The Liberals in Canberra promised to repeal the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) ban on free plastic bags if they grab the territory's political leadership after the October ACT polls. The position is a U-turn from the previous stand taken by the Libs in 2004.

Under the law, businesses in the ACT could still issue plastic bags to shoppers but they must charge the consumers or face a $27,500 penalty. The reversal of the Liberals' stand on the issue led ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell to call the party hypocrites, citing campaign flyers released in 2004 by Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne who pushed for a plastic bag-free Canberra by 2006.

ACT Liberal leader Zed Seselja defended the party's U-turn due to new evidence which led to their change in stand.

"Britain's Environmental Protection Agency found that shoppers would have to use the same cotton bag every working day for a year to have a lesser impact than a lightweight plastic bag," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Mr Seselja.

He pointed out that besides the British EPA finding, Australia's Productivity Commission has evidence that states and territories do not have a sound case for insisting on a proposed phase out of plastic retail bags.

Mr Corbell said that the ACT government would review the ban by November 2013, two years after the prohibition was imposed.

"It is disappointing to see the next installment of environmental backward-thinking from the opposition leader who seems intent on wrecking any attempts to better protect the local environment in the ACT," Mr Corbell said.

While the government needs a year of implementation of the ban to initiate a review, Mr Corbell said there are anecdotal evidence that Canberra residents are reducing their use of plastic bags and relying more on reusable bags when shopping.