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Queensland Government Bulletin

17 August 2021

32 min read

#Government, #Renewable Energy

Queensland Government Bulletin

Regulation of waste in the renewable energy industry

The waste problem

Solar panels

Currently, an estimated 6 to 7 million tonnes of waste is generated from photovoltaic systems each year. There is presently no legal regulation for the recycling or disposal of solar panels. Moreover, development approvals for solar farms typically do not require the solar panels to be recycled or disposed of in any particular way at their end-of-life. Solar panels contain small amounts of conductive metals, which could cause environmental harm according to section 14 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld). Especially of concern are older solar panels which can contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Despite this, Australian solar panels reaching their end-of-life are mostly disposed of in landfills.

Wind turbines

There is a lack of regulation regarding the disposal of end-of-life wind turbines, and so most are or will be cut into pieces by machinery and put into landfills. The main difficulty with wind turbine waste is recycling their carbon fibre blades since internal mechanics (the nacelle and tower) contain recyclable components. By 2050, it is estimated that 43 million tonnes of decommissioned wind turbine blades will require disposal. Wind turbine blades can be up to 100 metres long.

In Queensland, wind farm development applications are assessed by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning’s State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA). SARA uses the State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAPs) to assess wind farm development applications.

In the current version of the SDAPs, State code 23 (Wind farm development) defines the “decommissioning” of a wind farm as when “the wind turbines, site office and any other above-ground infrastructure is removed from the site, and roads, parking areas and foundation pads are covered and revegetated to return the ground to its former state”. There is no obligation for the proponent to be responsible for wind turbine waste. There is also no mentioning of wind turbine waste in the relevant planning guidelines.

Commonwealth regulation

The Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 (Cth) (Act) regulates federal product stewardship.

According to section 67, the Environment Minister is required to publish the Minister’s Priority List on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s website, which sets out the following:

  • a list of products in relation to which the Minister is proposing to consider, during the next financial year, whether some form of regulation might be appropriate
  • why the Minister is proposing to give that consideration
  • actions that the Minister recommends be taken in relation to each listed product
  • the times within which the Minister recommends the actions be taken.

The Minister’s Priority List is conducted in consultation with each state and territory, and, if any, relevant Centres of Excellence. The Minister may also consult with one or more of the following:

  • persons or organisations involved in, or advocating for, best practice in relation to the reuse, remanufacture, recycling and recovery of products, waste from products and waste material
  • industry groups
  • consumer groups
  • environmental groups
  • local government authorities
  • any other person or organisation the Minister considers should be consulted.

In preparing a list of products for inclusion in the Minister’s Priority List, the Minister may have regard to any matter the Minister considers relevant, including whether consumers are willing to pay for action that reduces the impact that the products have on the environment, and whether taking action to reduce that impact will offer business opportunities to contribute to the economy.

Section 5 of the Act provides for three regimes relating to product stewardship, each of which is designed to encourage or require manufacturers, importers, distributors and other individuals to take responsibility for products:

  1. Voluntary Product Stewardship: Involves accrediting voluntary arrangements designed to further the objects of the Act in relation to products, and authorising the use of product stewardship logos under such arrangements
  2. Co-Regulatory Product Stewardship: Involves requiring some manufacturers, importers, distributors and product users (called liable parties) who have been specified in the rules to be members of co-regulatory arrangements approved by the Minister. These arrangements must have outcomes, specified in the rules that are designed to further the objects of the Act
  3. Mandatory Product Stewardship: Enables rules to be made that require specified individuals to take, or not to take, specified action in relation to products.

Photovoltaic systems, listed since 2016-2017, are currently listed on the Minister’s Priority List for 2021-2022. The listing includes photovoltaic panels, inverter equipment and system accessories for domestic, commercial and industrial applications.

The Clean Energy Council proposed a Voluntary Product Stewardship scheme to the Commonwealth Government, but was rejected by the Environment Minister. The current listing on the Minister’s Priority List requires that an industry-agreed nationwide scheme design must be finalised by June 2022 and operational by June 2023. The federal government aims to consult industry over the next six months about how to achieve this.

Product stewardship is not currently being considered for the management of waste from end-of-life wind turbines.

State regulation

While a similar product stewardship scheme occurs under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 (Qld), it seems likely that national schemes for regulating waste in the renewable energy sector will be prioritised. Queensland will only consider state-based product stewardship schemes where there is no prospect of, or case for, a national solution, and that there is evidence that the Queensland community demands action.

Opportunities for government

While the Environment Minister’s listing of solar panels on the Minister’s Priority List puts pressure on the renewable energy industry to demonstrate that it will manage photovoltaic waste through an industry-led product stewardship arrangement, we expect that there will be opportunities for government to become involved as regulation of renewable energy waste increases.

Although the end-of-life disposal of photovoltaic systems may increase costs, there will be many benefits as regulation increases. For example, the potential to increase recovery of valuable resources through recycling initiatives, and the opportunity to further sustainability goals by diverting material from landfill and reducing hazardous materials in the waste stream which may cause environmental harm.

While waste from wind turbines pose less risk of environmental harm, we expect that similar regulation of wind turbine waste will occur over time, creating similar opportunities.

How can we help?

Holding Redlich has expertise in the waste industry with experience in funding, applications and approvals, environmental assessment and prosecutions, the legislative framework for renewables and recyclable projects, contract review and dispute resolution.

Authors: Gerard Timbs & Nicola Nearhos

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Published - articles, papers, reports

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ParentsNext: examination of Social Security (Parenting payment participation requirements – class of persons) Instrument 2021
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Early Appropriate Guilty Plea reform program - Process evaluation
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Nettle v Cruse [2021] FCA
DEFAMATION – where respondent was alleged to have posted online publications in the form of reviews and commentary containing defamatory imputations concerning the applicant and his surgical practice – where online publications were made using false names – where respondent was unable to be personally served by the applicant – where respondent failed to file a defence or appear but service deemed to have been effected – where respondent had previously admitted to being responsible for some of the publications – whether online publications contained defamatory imputations – whether publications conveyed imputations that the applicant was dishonest, unethical and incompetent – where imputations were found to have been conveyed – where imputations conveyed in the online publications were found to be defamatory
DAMAGES – where applicant was found to have been defamed by online publications – where damages and injunctive relief sought for defamation – where applicant was found to have suffered substantial loss or damage as a result of the defamatory publications – relevant principles regarding the assessment of damages for defamation – where damage to the applicant as a result of defamation significantly affected the applicant’s personal, business and professional reputation – where defamatory publications caused hurt to feelings and emotional and mental distress to the applicant – where applicant awarded compensatory and aggravated damages – where applicant granted permanent injunctive relief restraining respondent from republishing content containing defamatory imputations 2. The respondent pay the applicant damages for non-economic loss, including aggravated damages, assessed at $450,000. 

Karmakar v Minister for Health (No 2) [2021] FCA 916
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – Health Insurance Act 1973 (Cth) – application for judicial review of exercise of power by the Director of the Professional Services Review Agency to refer the applicant to a committee – whether the Director was obliged to disclose the identity of a practitioner consulted pursuant to s 90 of the Act – where s 89C(1)(b)(i) of the Act requires the Director to provide a report to the applicant – held: the Director discharged the procedural fairness duty by the provision of that report – whether the exercise of power by the Director ought to have been made in reference to an “objective standard” – where the standard specified in s 82(1)(a) is a professional evaluative standard – held: the Director correctly exercised her power in reference to “inappropriate practice”
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – Health Insurance Act 1973 – application for judicial review of exercise of power by the Committee to find the applicant had engaged in inappropriate practice – whether the exercise of the power by the Committee ought to have made in reference to an “objective standard” – held: the Act only requires that the Committee’s evaluation be reasonable – whether the Committee took into account the incompleteness of records – held: the Committee’s report makes clear issue taken into account – where the applicant makes various claims that the Committee’s decision affected by bias and procedural unfairness – where none of allegations made out – application dismissed
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – application for judicial review of exercise of power by Chief Executive to request the Director to review the applicant and by Director to decide to undertake that review – whether application brought pursuant to the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) in the alternative – where statement of claim and submission exclusively refer to the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth) – where Court proceeds on basis that jurisdiction solely conferred by ADJR Act – held: particular exercises of power by the Chief Executive and Director “wholly procedural” and not amenable to review because they were not decisions to which ADJR Act applies
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – where applicant submits that s 106ZR of the Health Insurance Act 1973 is invalid – whether s 106ZR unreasonably burdens political communication and goes beyond legislative purpose – where enactment of Pt VAA of the Health Insurance Act 1973 supported by s 51(xxiiiA) or s 51(xxxix) of the Constitution – where Act provides for disclosure in various forms – where Act does not prevent the applicant from calling witnesses or adducing statements before the Committee – where Act does not prevent disclosure by applicant that she is subject to a determination or public discussion that the applicant considers the process unfair – held: s 106ZR is not incompatible with the requirements of responsible government – application dismissed.

Patrick and Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (Freedom of Information) [2021] AATA 2719
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION – review of the refusals by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to give access to documents to minutes of the National Cabinet – whether documents are exempt documents pursuant to s 34(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the FOI Act) – consideration of the meaning of “committee of the Cabinet” – whether National Cabinet is a committee of the Cabinet – whether documents are conditionally exempt documents pursuant to s 47B of the FOI Act because their disclosure would or could reasonably be expected to cause damage to relations between the Commonwealth and a State – decisions set aside – order for access made. 

AA v State of Queensland (Office of Industrial Relations) [2021] QCAT 258
HUMAN RIGHTS – PRIVACY LEGISLATION – where respondent conceded there had been a breach of privacy caused by an employee of the respondent disclosing information to a third party without the applicant’s consent – whether disclosure was malicious – whether payment of compensation should be ordered
Information Privacy Act 2009 Qld s 176, s 178, Schedule 3; Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 Qld s 100, s 102; Public Service Act 2008 Qld s 175.

Revolve Property & Anor v Walsh & Anor [2021] QCAT 256
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS – QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL – minor civil dispute – tenancy dispute – adjournment of hearing – where Applicants applied to terminate Respondents’ residential tenancy agreement for objectionable behaviour – where Registry served Application on Respondents by post – where Registry simultaneously served Notice of Hearing on parties by post – where matter allocated 15 minutes’ hearing time in accordance with standard listing practice for termination applications - where Respondents filed Counter-application for orders for repairs and maintenance, rent reduction, reimbursement of expenses, and compensation – where dispute of substantial complexity - where both applications urgent at least in part – where Respondents applied for order for legal representation – where orders for legal representation of parties made – where dispute and evidence complex - where Applicants applied for adjournment on receipt of Counter-application and Respondents’ affidavits and documents – where Respondents opposed application for adjournment – whether adjournment appropriate and consistent with tribunal objects and functions for quick justice in the circumstances – where adjournment granted with orders in the nature of directions for efficient management of proceedings – principles underpinning decision to adjourn hearing.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 Qld s 3(b), s 4(c), s 28(3)(a), 28(3)(d) and 28(3)(e), s 28(4), s 29 

Valuers Registration Board of Queensland v Murphy [2021] QCA 159
STATUTES – ACTS OF PARLIAMENT – INTERPRETATION – GENERAL APPROACHES TO INTERPRETATION – OTHER CASES – where the applicant board constituted under the Valuers Registration Act 1992 (Qld) (the Act) gave notice that it intended to take disciplinary action against the respondent registered valuer – where the respondent requested the board refer the matter to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) pursuant to s 52(2)(c)(iii) of the Act – where the board performs a statutory function in dealing with the request – whether sections 50, 51 and 52 of the Act impose a duty on the board to make the referral to QCAT upon receiving the request
STATUTES – ACTS OF PARLIAMENT – INTERPRETATION – GENERAL APPROACHES TO INTERPRETATION – OTHER CASES – where the applicant board constituted under the Valuers Registration Act 1992 (Qld) (the Act) gave notice that it intended to take disciplinary action against the respondent registered valuer – where the respondent requested the board to refer the matter to QCAT pursuant to s 52(2)(c)(iii) of the Act – where there was no time period specified in the Act for making the referral – where the board referred the matter to QCAT five months after the respondent’s request – where the QCAT member struck out the proceeding because the board did not refer the matter to QCAT “as soon as possible” pursuant to s 38(4) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld) (AIA) – where the QCAT appeal tribunal dismissed the board’s appeal – whether a breach of s 38(4) of the AIA invalidates the referral – whether the Tribunal erred in striking out the proceeding
Acts Interpretation Act 1954 Qld s 24AA, s 38, s 49A
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 Qld s 6, s 9, s 34, s 35, s 36, s 47, s 48, s 61, s 150, s 164




Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021
HR 12 August 2021 - The Bill amends the registration eligibility requirements for a federal non-Parliamentary party. These amendments increase the minimum membership requirements for registration from 500 to 1500 unique members. The Bill also amends the prohibitions regarding registrable names, abbreviations, and logos.  

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Bill 2021 
HR 12 August 2021 - The Bill reduces the thresholds for electoral expenditure that can be incurred by an individual or organisation before they are required to register as a political campaigner. The amendments are intended to enhance public confidence in Australia’s political processes by aligning transparency requirements for political actors who seek to influence the outcome of an election to more closely resemble those for political parties, candidates, and members of Australian Parliament.

Ransomware Payments Bill 2021 (No. 2) 
HR 12 August 2021 - Bill to establish a mandatory reporting requirement for Commonwealth entities, State or Territory agencies, corporations, and partnerships who make ransomware payments in response to a ransomware attack.  The Bill will require entities who make a ransomware payment to notify the ACSC of key details of the attack, the attacker, and the payment.

Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Sunsetting Review and Other Measures) Bill 2021
HR 12 August  2021 - Amends the Criminal Code Act 1995 to extend the operation of the declared areas provisions for a further 3 years and the control order regime and the preventative detention orders (PDO) regime for a further 15 months; Intelligence Services Act 2001 to provide that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security may review the operation, effectiveness and proportionality of the declared areas provisions prior to their sunset date; Crimes Act 1914 to extend the operation of the stop, search and seizure powers for a further 15 months; and Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010 to extend the reporting date for the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor’s review of continuing detention orders for high risk terrorist offenders to as soon as practicable after 7 December 2021.

Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill 2021
HR 11 August 2021 - The Amendment Bill clarifies the process by which CT listings are made and puts beyond doubt any question of  the application and enforceability of validly made listings to ensure that Australia’s Part 4 COTUNA counter-terrorism legislative framework is able to operate as intended by Parliament to prevent and respond to the financing of terrorism.

Human Rights (Targeted Sanctions) Bill 2021 
Senate 11 August 2021 - The purpose of this Bill is to provide a framework for nominations of persons responsible for serious human rights abuses or serious corruption to the Foreign Minister, requiring a statement as to whether the Australian Government will impose targeted sanctions on those persons.

Human Rights (Children Born Alive Protection) Bill 2021 
HR 09 August 2021 - The Bill seeks to enshrine an offence for health practitioners that contravene the duty to provide medical care or treatment to a child born alive. More explicitly, the Bill codifies the duty and conduct of medical professionals.

International Human Rights and Corruption (Magnitsky Sanctions) Bill 2021 
Senate 03 August 2021 - A Bill for an Act to enable Australia to impose sanctions to promote compliance with international human rights law and respect for human rights or to deter significant corruption, and for related purposes.


Public Health and Other Legislation (Further Extension of Expiring Provisions) Amendment Bill 2021
Introduced by: Hon Y D'Ath MP on 16/06/2021
Stage reached: 2nd reading to be moved on 6/08/2021

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