Tonight I recognise the proud history and ongoing importance of Clean Up Australia Day.
I am sure many members joined the clean-up effort last weekend—the official day being Sunday 6 March 2016. The first Clean Up Australia Day was held in 1989, initiated by the well-known Australian yachtsman and keen environmentalist, Ian Kiernan.
I remember my folks taking me along to Clean Up Australia Day when I was a kid. We would go down to Artarmon Reserve, where we would clean up around the creek and then collect tadpoles. It was a lot of fun. My friends and I were excited to get together. We would pull on our gumboots and gloves, smear on some fluoro zinc and hit the park with our white Clean Up Australia bags.
We joined other kids, parents and neighbours, young people, older people, local business owners and leaders in the community to do our part in making a cleaner and brighter Australia. It felt good to be part of something important; to be making a difference—no matter how small.
It was a great representation of what we could achieve as a community. Not much has changed in this regard. This year 682,245 volunteers cleaned up more than 16,000 tonnes of garbage from 7,117 registered locations.
That is 16,000 tonnes less of packaging, scrap metal, bottles and cans, shopping trolleys and plastic bags on our streets, beaches, bushland and waterways. That is 16,000 tonnes less of garbage clogging up the habitats of our native animals and birds.
While I offer my sincerest thanks and congratulations to every volunteer who generously took part in this year's Clean Up Australia Day, they cannot keep doing it alone.
Australia has come a long way when it comes to respecting and caring for our environment, but it will also take innovation and leadership from our Government if we are to make a real difference and tackle some of our environmental problems.
Unfortunately, we have seen some delay on the part of the Government when it comes to introducing a cash-for-containers scheme and to banning single-use plastic bags. Instead of taking urgent action, the Government is letting the community down with this delay. The Boomerang Alliance has stated that every minute 21,000 bottles and cans are littered or landfilled in Australia. That is an extraordinary amount of plastic and garbage not being recycled and ending up in the wrong place.
We urgently need to close the loop and make corporations responsible for the packaging they create to sell their products. A cash-for-containers scheme does just that: It encourages people not to litter and makes corporations more conscious of the waste they produce.
We also need to stop using plastic bags. Australians use up to five billion plastic bags each year, with more than 180 million littered each year—over 61 million just in New South Wales. All this plastic adds up.
According to Clean Up Australia, plastic kills up to one million seabirds each year, as well as 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish. The CSIRO predicts that plastic ingestion by seabirds may reach up to 95 per cent of all species by 2050. It is clear that we cannot continue to sacrifice our ecology for a culture of convenience.
The Government needs to stop dithering and introduce these schemes to fix our plastic problems. The Government needs to make decisions that respect our biodiversity and our waterways, including not building new sewage overflow pipes into Sydney Harbour.
We cannot take the quick fix when it comes to protecting our environment.
We need to think outside the box and make the kind of innovative and smart decisions that are necessary to hand over a better world to our children—the kind of world where when those kids go down to the creek for a Clean Up Australia Day they are thinking about their future and the kind of environment they want to live in.
The community members out there on Clean Up Australia Day volunteer every year, and they deserve better. The enduring message of Clean Up Australia Day is that one person can make a huge difference, but that together we can do a lot more.
I sincerely thank the Clean Up Australia Day team and the volunteers across the State for joining together and doing their part to make our country a cleaner and brighter place to live.
I cannot think of more appropriate members to speak in this discussion. We had the member for Blue Mountains, representing our World Heritage area, the member for Terrigal and the member for Port Stephens, whose electorates have beautiful beaches and sparkling waters; and the member for Drummoyne. I run the Bay Run; I love that area around Iron Cove and the Parramatta River.
It is wonderful to hear from people who really care about their community acknowledging the contribution that volunteers make to keep Australia clean and a beautiful place in which to live. Once again, I thank all the volunteers who worked so hard to clean up our beaches, parks, rivers, bushland and waterways on Clean Up Australia Day.
I make particular mention of two groups in my electorate who always register with Marrickville Council and who take on very large swathes of the area down by the Cooks River.
The first is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, which takes on Mackey Park every year, and the second is the Vietnamese Seniors Association—the food they serve afterwards is excellent.
It is important to recognise the volunteers and thank those who do not just clean up on Clean Up Australia Day but clean up their part of the world every day. In my electorate they are organisations such as the Marrickville Mudcrabs and the Cooks River Valley Association. Volunteers are always down there in their gumboots tirelessly looking after the Cooks River and trying to restore it to a healthy, living ecosystem.
Another great organisation is Reverse Garbage in Marrickville. In fact, it is quite famous across Sydney. This year the organisation will celebrate its fortieth anniversary. It diverts industrial waste from landfill, provides materials for artist and community groups, and finds creative ways to reuse waste.
I acknowledge and thank parents and educators who go out of their way to teach kids to respect and love the land they live on. I acknowledge the community members who think outside the box and see opportunities to improve the environment in everything they do. Beth and Sylvia at May Murray Early Learning Centre in Marrickville created a program to teach toddlers about the Indigenous history of the Cooks River and that every person, no matter how little, can be a custodian of our land and rivers.
I thank local business owners, who understand that one of the biggest threats to our environment is unnecessary packaging, and residents who take the time to diligently sort their recycling—in my street it is every Wednesday night, and neighbours chat amongst themselves to make sure they put things in the right bins.
I thank people who make the decision to use reusable bottles, those who pick fruit and vegetables without packaging and those who trek back to the car when they realise they have forgotten their reusable bags.
All those decisions mean we are leaving our kids a better place to live in.
Clean Up Australia Day has an enduring place in Australian life because it is a reminder that each of us can clean up Australia each and every day.