: Once bitten…?

Once bitten…?

Steven Castan
Western Australia

Controversy has dogged recent attempts by Colin Barnett’s government to cull sharks on the West Australian coastline ranging from questions about the veracity of the tendering process for the culling, accusations of threatening phone calls to government staff and and worldwide publicity (and condemnation) of the policy that was officially launched in late January. From a legal perspective, there has also been controversy in the decision by Greg Hunt, federal Minister for the Environment, to exempt WA from national environmental protection laws, especially in relation to Great White sharks which are a protected species. Great Whites are listed as ‘vulnerable’ under Australia’s environment laws and protected under the international Convention on Migratory Species. Environmental groups, such as Humane Society International and the Australian Marine Conservation Society have stated that the Minister has no scientific basis for the exemption and failed to consider wider marine implications of the proposed culling program. The Minister has argued that the economic damage from increased public concern plus the need for public safety due to the increase in attacks justifies the national interest exemption. The policy is not popular, with many protests being held around the country (and internationally) and potential legal action to challenge the exemption decision is being investigated. Mr Barnett has publicly stated that nothing will change his mind about the shark killing policy despite the opposition from some sectors of the community. Only time will tell if Colin Barnett and Minister Hunt have bitten more off than they can chew.

STEVEN CASTAN is an Australian barrister.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 64
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