Bid to block plastic ban irks councils

Kate Emery
Fremantle’s plastic bag ban has been challenged. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

An attempt to ban plastic bags in Fremantle has blown up into a debate about the right of councils to pursue local reform.

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard yesterday attacked a move by Upper House Liberal MP Peter Katsambanis to overturn the ban as a “disturbing thin end of the wedge”.

“I am deeply disturbed,” Mr Pickard said. “I suspect that there are many members of the Upper House cringing at Peter’s intervention because it exposes the Upper House system as being out of step with the community.”

Mr Pickard said Mr Katsambanis’ intervention should raise questions about the validity of WA’s two-house system and the role of individual members.

At the same time Fremantle’s acting mayor Josh Wilson has appealed to WA councils for their lobbying power. In an email sent to mayors and councillors around the State, Mr Wilson said the issue “goes to the question of whether local communities and local governments are able to properly examine and implement reform in the local and wider public interest”.

Mr Wilson has also written to MPs, arguing differences between local government areas were what gave communities “character and flexibility”.

Mr Katsambanis last month introduced a motion to disallow Fremantle’s plastic bag ban. The law has been tweaked since Fremantle’s last attempt was disallowed by the parliamentary committee charged with reviewing local laws, which includes Mr Katsambanis.

Mr Katsambanis said Fremantle retailers had overwhelmingly told him they feared being disadvantaged if the ban went ahead. He said allowing councils to introduce plastic bag bans “ad hoc” would lead to uncertainty and disadvantage local small businesses.

“Local governments have an important role to play in their community but every law or by-law that they pass is subject to review by the State,” he said. “Many of these retailers have expressed fear that if they went public with their concerns there may be a backlash from council or the proponents of the plastic bag ban.”