Taoiseach Challenged Over Bin Tax & Waste Management

Indymedia report Wednesday, Oct 22 2003, 10:31pm

JOE HIGGINS TD, Socialist Party, challenged the Taoiseach on the bin tax during today's Leader's Questions. Nice try Joe, but you might as well be banging your head off a wall when it comes to getting a straight answer out of Bertie. [Indymedia Comments]

Dail report -

Mr. J. Higgins: Yesterday, a leading representative of the small business community sharply highlighted the contrast between the taxation treatment of ordinary working men and women in this State and the jet-setting tax exiles who make massive profits from the resources of the Irish people before escaping with virtually no tax being imposed on them. This happens because the Taoiseach's legislation permits the fiction that they do not live here. A few months ago, the Government introduced a blunt law to allow local authorities to coerce tens of thousands of ordinary working people's households into giving up their boycott of the bin tax.

Mr. M. Smith: It is not a tax.

Mr. J. Higgins: This tax is being boycotted by people who know it is the prelude to an intolerable new tier of local taxation and stealth charges. Let us scotch the rant of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the effect that 150 people support this campaign. This slur was faithfully repeated by the Tánaiste during Leaders' Questions yesterday. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is as challenged in his command of figures in this regard as he is in his command of a sound environmental policy. In the past six and a half years of Government, there has been a dismal failure in waste management policy and no significant diversion from landfill.

Mr. Treacy: The Deputy is making a big contribution.

Mr. J. Higgins: I am making a very important contribution.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister of State should allow Deputy Joe Higgins to speak without interruption.

Mr. J. Higgins: There has been a dismal failure to put in place the infrastructure to allow the huge diversion from landfill, which is entirely possible. Instead, there has been a resort to apocalyptic television advertising based on fraudulent information rather than policy. The fact is that tens of thousands of households and hundreds of thousands of working people are opposed to this tax.

I asked the Tánaiste a question yesterday, which she evaded and avoided as effectively as the millionaire tax exiles evade and avoid their social responsibilities to pay into the taxation fund.

Mr. F. McGrath: Hear, hear.

Mr. J. Higgins: I appeal to the Taoiseach to answer the question today. Is he the least bit uncomfortable that working men and women from Finglas and other working class Dublin communities are peremptorily thrown in prison within days of peacefully protesting against a new stealth tax imposed by his Government while in the boardrooms of the major banks, the organised theft of up to €1 billion takes place but no banker has even darkened the door of a courthouse? Does the Taoiseach see a contrast there and, if so, can he explain it? Will the Taoiseach suspend the crude policy of the non-collection of taxpayers' household bins to allow us to continue the debate on this taxation and environmental policy in a normal manner?

If extra funds are needed in the meantime, the Taoiseach can amend legislation to provide for a shakedown of, and an equitable tax contribution from, the multi-millionaire tax exiles, many of whom are frequently seen in his company at prestigious social and sporting events.

The Taoiseach: The Deputy has asked me a number of questions. The Office of Environmental Enforcement is being launched today by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It will have the power to impose fines of up to €15 million on businesses and local authorities. A very tough and consistent line is being taken against polluters in the business sector. The percentage of Dublin households which have paid or applied for a waiver is very large and includes almost everyone. The objectives of the Dublin regional waste management plan are 59% recycling, 25% thermal treatment and 16% landfill. The infrastructure of thermal treatment plants and landfill sites will be of a size appropriate to take those percentages of the waste stream to enable us to reach the recycling target. Enormous progress has been made and 225 bring centres have been established across Dublin city and county to accommodate the various recyclable materials. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is investing several million euro in the next few years to increase the number to more than 400 sites. An enormous increase will be announced before Christmas.

The Deputy is aware of my view on the law. The Judiciary is independent and must deal with contempt. If one is guilty of contempt of court procedures must be followed. No one is being jailed for protesting. People from various organisations have the democratic right to protest freely outside this House each day about the various issues of concern to them. These people are rarely troubled by the long arm of the law, let alone the Judiciary.

On the points made by Deputy Joe Higgins in regard to landfill, 86.5% of waste went into landfill in 2001 while 13.5% was recycled. In 2001 more than 100,000 tonnes of glass was landfilled. This is equivalent to 320 million bottles and jars which, if laid end to end, would stretch from New York and back 160 times.

Mr. Stagg: What about what was not recycled?

Mr. Rabbitte: Is it a threat to the swans?

The Taoiseach: This cannot continue. One must deal with disposables and other issues. Some 2.7 million tonnes of household and commercial waste was generated two years ago. This was an increase of 46% on eight years previously. The number of bring banks has increased by 337% to almost 1,500. Just 5.6% of household waste was recycled two years ago while the figure in Holland is almost 60%. We now have legislation and a plan. I respectfully ask Deputy Joe Higgins to join the race against waste campaign and try to help us to deal with the issue, whether in relation to householders, business, agriculture or the construction sector. I have no doubt that pressure from his organisation could have a huge impact on these figures in a very short time.

Mr. J. Higgins: I would like to have a comprehensive debate with the Taoiseach on a sound environmental policy on waste management. The fact is that 600,000 to 700,000 tonnes of paper and glass went from households and commercial outlets to landfill last year, which is an incredible failure on the part of the Government. This could be diverted if the infrastructure for recycling and separation was put in place in all areas. Councils have full powers to introduce by-laws to ensure that not a single glass bottle or paper goes to landfill. The Government's policy in this regard has been a total failure and this apocalyptic advertisement is designed to cover up that fact.

Important as that is, the Taoiseach, very cleverly as usual, went after one hare that was running around this morning but forgot much faster ones. Incidentally, I would prefer to be in contempt of court than to have contempt for the rights and equitable treatment of ordinary working class people.

The central point here is the mass dichotomy in taxation treatment of working people and the privileged minority. Does the Taoiseach defend Mr. O'Brien walking away with a profit of €300 million from the resources of the Irish people, going into tax exile and refusing to pay €50 million that should be due to the social fund?

Some 18 householders from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown are in the High Court this morning on foot of injunctions. Why is such a parade of ordinary taxpayers before the courts? What does the Taoiseach say to the mass scam in the banks revealed by the Revenue Commissioners amounting to a theft of up to €1,000 million? This could not have been organised without the knowledge of those in the boardrooms. Will a single senior boardroom member of the prestigious banks involved in this tax fraud be put into prison? Will the Taoiseach suspend this brutal policy of non-collection?

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