Protecting your rights

Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

Australia has signed many international agreements on human rights. In 2011 the Parliament passed legislation to establish a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. The joint committee examines all proposed legislation for compatibility with human rights and reports its findings to both houses of Parliament. The committee's views inform debate on legislation.

Right to life

When the Australian Greens introduced the Save Our Sharks Bill into the Senate in 2014, the Human Rights Committee considered the bill's compatibility with the right to life—not of sharks, but of people!

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

Article 6(1) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The purpose of the bill

In 2014, in response to an increase in deaths from shark attacks, the Western Australian Government began catching and killing sharks. The Greens sought to stop shark baiting, which they considered ‘recklessly cruel and needlessly destructive'.

Humans vs sharks

Under international human rights law, the right to human life must be respected at all times. As the shark baiting had been introduced to preserve lives, the committee sought further information from the Greens to clarify the bill's implications for the right to life.

The Greens argued that the effect of the bill would be to ensure that shark culling programs required an environmental assessment and that the effectiveness of the shark cull on reducing shark-related death was greatly contested.

Outcome

The joint committee was satisfied with the Greens' response.