed plastics as an asphalt equivalent in infrastructure projects. So, there's big infrastructure resource intensive projects that can use recycled content right now, but everything, all the way through the supply chain, back into, and of course, including packaging.

KIERAN GILBERT:
And how much does it rely on people doing the right thing as well as business and individuals, households doing the right thing with their waste.

TREVOR EVANS:
Ultimately, there's a role for all of us to play as consumers in our households and in our businesses. Government obviously has a big and important role to play as well. What I would say is today's announcements are a real breakthrough moment when Australians can start to have confidence again to do the right thing in terms of putting recycling in the bin. They've had a few reasons to lose that confidence in recent years as they've seen some of our waste export streams, waste plastics head to Indonesia and China and other places, potentially with significant environmental consequences. They've seen in some states like Victoria, in particular, and a bit in Queensland, where I'm from, they've seen their recycling bins actually emptied into landfill right alongside their general rubbish. Well, as of today, that's all starting to change. Most Australians know what the right thing to do is and now they can have confidence when they do the right thing. It's going to support industry. It's going to support re-manufacturing. It's going to support jobs and it's going to create the next generation of fantastic products that we'll be buying on shelves.

KIERAN GILBERT:
A couple of quick stories before you go. This huge development in terms of the New South Wales, Victoria border. It's going to be blocked basically from - no interstate travel from midnight tomorrow night. New South Wales not taking any travellers from Melbourne as of midnight tonight. Does this - is your Premier, Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, she's copped a fair bit of flak but it seems other states are now following her lead. Is she being vindicated?

TREVOR EVANS:
Well, I wouldn't say that, Kieran. What I would say is that circumstances are changing very, very quickly and the health advice on which the states and indeed, the Federal Government acts is changing very quickly as well. It's just been these last couple of weeks that we've seen something very different arise and that is the majority of new cases coming from community transmission, not from overseas travel. And so that's one peculiarity and one new change that I think the New South Wales and Victoria border situation is reacting to. 

Can I say, the Queensland situation was a little bit different and I can speak to this with some confidence because I'm from Queensland and I was there as this debate transpired. What we were seeing in Queensland was potentially a situation with our borders that was going against the most up-to-date health advice. We had a government there and a Premier who was talking about potentially keeping our borders closed right through to September, which didn't accord with the health advice that was being given at the time. We've seen that state Premier and the State Government obviously backflip on that. They are now acting in accordance with the latest health advice. We thank them and commend them for it, and it seems I think that the decisions that have been made today with respect to the Victoria, New South Wales border, that's in line with the latest health advice too.

KIERAN GILBERT:
And finally on Eden-Monaro, it looks like Labor will hold on to that marginal seat. So Fiona Kotvojs, while she ran a good campaign, is going to fall just short apparently.

TREVOR EVANS:
Well Fiona Kotvojs has done an amazing effort and can I say, inside of the Government, we are over the moon with the by-election results in Eden-Monaro. The Prime Minister almost achieved the impossible - a never in 100 years outcome in terms of almost taking a seat off an Opposition at a by-election - something that hasn't been done for 100 years in Australia. Our vote in the Coalition improved by over a thousand votes and had we managed to achieve about 300 more, we actually would have achieved that never in 100 years' outcome. 

For the Labor Party by contrast, the Eden-Monaro by-election was an unmitigated disaster. Their vote went down 3000 votes. Their allies in the Greens also saw a decrease in 3000 votes. They can't win a general election…

KIERAN GILBERT:
[Talks over] But Labor did win.

TREVOR EVANS:
…if that's the mood of the election. Well, they won in circumstances where normally you'd expect to see a close to 4 per cent swing in their favour. That's the evidence that we've got from 100 years of by-elections in this country. So for them, I can tell you right now there'll be a lot of Labor MPs right around the country that will be thinking: what happens in my seat if I went down by 3000 votes at the next election, and what would happen if the Greens likewise went down by 3000 votes? What that actually means is that the Coalition would start to win seats like Macquarie in New South Wales, would start to win seats like a Lilley in Queensland and would probably win seats like Cowan in West Australia. That's why the Government is so happy with the by-election results and it's why Labor backbenchers and the Labor caucus will be very nervous indeed. It was truly an unmitigated disaster for them.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Trevor Evans, I appreciate your time. Thank you. The Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management.