“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (article 25)
Australian law is not completely clear about environmental legal rights. “Health and well-being” includes many issues. These are health, decent housing,water, food, culture, the participation in community life,and the right to freedom of speech. How these laws are applied is a complex matter. The following article addresses three key areas. What are the concerns? How have Australians addressed these rights? And, what can you do to ensure your legal rights?
What are the concerns?
The word “including” suggests many concepts. “Deprived of life” applies directly to your right to enjoy a healthy, clean environment. Disasters such as the Chernobyl nuclear tragedy and Bhopal gas leakage are obvious examples. Less clear are situations that involve property rights and contamination from logging, oil contamination and mining. While many health concerns stem from various types of pollution, these are often more difficult to pinpoint. Additionally, changes in climate may lead to health related problems. Rising sea levels and violent weather may stem from environmental impact, highlighting the need for climate change prevention. These concerns hold true especially with regard to individual, family and community rights.
How have Australians addressed these rights?
A few years ago, The Australian Federal Government founded a ‘National Human Rights Consultation.’ Their purpose was to encourage debates about human rights protection in Australia. An independent committee was developed to collect written public submissions about major concerns. The areas addressed included
- Which human rights were to be protected?
- Were these rights adequately promoted and protected?
- If not, how could Australia better promote and protect human rights?
While progress is being made, and limited state legislation protects some human needs (i.e. discrimination legislation), legal protections for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights continue to be somewhat vague. Additionally, Australian health laws do not specifically address many ‘environmental rights,’ such as the legal right to healthy and clean surroundings.
What can you do to ensure your legal rights?
There are many issues surrounding Australian Environmental Laws. Matters such as which rights need to be addressed, what type of legislation is appropriate, and who should be held responsible. The best answer is to get active. As an Australian, you can read up on existing laws. You can write letters and become politically involved. Another way is to contact an online lawyer to learn more about recent changes in regulations. Moreover, if you believe that your community ‘clean environment’ rights have been violated, you can help coordinate a collaborative lawsuit.
The bottom line is that everyone does have a legal right to quality of life, supported by a clean environment. Not only are your basic legal rights a concern, the health and well-being of your family and the members of your community may be at stake.