The Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Illegal Waste Disposal) Bill 2013 (Bill) was introduced into the State Legislative Assembly by the Minister for the Environment on 30 May 2013.
The stated purposes of the Bill are to:
- create an offence ofknowingly supplying false or misleading informationabout waste in the course of dealing with the waste that will be punishable by a maximum period of imprisonment of 18 months as an alternative or in addition to a maximum fine of $500,000 for a corporation and $240,000 for an individual (at present the offence is a strict liability offence that is punishable only by a maximum fine of $250,000 for a corporation and $120,000 for an individual);
- create an offence of committinga strict liability waste offence (which includes polluting waters with waste, polluting land, illegally dumping waste or using land as an illegal waste facility) within 5 years of any previous convictionfor such an offence that will be punishable by a maximum period of imprisonment of 2 years as an alternative or in addition to a fine (at present a strict liability waste offence is punishable only by a fine);
- authorise the EPA to seize a motor vehicle or vessel it has reason to believe has been used to commit any such repeat waste offence and to enable the Land and Environment Court to order the forfeiture of the motor vehicle or vessel to the State if it convicts the person of the repeat waste offence;
- extend the offence of using land as a waste facility without lawful authority to using any place so as to cover illegally using a body of water as a waste facility;
- remove from the Act the exemption from payment of the contribution by licensees of waste facilitiesused for the re-using, recovering, recycling or processing waste other than liquid waste, so that the operation of any such exemption can be dealt with in the regulations; and
- enable the regulations to prescribe a protocol that is to be used in determining the amount that represents the monetary benefit acquired by the offender in committing an offence and that the offender may be ordered to pay as an additional penalty for the offence.
The Bill provides that savings and transitional provisions may be implemented in the future, but does not implement such provisions itself.
The Minister’s second reading speech specifically refers to the recent examples of asbestos being dumped outside preschools and on private property, while stating that the Bill is designed to “crack down on illegal waste dumpers and break the business model of organised illegal waste activities”.
Most noticeably, the Bill imposes significant penalties and imprisonment terms for the new offences of knowingly supplying false or misleading information and repeat waste offences.
Currently, the supply of information, or causing or permitting information to be supplied, is the subject of executive liability (for directors and managers of a corporation) under section 169A of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. The Bill does not make clear whether these new offences will attract the same liability for directors and managers, though it is likely that this is its intended effect.
Progress through Parliament
The Bill has been subject to the Minister’s second reading speech and is presently awaiting debate and passage to the Legislative Council.