The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) welcomed today’s Federal Court finding that the Northern Territory Drink Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) substantially contravenes the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (Cth).
Major beverage companies applied for a declaration to the Federal Court that on and from 4 January 2013, beverages in regulated containers within the meaning of the Environment Protection (Beverage Containers and Plastic Bags) Act 2011 (“EPBC Act”) which are manufactured in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia may lawfully be sold in the Northern Territory without the need to comply with sections 13 or 14 of the EPBC Act.
The AFGC CEO, Mr Gary Dawson welcomed the court’s decision which effectively means the Northern Territory container tax does not apply to beverages manufactured in other states and sold in the Northern Territory, and has been unenforceable since the beginning of this year.
Mr Dawson also said that the judgement demonstrates that the Northern Territory Government inherited a flawed policy from the previous government, built on an inadequate legal foundation.
“Industry reiterates, and has made numerous approaches to the Northern Territory Government, that there are better, cheaper and simpler solutions to reduce waste and boost recycling that don't cost consumers and are easy to implement. The AFGC and its members remain ready to work with the government to roll these solutions out across the Territory.”
“The introduction of the CDS has increased grocery bills and heaped inconvenience on all Territorians, most of whom were already recycling their empties and ‘doing the right thing’. The scheme has been plagued by commercial disputes, reflecting its poor design and rushed implementation and low participation rates are resulting in questionable environmental outcomes.”
“In the context of rising input costs of power, water, wages and other bills going up so dramatically, the drink container tax in the Territory has been the last thing consumers, and businesses large and small, needed,” said Mr Dawson.
Mr Dawson also expressed disappointment that the Northern Territory Government has sought to appeal the Federal Court’s finding, as it will only extend the lack of business certainty around the scheme.
“The Court's judgment shows that there is a fundamental conflict between state or territory based CDS schemes and the Mutual Recognition Act. However we are disappointed that the NT Government is determined to press on with such an inefficient scheme that costs consumers and delivers questionable environmental outcomes.”
“The Government’s own published results show that more than two-thirds of drink containers sold into the Territory have not been returned and are still ending up in landfill or as litter. For all the expense and inconvenience, the scheme is clearly not delivering for the environment.”
“The Court’s judgment also confirms that unilateral action taken by states and territories in introducing regulations such as a CDS is fraught with significant legal problems. The Mutual Recognition Act was established to reduce the regulatory burden on companies that trade across borders, protect free trade and enhance productivity. These issues are critical to our economy and we welcome the Court’s judgment in this regard,” said Mr Dawson.
More information: James Mathews - 0407 416 002.