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Taoiseach Challenged Over Bin Tax & Waste Management

category national | bin tax / household tax / water tax | news report author Wednesday October 22, 2003 23:31author by Dail debator Report this post to the editors

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.

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?

author by seytonpublication date Thu Oct 23, 2003 11:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fair play to you joe, you're really putting it up to them.

I found Pat Rabbitte's contirubtion bizarre. It seems that his orientation is towards the private jokes and the milieu of the Dáil and not the local communities that are being hauled before the courts.

author by ipsipublication date Thu Oct 23, 2003 12:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I imagine that involved some clenching of the fist around your notes or on the back of the seat in front of you till your nailbeds went white with the pressure. I suppose if you had said "Fuck you Bertie and all your kind!" you would have got suspended from the Daíl, but you said it well, and we'll do the "FUCK YOU BERTIE AND ALL YOUR KIND!" on your behalf.

I prefer hearing Deputy Joe in the Dail than not hearing Deputy Joe coz he was in prison.

author by Jonahpublication date Thu Oct 23, 2003 13:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bertie said last week that one of the reasons roads weren't being built was because people were protesting about the threat to snails and swans. Then he flung some abuse at Trevor Sargent.

Pat, who likes a 'witty' bon mot in the Dáil chamber almost as much as boozing with sycophantic journalists, is much amused by this and like that annoying half-smart kid in class, keeps referring to it.

Pat is the leader of the Irish Labour movement and yes, it is deeply depressing that he is more concerned with smartarse remarks than, well, anything else.

author by more dail 'debating'publication date Thu Oct 23, 2003 16:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Mr. J. Higgins: I have come from Mountjoy Prison. I visited some of the 11 ordinary working people incarcerated there and in Cloverhill for peaceful community protest against the brutal policy of the Government of threatening to leave uncollected the refuse bins of tens of thousands of householders and compliant taxpayers because of their boycott of the bin tax which they correctly believe they have paid through general and other taxation. Working men and women, fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers have been carted off to jail within days of peaceful community protests. They had no recourse except to protest in this way.
It is six years since the massive tax evasion scam by the Ansbacher criminals came to light. Ansbacher man has never darkened the doorway of a courthouse let alone found himself behind prison walls. It is many years since councillors were revealed as being up to their necks in corruption with speculators. Not one has darkened the doorway of a courthouse on that account let alone been jailed for it. The chairman of the Revenue Commissioners now says that the amount stolen from the tax fund by the largest tax evasion racket ever seen in the history of the State and probably of the European Union which was organised by some of the largest banks and financial institutions is moving towards €1 billion. Not a single board member has been in front of a court let alone in jail for this monstrous theft.
Does the nauseating double standards of the Government and of the economic, political and judicial establishment in the State cause the Tánaiste even the slightest embarrassment? Does it ever strike her as being even a little unjust that the small people, the working class men and women and compliant PAYE taxpayers and pensioners, are carted off to jail for peaceful protest while the millionaire tax evaders and the boardrooms of banks and financial institutions that organised scams on a massive scale are untouchable? Does the Tánaiste agree that the Government is exposed-----

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy's two minutes has concluded.

Mr. J. Higgins: -----as monstrously hypocritical for allowing this to happen? What will she do to stop it?

The Tánaiste: No one is in jail because he or she engaged in peaceful protest, as the Deputy is well aware. People are in jail because they defied a High Court order. I understand that some of the individuals to whom he referred do not have to pay these charges because they have waivers.
As Deputy Joe Higgins knows, we have an independent Judiciary. The revenue authorities are independent and have the power to prosecute in these circumstances. We also have an independent Director of Public Prosecutions. The Deputy must also be aware that 90% of the people in the area he represents have paid their charges and are entitled to have the service for which they have paid without that being interfered with.

Mr. J. Higgins: The Tánaiste should answer the question.

The Tánaiste: I have.

Mr. J. Higgins: It is incredible. The Tánaiste has evaded the question of the monstrous hypocrisy and double standards of the Government and the establishment. Where are the instances of High Court judges bringing the boardrooms of banks - the real criminals - in front of them and sending them to prison instead of decent working class people? The Tánaiste is completely dishonest. Will she suspend-----

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should withdraw the remark that the Tánaiste is dishonest.

Mr. J. Higgins: Will the Government suspend the brutal-----

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should withdraw the remark.

Mr. J. Higgins: She is politically dishonest.

An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy withdraw the remark unequivocally?

Mr. J. Higgins: The Tánaiste refused to answer my question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Joe Higgins should withdraw the remark and he can then continue.

Mr. J. Higgins: I accused her of political dishonesty.

An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy withdraw the remark, please?

Mr. J. Higgins: What remark?

An Ceann Comhairle: That the Tánaiste is dishonest.

Mr. Quinn: When did this arise?

Mr. J. Higgins: I said she is politically dishonest. She would not answer the question and I will leave it at that.
Will the Government suspend the brutal policy of the non-collection of the bins of compliant taxpayers and allow the debate on the bin tax and the substantive environmental issues that arise to continue? Is the Tánaiste prepared to see Mountjoy Prison become a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats gulag for hundreds of workers and pensioners over the next few months, because that is what will happen? Does she have any idea of the anger of ordinary taxpayers at the monstrous double standards over which she presides - the stealth taxes, the increase in house prices which will rob the young for the rest of their lives and the new tier of local taxation-----

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy's minute is concluded.

Mr. J. Higgins: -----that the Government is attempting to apply, shortly to be joined by water charges of up to €1,000 per family? I warn the Tánaiste that the determination is huge. Will she answer the question I posed at the beginning? Is she embarrassed by the double standards of the system and the establishment?

The Tánaiste: The Government will not let 100 or 150 supporters of the Deputy halt the refuse collection service for compliant taxpayers in Dublin. Some 90% of the people in the Fingal area have either a waiver or have paid their charges, as the Deputy knows.

Mr. J. Higgins: That is not so.

The Tánaiste: That is a fact.

Mr. J. Higgins: The Government has intimidated them.

Mr. D. Ahern: The Deputy should allow the Tánaiste to answer.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has had his chance.

The Tánaiste: It is a fact, and many more have paid in the past month than was the case before that. Recent events have encouraged people to pay. The Government believes that such compliant citizens should have their service restored and should be allowed to have their bins collected. The only ones preventing them from doing so are a small group of protesters.

Mr. J. Higgins: That is not true. The Tánaiste did not answer my question.

author by Rank and file trade unionistpublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 17:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Especially those criticising the Dublin Council of Trade Unions inaction on the bin tax campaign
Is this a new policy by Indymedia Ireland? If so it sucks. I wonder how long this post will stay up before it's deleted by an Indymedia editor/s with an over itchy finger placed on the delete button. A reply ftom one of the unaccountable dictators in Indymedia Ireland would be much appreciated but very unlikely to happen.

author by pat cpublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 17:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Whats happening is that some people are posting short pieces which are really comments. These are then moved to an appropriate thread.

Someone posting a 2 liner that in their opinion the DCTU are not going to do anything more to support the campaign is jus t that - an opinion. Its not imparting any new knowledge and imho does not deserve to be left up as an article in its own right.

author by Joepublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 17:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with Pat, it would be stupid to allow people to post comments to the newswire because it would clog it up in no time. It's not hard to write an article that makes the point you want to make but that also informs people.

author by Unaccountable editor - Indymedia Irelandpublication date Fri Oct 24, 2003 18:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Before they accuse us of being all sorts of nasty things? Generally articles on the newswire have to contain a certain amount of information. Questions and unsubstantiated opinions belong as comments. If, on the other hand, you do have some material on the DCTU stance on the issue, we'd love to see it.

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