Research Handbooks in Human Rights series
Edited by Anna Grear and Louis J. Kotzé
Chapter 13: In one ear and out the other: human rights consultations and environmental discourses for human rights in Australasia
This Chapter identifies three environmental discourses supporting the statutory protection of a right to a healthy environment within Australasia. They are discourses of intergenerational equity, internationalism, and environmental justice. They are the discourses underpinning the widespread community support for a right to environmental protection in the region. Despite these discourses being developed and advanced in the human rights consultations, they are not present in law. Governments and consultation bodies have dismissed the calls for a statutory human right to the environment, ignored submissions or have conflated nuanced legal analysis and arguments, all with the effect of submerging positions and frames developed by the discourse adherents. In addition to explaining and analysing why Australian and New Zealand governments have not pursued an environmental rights legal agenda, this Chapter looks closely at the 2010–11 human rights consultation in the State of Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state, which has a long history of environmental conflict. The Chapter presents Tasmania as a case study of the Australasian consultation experience and relates the Tasmanian analysis to a wider context and broader trends. While there has been no development of any statutory human rights protections at all in Tasmania, let alone environmental rights, the Tasmanian experience offers particularly important insights because it prompted submitters (unlike in other consultations) to consider whether and why they supported a human right to the environment. As a result there is a rich and a relatively comprehensive engagement in the Tasmanian reports and submissions concerning the view of the community about human rights and the environment that does not exist elsewhere in Australia or New Zealand. The environmental discourses discernible from the Tasmanian consultation process can be understood as symbolizing the start of a thoughtful and critical public engagement with human rights to a healthy environment in the region.
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