Page 265 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022
Australia, but Australia as a whole is lagging behind. Australia has no bill of rights, but the ACT does. We were the first, and I was really proud when Queensland and Victoria followed. I hope to see the same effect for our right to a healthy environment.
I have heard people ask what the right to a healthy environment will mean in the day-to-day lives of Canberrans. There are a lot of ways, already, that it will have an impact. All of the laws that we pass here go through a scrutiny process before we pass them, and one aspect of that is seeing if they are compatible with our Human Rights Act. Putting a right to a healthy environment in our Human Rights Act will mean that all new legislation is scrutinised to see whether it breaches this right. It is an environmental lens on legislation, and that is powerful.
A new right in our Human Rights Act will allow people to make a complaint in certain circumstances. This can go to the Human Rights Commissioner, to a government agency or to the Supreme Court. If we introduce a right to a remedy in future, it will allow people to complain directly to ACAT, which is a very accessible forum that can resolve complaints. That question is before an Assembly committee at the moment, so I will not weigh into the debate right now, but I look forward to hearing the outcomes of that inquiry.
Introducing a right to a healthy environment will mean that the ACT government bodies responsible for environmental protection, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the EPSD Directorate, will take care. They will look to this right when they assess the environmental impacts of a project and when they enforce environmental undertakings. And the public can rely on this right to ensure that things get done properly. I look forward to seeing, and ensuring, this right to a healthy environment and all the substantive and procedural rights that it enshrines. We need the right to public participation and the right to information. We also need to include these in the revised Planning Act, which is under review at the moment.
We are seeing, around Australia and the world, an increase in climate and environment litigation. This is often driven by young people who realise, sadly, that if they do not make their governments look after the environment, they will not have an environment that they can live in in the future. This movement of environmental and climate litigation is really powerful. I actually do not know how it will intersect with the new right, but I am look forward to finding out.
Today I call on the ACT Legislative Assembly to consult with community and stakeholders on what the right to a healthy environment should look like in the ACT. I ask that the ACT government have in-depth consultations with key stakeholders such as our First Nations, the Conservation Council, the Environmental Defenders Office, GreenLaw, ACTCOSS and a number of key commissioners, to make sure that we get this right in place in the ACT and to make sure that we do it properly. I also call on the government to release a time frame for including the right. I am really excited about this, and I cannot wait to see our government get to work on this.
MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health and Minister for Mental Health) (3.22): There is a relationship between a healthy