Victorian CDS consultation extended for selected stakeholders

The Victorian Container Deposit Scheme’s consultation period was extended to selected stakeholders this month after it quietly opened in November.

The public consultation for the long-awaited scheme, announced by the Victorian Government in February 2020 as part of $300 million ‘Recycling Victoria’ plans, closed on Monday 30th November.

However, in a letter to Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change at the end of November, Independent Brewers Association general manager Kylie Lethbridge asked for an extension to this period.

Lethbridge wrote to the Minister’s department critiquing the lack of transparency and the relatively short period of engagement allowed to the industry.

The letter revealed that the IBA was not invited by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to take part in an industry workshop, and was alerted to the event by brewers who realised the representative body had not been invited.

“[The short consultation period] has significantly disadvantaged us in providing information and collecting feedback from our members,” the letter from the IBA stated.

“COVID-19 restrictions have had a major impact on our industry with many brewers now working in their business managing the requirements of a COVID safe workplace so have not had ample opportunity to properly consider the CDS.”

The IBA said that the potential impact the current CDS proposals could have on small and independent brewers is “acute”.

In a response to queries about the extension and consultation from Brews News, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change’s department confirmed the extension, to today (9th December) was only available for selected stakeholders. While it did not identify who these were, it has been suggested that the Brewers Association of Australia including Coopers, Lion and CUB, as well as the IBA were included in the extension allowance.

“The Victorian Government is delivering a container deposit scheme that works for Victoria — building a cleaner, greener Victoria with less waste and pollution, better recycling, more jobs and a stronger economy,” it said.

“We’re continuing to work closely with our industry stakeholders and listening closely to their diverse perspectives. We held extensive public consultation on the design of Victoria’s container deposit scheme over November.”

As with other state’s container deposit schemes, there is a debate over payment due dates to the scheme, and the IBA said that the Victorian Government’s proposal to have small producers pay their CDS payments in advance would be a “considerable challenge” for them.

“This model was an unmitigated disaster in NSW, and the government was forced to step in to provide ‘emergency loans’ to stop small brewers and producers going bankrupt,” Lethbridge said.

Across Australia, controversial state-wide container deposit schemes have created challenges for breweries.

The Victorian Government has recommended an industry-operated scheme over a government-driven scheme, and suggested that a scheme coordinator with beverage industry involvement and one or more network operators are appointed, similar to the NSW model.

In NSW, where its scheme is split between a coordinator and a network operator, the CDS has been plagued with issues from the unintended dissemination of volume information of participating breweries to criticism from the industry about its implementation.

In WA, which is implementing scheme similar to that in Queensland, the scheme was delayed over COVID. Tasmania, the last the have committed to a scheme, is also currently designing a scheme, due for implementation in 2022.

Brewers can view the discussion paper. Summary response feedback will be published in early 2021.

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