Government’s recycled paper pusher

Australian Paper has warned a push within the frontbench to commit the Federal Government to using 100 per cent recycled copy paper will only work if departments and agencies buy products made at Maryvale Mill.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt wrote to Finance Minister Matthias Cormann last month proposing the Federal Government “adopt a commitment to use 100 per cent recycled copy paper for general office use” and called on his colleague to consider changes to the government’s stationery and office supply arrangement.

“I seek your consideration of what amendments can be made to the (stationery and office supplies panel) arrangement to ensure that Australian Government entities use 100 per cent recycled paper, except where operational needs require the use of an alternative paper type,” Mr Hunt wrote.

“In addition, such an initiative would contribute towards continuing opportunities for the Australian recycled paper manufacturing industry.”

However, the proposal stops short of calling for a commitment for the government to buy Australian-made paper.

Australian Paper’s sustainability, communication and marketing manager, Craig Dunn, said while the company welcomed Mr Hunt’s support for 100 per cent recycled paper, he understood about 30 of the 50 largest Federal Government departments and agencies still imported their copy paper from overseas.

“The Australian Government can only close the local recycling loop by recognising the sustainability advantages of the world class recycled copy and printing papers made here in the Latrobe Valley,” Mr Dunn said.

“The Departments of the Environment and Finance can support the National Waste Policy by making sure the environmental benefits of local recycled paper are included in value for money procurement decisions.

“Greater recognition of the advantages of local recycled paper will help reduce landfill in line with the National Waste Policy and directly support sustainable jobs in local paper manufacturing.”

Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent said any changes to procurement guidelines should make it “implicit” that departments and agencies bought recycled paper made at Maryvale.

He said Gippsland businesses were already heavy users of Australian-made paper and it was time for the government to follow suit.

“It’s an absolute no-brainer on what benefits Australian recycled paper brings to the environment (over imported product) – it’s an embarrassment to me when that’s not the consideration (in procurement decisions),” he said.

Last month Mr Broadbent used a Christmas message in parliament in which he jokingly referred to several high-profile rival MPs joining together to celebrate paper produced at Maryvale.

He said he would “keep embarrassing them (MPs) until such time as they get the message”.

“I’m confident that governments in the future will have regard for Australian-made paper, it’s one of the biggest industries in Latrobe Valley, it needs supporting and if we need to break the rules to do so (by changing procurement guidelines), let’s break them.”

The government’s previous information and communication technology sustainability plan had committed its departments to using 100 per cent recycled paper for copy by July last year but the policy lapsed and was not continued.

Australian Paper says it built its $90 million de-inking and recycling plant largely based on the government’s commitment.

Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said while he would not pre-empt the final procurement policy decision by Mr Cormann, he was “encouraged” by growing support among his federal colleagues.

Mr Chester said while forcing the use of Australian-made recycled paper would contravene international trade agreements, “this doesn’t mean we can’t find other ways to convince government procurement managers to buy more Australian-made paper products”.