Victoria’s potentially lucrative container deposit scheme sparks waste war


Six and a half cents doesn’t sound like much.

But multiply it by a year’s worth of soft drink cans, and it is the reason for a battle between Coca Cola and the waste and recycling industry.

The Victorian government plans to introduce container deposit legislation later this year, and roll out the scheme by 2023. It will be the last state or territory to have such a scheme. 

Like all schemes in Australia, the Victorian scheme will be funded by the beverage industry, with a 10c payment to consumers who collect recyclable containers. But after months of community consultation, the details are expected to be finalised in the coming weeks, and the fight is really getting dirty. 

Scouts groups are well-versed in organising children to collect cans and bottles, and then returning them to be recycled, and collecting 10c. 

They say they have raised $30 million through South Australia’s container deposit scheme. 

Jon McGregor, the executive manager of Scouts Victoria, said he hoped his community groups could cash in on the scheme in Victoria. 

“We’re certainly very interested in recycling, we’re an organisation that has an environmental focus,” he said.

But he said the way the government was proposing to run the scheme would make it unviable for the Scouts to participate. 

It all comes down to who can claim the 6.5 cents.

Scouts, and some other community groups, want to act as operators, allowing them to claim the crucial 6.5 cent handling fee for every bottle or can that is returned. 

This system already operates in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, and is run by the beverage industry, which oversees a network of multiple operators.

In New South Wales and the ACT, the scheme is split between two levels: a coordinator and a sole network operator. In NSW, the operator is waste company Cleanaway, which has installed reverse vending machines across the state. 

This system means community groups can set up refund points, sorting bottles and cans and claiming a handling fee, but the handling fee they receive is about 5c per container, although it requires less work because the system is more automated.

While the Scouts say it that is not viable for them, other community groups make money from the scheme, including the environment group the Boomerang Alliance and charity St Vincent de Paul.

In Victoria, despite growing pressure from the beverage industry and some community groups, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio favours a split scheme similar to the NSW model, arguing it leads to more transparency and accountability. 

But the Scouts have joined a campaign by the Coca Cola-funded group, VicRecycle, calling for Victoria to change course. 

“Because we want to see the financial returns going back to the community rather than being in the hands of multinational recycling corporations,” Jon McGregor said.

The Victorian government estimates as much as half the state’s litter is recyclable bottles and cans, so the battle over 6.5 cents is no small fight. 

VicRecycle commissioned a survey of 1,000 Victorians, and found 87 per cent of them preferred a scheme where multiple community groups could operate.

Waste industry groups and some environmental groups say the characterisation by Coca Cola’s VicRecycle is not accurate.

The chief executive of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia, Gayle Sloan, said community groups would not get the full 6.5 cents, in any case. 

“The handling fee and the transport and logistics fee need to be paid irrespective,” she said.

Ms Sloan said a single-coordinator scheme, favoured by the beverage industry, would lead to less transparency and a smaller-scale program, with fewer bottles and cans recycled, costing the industry less, and with less of an environmental impact. 

She has accused the beverage industry, through VicRecycle, of trying to control the scheme. 

“We want the best opportunity to develop the best scheme for Victoria.”

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Stone eel damage sparks calls for traditional owners to be given better access to cultural heritage on private land


There are calls for authorised traditional owners to be given greater power to access culturally significant sites on private land in the wake of substantial damage being done to an ancient stone arrangement in western Victoria.

A landowner from Lake Bolac who moved the stones over the Easter weekend has apologised for his actions and Aboriginal Victoria has inspected the site.

But representatives from the Registered Aboriginal Party for the area, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, have not stepped foot on the property in the days since finding out that the Kooyang Stone Arrangement — one of the only formations of its kind left — has been partially destroyed.

Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council chair Rodney Carter said in cases where culturally significant sites were at risk of harm or had been harmed, authorised traditional owners needed to be given greater power to inspect the affected areas.

“When Aboriginal cultural heritage, like the stone arrangement, has been disturbed and messed with, it’s not easy to fix what’s happened,” he said.

A review into the Aboriginal Heritage Act is underway, and the council is due to release its full recommendations in the next few weeks.

Mr Carter said the public should better understand how the disconnection with the land itself is “extremely traumatic” for Aboriginal people.

“Aside from the event of the destruction of heritage, as people, we’re obligated as traditional owners and custodians to care for these places so when something bad happens you feel so terrible that you’ve failed,” he said.

“You haven’t been able to do something that is of the highest importance.

“We need people to understand that that in itself is a really terrible trauma to the individual and to the community.”

He said owners of private property with sites of cultural importance on their land should be better informed and take responsibility for looking after heritage.

In cases like the Lake Bolac eel stone arrangement, Mr Carter said the lack of access to the land created hurdles for traditional owners.

“You’re on the other side of the fence, looking in,” he said.

“And a lot of the time you’re not even on the other side of the fence, you’re out taking care of something else.”

Mr Carter said Registered Aboriginal Parties across Victoria were dealing with intrusions, threats of harm or actual damage to cultural heritage on a weekly basis.

At the Lake Bolac property where a large section of a stone eel was partially destroyed, an order has been issued under the Aboriginal Heritage Act to stop any further damage from occurring.

But the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation’s John Clarke, who is charged with protecting cultural heritage in the area, has not yet been allowed to inspect the property in person.

Mr Clarke has been out to Lake Bolac multiple times over the past few days to look at what’s been done from the side of the road.

He said he believed he should have the power to access a private property in such a situation.

“Where it’s certainly demonstrable that there is immediate threat or risk to cultural heritage values, there certainly is a case for that,” he said.

“It is frustrating and it adds to the trauma of this whole process.”

Mr Clarke said it was important for people to understand that high profile incidents of damage to cultural heritage were just one part of a bigger problem.

“There’s still challenges that are being worked through in Gariwerd [the Grampians],” he said.

He said a culturally modified tree was found felled in western Victoria and reported to Eastern Maar a fortnight ago.

“It was on public land but someone had put a chainsaw through the scar and left the tree on the ground,” he said.

“It was the only tree that had been cut down.”

Mr Clarke said each incident added to a sense of “accumulated loss”.

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Tszyu fight sparks NRL investigation


The NRL is reportedly investigating a potential COVID-19 breach after four players were spotted at Wednesday evening’s fight between Tim Tszyu and Dennis Hogan in Newcastle.

To deal with the fallout from Queensland’s recent coronavirus outbreak, all 16 NRL clubs were told they must enter Stage 2 COVID protocols this week.

Under the new protocols, players are prohibited from catching public transport and wearing masks while in a public indoor venue.

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The Daily Telegraph’s Michael Carayannis reported the NRL sent an email to clubs on Wednesday specifically warning players against attending the blockbuster fight.

But according to the report, Wests Tigers star James Roberts, Parramatta utility Will Smith and South Sydney duo Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell attended the event regardless.

As part of Tszyu’s entourage, Walker and Mitchell were given special dispensation from the NRL, provided they wore masks and adhered to coronavirus protocols.

However, Roberts was spotted on the event’s broadcast not wearing a mask.

The Tigers confirmed that the 28-year-old attended the fight, but he reportedly did not seek an exemption to do so.

The NRL has subsequently requested a please explain, while the Eels are seeking further information about Smith.

The Tigers will face Parramatta at Stadium Australia on Monday afternoon, with Roberts named in the side’s starting 13.

As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, several Newcastle Knights players and coach Adam O’Brien were due to attend the fight as well, but abandoned plans after the NRL’s new restrictions were introduced.

Last season, players were heavily sanctioned when they breached biosecurity protocols — Mitchell and Melbourne Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr were fined $50,000 for a camping trip, while Penrith playmaker Nathan Cleary copped a two-week suspension for the infamous TikTok saga.

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Brisbane COVID outbreak sparks restrictions on players


In line with the lockdown rules, Bulldogs players are still able to leave their homes to buy essential supplies such as food and medicine, look after vulnerable people and exercise with members of their household or one other person.

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The Queensland government will review whether the lockdown will be extended on Wednesday. If it is extended, the Bulldogs may need to continue under lockdown restrictions which would threaten their clash against the Rabbitohs on Friday.

If the lockdown is lifted the Bulldogs will be tested on Thursday ahead of the captain’s run.

The Sharks are due to play the Cowboys on Saturday on the Sunshine Coast, and had originally planned to fly north on Thursday. They are now likely to fly in and out on the same day.

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Wave of disasters sparks fears parts of Australia are becoming uninsurable


Following last year’s horror summer bushfires, former QBE chief Pat Regan warned climate change posed a material threat to the industry and warned premiums were at risk of becoming too high in areas exposed to repeated, extreme weather.

Tenterfield mayor Peter Petty says constituents throughout the disaster-prone town have all experienced premium hikes and he’s been told certain postcodes are blacklisted by insurers.

“I’ve had that conversation many, many times with residents,” he says. “They look at the postcodes. I wasn’t aware of that but because of the postcodes, the premiums have risen dramatically.”

IAG’s executive manager for natural perils Mark Leplastrier says premiums are calculated on a “much more granular level” but adds it is possible other insurers adopt a more blanket approach.

And, while he insists the recent flooding won’t necessarily translate into higher premiums, he says these prices are determined by a simple calculation of risk where more severe and frequent weather will inevitably push up costs.

“We’ll see that creep up and get into those areas which becomes very high and potentially unaffordable,” he says. “It’s quite simple. The premiums reflect the background risk.”

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However, Leplastrier says it’s not a lost cause and has called for greater collaboration between the private and public worlds to better mitigate against disaster risk. Everything from improved building standards to banning development in high-risk areas should be on the table. “We need to bring the banks and insurers into that conversation,” he says.

KPMG partner Scott Guse says while policyholders affected by the floods are likely to see rising premiums, it is possible for this trend to be reversed. He points to the Queensland outback town of Roma where Suncorp lobbied the government for a levee after repeated flooding in the town.

“The government listened, acted, they raised the flood levee banks, the next year no flood occurred,” Guse says. “The premiums have significantly reduced in that area for all policyholders.”

Until then, Petrie says she’ll have to go without. “The fencing infrastructure we will have lost, we just cop that on the chin rather than going through insurance.”

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Chanel Contos’ sexual assault and consent petition sparks police operation


NSW police have joined with the woman behind an online petition that gathered thousands of stories of sexual assault to make it easier for survivors to come forward. 

The state crime command’s child abuse and sex crimes squad launched Operation Vest in response to the deluge of reports revealed in the past few weeks, many from former attendees of Sydney private schools.

The petition highlights the stories to call for consent education to be included in the NSW curriculum and law reform to define sexual consent as enthusiastic consent.

Chanel Contos, 23
Chanel Contos, 23, started an online petition that gathered thousands of stories of sexual assault to make it easier for survivors to come forward. (Instagram)

The new police operation recognises the barriers that stop many sexual assault victims from reporting their attacks, which can include embarrassment and concerns about repercussions, confidentiality and being believed.

In addition to the standard criminal complaints route, police are providing another option for victims to make an anonymous, informal complaint which will only be acted on if the alleged offender repeats their actions or is the subject of a formal complaint.

“We must acknowledge the courage it takes victims of sexual violence to come forward and tell their stories,” child abuse and sex crimes squad commander Detective Superintendent Stacey Maloney said.

“Re-telling your story means reliving your trauma, and NSW Police are committed to a framework that supports a victim’s pursuit for justice but also ensures they have access to services that provide the appropriate support.

“We want you to know that if you share your story with us, we will listen to you and if you decide to pursue legal action, immediately or anytime thereafter, we will stand by your side through that process.”

On Instagram, Ms Contos said the idea was to create an environment in which it was normal to report sexual assault and emphasise the need for reform.

“No consequences will be had for historical perpetrators reported through SARO, unless they do it again (or you choose to report formally in the future),” she said.

“This helps us look toward a better Australia, and will cause those who think they may have been perpetrators, to be conscious of their actions going forward.”

Ms Contos said the program also had the support and input of consent educator Dr Joy Townsend.

Police said in a statement the “preferred” formal options for reporting sexual assault included calling triple zero, phoning or attending a police station and calling Crime Stoppers.

“This course of action may lead to a criminal investigation if you choose to proceed with the matter,” the release said.

“NSW Police will not pursue a criminal investigation through to the court process without gaining your permission by way of a formal statement.”

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‘Horrific’ dead devil sparks cries for prison relocation



THOSE opposing the construction of a prison near Westbury say the discovery of a dead Tasmanian devil on the road opposite the site earmarked for the state’s second jail confirms concerns extra traffic will endanger local wildlife populations.

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Daughter sparks a life-changing career


“We make 100 per cent of decisions based on what the impacts are.

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Buy now, pay later for elective surgery sparks warnings of financial risk


Elective surgery patients will have the option to delay payments for procedures worth tens of thousands of dollars, as the buy now, pay later industry enters the private health system for the first time in Australia.

St John of God Health Care’s hospitals at Murdoch and Mt Lawley in Perth and St John of God Berwick Hospital in south-east Melbourne are starting a six-month trial with credit lender Openpay.

They will allow patients who have dropped their private health insurance and are self-funding their health care to set up payment plans for up to 12 months for knee, hip and other elective surgery operations.

The Financial Counsellors Association warned buy now, pay later companies such as Openpay were not regulated and people could quickly find themselves in financial trouble.

But Openpay sought to reassure consumers it was a responsible lender and had a series of checks in place to prevent people from overextending themselves.

Under the deal, patients will initially be able to borrow up to $10,000 during the trial period.

That may cover only part of their elective surgery. A hip replacement can cost more than $30,000.

“To be very clear, we’ve got some very strict guidelines in place,” Openpay chief commercial officer Dion Appel told ABC Radio Perth.

“It’s very important to understand we’ve excluded any cosmetic surgery procedures from this particular function. So it really is elective surgery for things people actually need.”

Patients download an app and apply to sign up, provided they are over 18 years of age and have a debit or credit card.

They can request an increase to the $10,000 limit through the app.

“Ultimately that will determine how much you are able to spend to manage your treatment,” Mr Appel said.

Payments need to be made every two weeks and a late fee of $7.50 applies.

Mr Appel said Openpay was an accredited member of the buy now, pay later code of conduct and it would work with customers having trouble making payments.

But that did not ease the concerns of the traditional financial industry.

Partnerships like the one between Openpay and St John of God are not covered by the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Financial Counsellors Association of WA executive officer Melanie Every said that meant they did not have the same obligations as banks.

“What that means for people is if you do get into trouble, if you do have problems with paying, that they don’t have the same obligations around hardship policies and procedures you would find the banks having,” Ms Every said.

She urged consumers to properly inform themselves, seek financial advice about all the available options, and be aware there could be hidden fees.

“What we’re seeing is people ending up with several of these buy now, pay laters and they quickly add up,” Ms Every said.

“People can lose track of their spending and problems come when people start to default on repayment of these.

“So we just urge consumers to make sure they’re well informed.”

An Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) report from November 2020 indicated 21 per cent of buy now, pay later users who were surveyed missed a payment in the previous 12 months.

It found revenue from missed payment fees for all the buy now, pay later providers it had reviewed amounted to $43 million in 2018-19.

That was 38 per cent more than the previous year, as the number of buy, now pay later transactions increased from 16.8 million to 32.0 million over the same period.

ASIC said some consumers who used buy, now pay later arrangements were experiencing financial hardship, “such as cutting back on or going without essentials” like meals, or they were taking out additional loans.

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Buy now, pay later for elective surgery sparks warnings of financial risk


Elective surgery patients will have the option to delay payments for procedures worth tens of thousands of dollars, as the buy now, pay later industry enters the private health system for the first time in Australia.

St John of God Health Care’s hospitals at Murdoch and Mt Lawley in Perth and St John of God Berwick Hospital in south-east Melbourne are starting a six-month trial with credit lender Openpay.

They will allow patients who have dropped their private health insurance and are self-funding their health care to set up payment plans for up to 12 months for knee, hip and other elective surgery operations.

The Financial Counsellors Association warned buy now, pay later companies such as Openpay were not regulated and people could quickly find themselves in financial trouble.

But Openpay sought to reassure consumers it was a responsible lender and had a series of checks in place to prevent people from overextending themselves.

Under the deal, patients will initially be able to borrow up to $10,000 during the trial period.

That may cover only part of their elective surgery. A hip replacement can cost more than $30,000.

“To be very clear, we’ve got some very strict guidelines in place,” Openpay chief commercial officer Dion Appel told ABC Radio Perth.

“It’s very important to understand we’ve excluded any cosmetic surgery procedures from this particular function. So it really is elective surgery for things people actually need.”

Patients download an app and apply to sign up, provided they are over 18 years of age and have a debit or credit card.

They can request an increase to the $10,000 limit through the app.

“Ultimately that will determine how much you are able to spend to manage your treatment,” Mr Appel said.

Payments need to be made every two weeks and a late fee of $7.50 applies.

Mr Appel said Openpay was an accredited member of the buy now, pay later code of conduct and it would work with customers having trouble making payments.

But that did not ease the concerns of the traditional financial industry.

Partnerships like the one between Openpay and St John of God are not covered by the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Financial Counsellors Association of WA executive officer Melanie Every said that meant they did not have the same obligations as banks.

“What that means for people is if you do get into trouble, if you do have problems with paying, that they don’t have the same obligations around hardship policies and procedures you would find the banks having,” Ms Every said.

She urged consumers to properly inform themselves, seek financial advice about all the available options, and be aware there could be hidden fees.

“What we’re seeing is people ending up with several of these buy now, pay laters and they quickly add up,” Ms Every said.

“People can lose track of their spending and problems come when people start to default on repayment of these.

“So we just urge consumers to make sure they’re well informed.”

An Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) report from November 2020 indicated 21 per cent of buy now, pay later users who were surveyed missed a payment in the previous 12 months.

It found revenue from missed payment fees for all the buy now, pay later providers it had reviewed amounted to $43 million in 2018-19.

That was 38 per cent more than the previous year, as the number of buy, now pay later transactions increased from 16.8 million to 32.0 million over the same period.

ASIC said some consumers who used buy, now pay later arrangements were experiencing financial hardship, “such as cutting back on or going without essentials” like meals, or they were taking out additional loans.

Thank you for dropping by My Local Pages and reading this news update about “News in the City of Melbourne titled “Buy now, pay later for elective surgery sparks warnings of financial risk”. This news release was presented by My Local Pages as part of our Australian events & what’s on stories services.

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