The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Plastic bags, eh?

Sunday 13 January 2008 at 11:40 pm

Torn plastic bag stuck on a tree
photo by z e n

Broadly speaking, I’m impressed that our rock-star minister has a clear intent to ban these crazy bags.

Naturally, supermarket owners are saying that legislation isn’t needed and that they can self-regulate the use of plastic bags down. Um, isn’t that what’s been going on since 2004? It’s been a good first step, but I’d laugh at anyone claiming the retailers have given us a full solution.

On that note, I’m not sure I’m convinced by the Chinese government’s plan to ban the bags. While there’s no doubting the communist leadership’s ability to put their foot down when they want to, there’s also the fact that everyone in China uses plastic bags all the time. (Buy a lone chocolate bar from a mini-mart, and lo! it’s given to you in a bag). There’s going to be some severe cultural change required to make a ban work, whereas in Australia the “bags + environment = bad!” message has been around for long enough that people should be able to adapt.

But that said, it is actually true that there are plenty of other environmental issues more deserving of everyone’s attention …


Now the madness is about trading hours!

Sunday 31 December 2006 at 7:39 pm

Despite its similarity to the daylight saving mess, there are entirely different reasons for why I’m so wary of the new push for deregulating shopping hours around Perth. Basically, we had a referendum less than two years ago, so even the stupid “the youngins haven’t spoken” argument doesn’t work. For now, we should probably accept the umpire’s decision and not make any major changes. (Imagine if the law was changed regardless: what does that say about the referendum process? Should we go changing the national anthem without a vote?)

I say this even though I reckon the referendum was entirely swayed by the independent grocer’s lobby and their “help us, we’re the underdog!” advertising. Of course, it deeply saddens me that the supposedly independent, David-versus-Goliath supermarkets were all either gobbled up or spun off into a single chain just a few months later in The Great Woolworths-Metcash-Foodland Deal.

However, I also don’t believe that the current laws should stay unchanged — because quite simply, they suck. My pet solution is to completely deregulate opening hours in the Fremantle and Perth CBDs (and perhaps other areas like Subiaco, Rockingham, and the forthcoming Cockburn Central), while keeping something like the current arrangements in the suburbs.

The argument that big chain stores will stamp out independent shops doesn’t apply in these areas (seriously, compare the independent CBD convenience stores to Woolies, and tell me you prefer the former). This change would mitigate the danger of shop owners making unfair demands of their employees, while also fixing, in one fell swoop, the problem of the Perth CBD turning into a ghost town after 5.30pm. Indeed, one of the arguments for extending trading hours is that it’ll help people “take advantage of daylight saving”, but that doesn’t make sense in the soulless artificial environment of suburban shopping centres. And heck, longer trading hours might even encourage suburbanites to visit the urban centres a little more often, which would hardly be a bad thing.