Barr has a couple of on-the-nose messes to clean up

Ian Bushnell 22 November 2020 28
Garbage disruption notice

Garbage truck drivers will continue strike action across the ACT. Photos: File.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr comes back to work today after a post-election break and needs to clean a couple of messes – one industrial and the other political, although both are about rubbish.

Rolling industrial action by garbage truck drivers employed by the contractor Suez continues across Canberra suburbs and the hotter and closer to Christmas it gets the more likely the dispute will be on the nose with the community.

The already well-paid drivers want a 12 per cent pay rise over four years and Suez, citing the current pandemic induced economic situation, wants to give them only eight.

Just because the drivers are already on a reasonably good wicket is irrelevant – they have every right to pursue a wage claim, and Suez’s argument is opportunistic.

But a rubbish strike at this time of year, even with the government providing drop-off points for household garbage, is not something the city needs.

It may get sorted out in the Fair Work Commission and Mr Barr may not believe he needs to get involved but the row has gone on long enough and he should show some leadership and bend a few ears or offer a peace proposal.

Just because the government contracts out the service does not mean it can wash its hands of the situation.

The other waste mess is entirely of the government’s own making.


READ MORE: Garbage truck drivers vote down pay offer, more strikes loom


At one point in the ACT’s quest for a zero-waste future, it invited proposals from industry about how to achieve it, essentially to divert rubbish from landfill through recycling and other processes.

Proposals duly turned up, including Capital Recycling Solutions plans’ for a plant in Fyshwick that originally included a waste to energy operation like those in Europe.

That quickly became a political problem when inner south groups and Labor’s partners in government, the ACT Greens, became worried about air quality and potential contaminants.

The new Waste to Energy policy promptly put out that bushfire with a ban on the incineration of rubbish.

Capital Recycling Solution's proposed Fyshwick plant

Capital Recycling Solution’s proposed Fyshwick plant looks dead in the water but the fallout is far from over.

But CRS adjusted its proposal to a household waste processing and recycling operation.

By the October election, an alliance of inner south groups and Fyshwick business people had convinced the Greens that the plant was not a good idea.

Facing a Green insurgency in Kurrajong, and elsewhere as it turned out, Labor officially blackballed the CRS proposal, even though the company had spent millions getting its EIS accepted and the plans to the DA stage.

Even the Liberals were quick to reassure voters that the Fyshwick plant was not a goer.

Not surprisingly, CRS believes it has been led up the garden path, and the government has to find a way to extricate itself from the situation and meet its election commitments while also having to deal with other proposals such as the big building and commercial waste recycling facility Hi-Quality plans in Tennant Street.

The government, it seems, has accepted the view that certain industrial processes are no longer compatible with the more gentrified Fyshwick, and that it now wants all waste facilities co-located in Hume.

It’s a mess that could cost taxpayers plenty if it ends up in the courts.


READ ALSO: First-of-its-kind snake study to unveil slithery trails in Canberra


Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel and Planning Minister Mick Gentleman have carriage of the debacle but those two arms of the bureaucracy appear to have been at odds.

The other player is new Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti, who has already flagged that the Fyshwick waste question is top of mind.

It would be best if Mr Barr stepped in because a lot of moving parts will need to be coordinated and the Territory’s interest protected.

And the government will still need to come up with those waste solutions.


What's Your Opinion?


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28 Responses to Barr has a couple of on-the-nose messes to clean up
kate11 kate11 11:51 am 24 Nov 20

Hang on, these garbage strikes are because an 8% payrise offer is not considered good enough?!

GZD GZD 2:14 am 24 Nov 20

I hesitate to use the phrase “just truck drivers”, but at the end of the day it’s not exactly highly skilled labour. Nurses in NSW on the front line of COVID care were being denied a pay rise by the NSW government. They would be far more deserving and would probably have more community support if they decided to go on strike.

I’m sorry, Ian Bushnell, but the drivers being on a good wicket is entirely relevant. It’s selfish and unreasonable to demand a 12% pay rise in the context of a worldwide pandemic, people losing jobs and businesses, and adding more stress to families during an already trying year. Sure they can pursue a wage claim, but striking just before Christmas to strong-arm Suez? Really? The Union isn’t gaining any support with this stunt. Fire the lot and get people who are willing to work

Rainer N Palma Busacker Rainer N Palma Busacker 7:49 pm 23 Nov 20

He could start with doing his job, stop playing with the train set. Call for a new contractor if this is not settled by the weekend.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:27 pm 23 Nov 20

Aside from pretending that it’s really not their problem because it’s between Suez and the TWU, the ACT government could do ratepayers the courtesy (I jest, of course) of explaining why they have negotiated a contract which allows an offer of a pay increase of (only) 8% over four years to be characterised as opportunistic.

Lee McDowall Lee McDowall 5:58 pm 23 Nov 20

But remember, he has nothing to prove after being re-elected🤔🤔🤔🤣🤣🤣🤣

    William Coats William Coats 5:04 pm 24 Nov 20

    Lee McDowall and he personally probably wont face the people again. It is good of the union not to strike until the week after the election. Just like is was nice to not release the damming report on the bullying in the hospital system until after the election. But even with all this we will vote them back in in 4 years

ACT resident ACT resident 5:41 pm 23 Nov 20

Not one but two major waste hubs for Fyshwick under ACTPLA assessment. Will the responsible Ministers, Chief Barr or his Planning Minister Gentleman or the Chief Planning Executive Ponton, fix this mess – perhaps not? Developers must wear the cost of unsolicited proposals such as the Ipswich St waste hub. Yet the Tennant St waste hub sited next to the Molonglo River WAS among the 32 respondents to the Market Sounding. Why then has ACTPLA ignored TCCS advice on Hume? CRS has already been supported by Planning and its Minister Gentleman via a discounted direct sale of land; approval for a truck freight facility on that land; and approval for a rail freight terminal with a hectare of free land for the waste train to Woodlawn. After the recent controversial ACTPLA tick for fragmentizing cars 50m from Harvey Norman’s, it is inevitable that Planning will continue to support rail freight and waste at Ipswich St. Located between Ipswich and Lithgow Streets, there will be on two blocks of land and part of the ACT Government rail corridor, three major waste sorting operations plus the waste transfer terminal. One hectare of concrete in the middle of the public rail corridor will ensure no future for expansion of public use of rail or other transport services. No consideration is given by Planning to the inevitable property devaluation into the millions for Fyshwick commercial businesses and properties. No thought to congestion in Fyshwick and polluting operations which will constantly handle landfill and contaminated waste with tonnage in total 5 times more than the ACT can provide currently to Mugga Lane landfill. Could Barr and Gentleman account for their decisions so far or do they just not see the big picture? Can Rattenbury stop the thousands of tonnes per annum of cross border waste?

    chewy14 chewy14 12:53 pm 24 Nov 20

    The whole point is that developers have worn the costs of their proposals based on the current land use and policies in place at the moment.

    The government can’t just “fix the mess”, they can’t unilaterally and retrospectively change the playing field and the rules of the game. That’s not how planning does or should work.

    And it’s interesting that you mention the potential devaluation of land value through allowing the land in Fyshwick to actually be used as designated. Perhaps have a think of the counterfactual that the commercial businesses in Fyshwick have bought into the area knowing the landuse of the area and now want to change that landuse to suit themselves.

    But I’m sure the massive windfall gains that they would receive through changing the landuse to be more commercial in nature has nothing to do with this.

Deborah Gale Deborah Gale 2:42 pm 23 Nov 20

Who’s turn is it this week to not have their rubbish picked up?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 6:47 pm 23 Nov 20

    If it's my area, I don't care if it is. I could go weeks without a garbage pick up. And still my bin would likely not be full. I live in a house though, and I can compost. Harder for those living in a unit, although some still don't put compost in the bin. I have several people save up their compost and put it in my compost bin. So, I take the compost of several households.

simm simm 10:44 am 23 Nov 20

Unsolicited FYSHWICK tipping Hubs. The ACT Government identified HUME some years ago. In 2017 there was a market callout to players in the Waste Industry, a “Market Sounding” and was part of the Waste Feasibility Study and the ACT Waste Management Strategy , raised by Minister Steel and is in force from the earlier 2011 to 2025
FOI documents,
Page 16 of the Market Sounding document identifies Hume to be the location for recycling/resource recovery facilities with land blocks identified.
Of the 32 respondent companies listed – CRS is not listed.
The other 32 that did were to have priority over proponents who did not enter submissions …being deemed “unsolicited.”

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:14 am 23 Nov 20

    There is good comment on this by the ACT Conversation Council and they have a link to the actual Market Sounding Tender: https://conservationcouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/38532-01-Waste-Market-Sounding.pdf

    I am sure that since this proposal was promulgated the ACT Governmnet has declared they have dropped plans for a waste to energy incinerator but of course, that does not prevent a private operator from doing it.

    Any proposal that is likely to produce emissions or odours in the area identified will be vigorously opposed by nearby residents due to the standing inversion layer in that area.

    chewy14 chewy14 6:20 pm 23 Nov 20

    Capital Retro,
    Firstly, there is no “standing inversion layer” anywhere in Canberra. It is a meteorological condition that occurs in certain circumstances during the year and is fully taken into account when proposals that may impact air quality are made. If a proposal can’t show compliance with air quality requirements, it wouldn’t be approved.

    Secondly to Simms point, there is nothing precluding a company making this type of proposal to government in Fyshwick and the Hume area is not the only place capable of accommodating these facilities based on current landuses.

    Thinking that the market sounding is a definitive ruling on where these facilities could or should be located is further clutching at straws by the NIMBY brigade, who don’t actually care about facts or logical reasoning on this issue.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:24 pm 24 Nov 20

    A permanent inversion layer does exist over most of Canberra. Why do you think wood heaters were banned at one stage? The air quality assessments for the EPAs are a joke.

    The problem will intensify as the climate warms.

    switch switch 6:15 pm 24 Nov 20

    Retro, did you just say what I think you said???

    chewy14 chewy14 8:38 pm 24 Nov 20

    Capital Retro,
    You are simply wrong but if you want to attempt to provide evidence to prove your point, I’m happy to see it.

    Inversion layers only occur in particular types of areas in particular types of weather. They aren’t “permanent” in Canberra as a whole, nor even in areas of Canberra.

    Just to get the brain warmed up, have a think about your claims around wood heaters. Do they operate permanently?

    Hmmmm.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:12 am 25 Nov 20

    Here’s the evidence from Climate Dynamics:

    https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-018-4214-3 Projected change in characteristics of near surface temperature inversions for southeast Australia.

    chewy14 chewy14 1:27 pm 25 Nov 20

    Capital Retro,
    Have you even read that report at all?

    Firstly, they had no station in Canberra, it’s interpolated data from models.

    Secondly, the model grid sizes they are using are 10km which is good for wide ranging effects but nowhere near granular enough to model specific occurrences of inversions at an individual location.

    And thirdly, their results actually show that there is no permanent inversion layer. Did you see the “frequency” numbers doesnt ever equal 100%.

    In fact on their model, throughout the day, ranges from 0% to 44%.

    ie. No permanent inversion.

    Thanks for providing the evidence disproving your own statements. Funny stuff.

mitch82 mitch82 8:04 am 23 Nov 20

I want my rates back.

mitch82 mitch82 7:45 am 23 Nov 20

Classic Labor. Siding with high paid Union members over the rest of the community.
Remind me again why we are paying rates when this mob has been in for 20 years and we have the worst hospital performance in the country and now the useless clowns can’t even get the bins picked up?

    kate11 kate11 11:47 am 24 Nov 20

    Because the Libs got too caught up in their culture wars and purging the party of all moderates, instead of giving us a decent opposition party to vote for. Not good for any party to be in power for 20 years

chewy14 chewy14 7:33 am 23 Nov 20

“Just because the drivers are already on a reasonably good wicket is irrelevant – they have every right to pursue a wage claim, and Suez’s argument is opportunistic.”

You’re right that they have the ability to pursue a wage claim but in what world is a company offering pay increases well above inflation for no apparent gain in worker productivity in the middle of a global economic downturn, “opportunistic”?

I’m yet to see any form of logical argument how an offer of an 8% pay rise in the current economic climate is not extremely generous. Particularly considering the relative position these workers are already in.

And yes, the ACT government has indeed stuffed up majorly with the waste proposals in Fyshwick. This is what happens when your future planning is woeful and you are too beholden to short term political pressures over sensible policy. It will truly be fantastic when the government has to pay out compensation to the proponents of these facilities because of their own incompetence.

Nathan Horton Nathan Horton 7:21 am 23 Nov 20

What about the6ft high grass around town?

    Andrew Dale Andrew Dale 7:57 am 23 Nov 20

    Nathan Horton it was announced last week that 6m was being spent on it asap

    Randy Goldberg Randy Goldberg 10:23 am 23 Nov 20

    Nathan Horton What about it? Are you complimenting it or complaining?

    Either way, if you think there is a problem, raise it via "Fix my street".

    Karyn Keefe Karyn Keefe 10:59 am 23 Nov 20

    Andrew Dale only 2.1million of the 6million is being allocated to lease more equipment and to hire additional staff to help with the increased growth of the grass. The remainder is being used to repair ACT roads.

    Mick Guy Mick Guy 8:30 pm 23 Nov 20

    repairing the roads with the band aid policy??

    William Coats William Coats 5:03 pm 24 Nov 20

    Nathan, The ACT is run as a union town, unless we complain nothing will be done. "fix my street" is the perfect example, why fix potholes or do maintenance unless people complain. why do what every other council in Australia does as everyday business?

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