Page 268 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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advocating for practical, sensible measures to help protect and conserve our natural Canberra environment. I would like to remind everyone in this place that the Canberra Liberals have always had a good position on the environment and protection for our natural environment. It was a Canberra Liberals government, in 1997, that became the first subnational government to sign up to the Kyoto protocol. We have had practical and tangible policies to reduce waste and protect our wetlands, woodlands and grasslands. In more recent years we have committed to 100 per cent renewable energy and net zero emissions by 2045.

Measures such as this motion today may contribute towards all Canberrans having a right to a healthy environment. I hope that future environmental motions will be clear and have pragmatic measures aimed at achieving rational outcomes. I wish to make just one point. I am a little perplexed that we have a motion on this today, because it is already in the parliamentary and governing agreement, which commits the ACT government to consider introducing the right to a healthy environment into the Human Rights Act. So we have a motion in this place today calling for the government—of which Ms Clay, of course, is a part—to do something it appears to have already agreed to do.

The motion asks the government to communicate and consult with community organisations. That is admirable. It is very important, and I am absolutely in favour of it. It is something that the government tell us over and over again that they do all the time. Nevertheless, I do not want to quibble about this motion because it is an important motion, which we support. I do not need to speak for a long time on it because Ms Clay has set out at some length the reasons it is important and what we need to do. Regardless of the motion’s origin, we are very supportive of promoting access to a healthy environment, and for that reason we will be supporting this motion today. I thank Ms Clay for bringing it forward.

MS VASSAROTTI (Kurrajong—Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services and Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction) (3.32): I support this motion by Ms Clay on the right to a healthy environment. The opportunity to have a healthy life often depends on where someone lives, plays and works. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of background or income, with respect to environmental laws and policies. In other words, environmental justice is simply making sure that everyone has a fair chance of living the happiest, healthiest life possible.

I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge and draw attention to an important piece of work recently published by the Environment Defender’s Office. This report provides recommendations about what environment protection agencies—EPAs—should look like to best protect the environment and human health, particularly for those who are most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of pollution, environmental degradation and climate change. This report recommends that the focus of our EPAs must shift to become more centred on protecting communities and the environment from environmental impacts, particularly ensuring that there is environmental justice for those who are disadvantaged by how society is structured.

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