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Dr Jennifer Sanger - Withdrawal from Publication of Scientific Paper

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Bushfires

Dr Sanger - Withdrawal from Publication of Scientific Paper, Rosalie Woodruff, 16 September 2020


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise to put on record, concerns that the Greens have at the low attack by a member of the Labor Party at some highly respected and credentialled Tasmanian scientist.

Dr Broad is scientifically trained, but he is discrediting his qualifications by his comments that wilfully misrepresent the normal scientific process. The scientists Winoto Lewin, Sanger and Kirkpatrick showed enormous integrity by withdrawing their paper that was published in May in the journal Fire as soon as errors in the data they had used were pointed out to them. This is the normal, appropriate scientific practice.

The editor of the journal Fire, Professor Alistair Smith, had this to say about the authors of the paper that Dr Broad attacked last night. Professor Smith said -

The retraction was made at the request of the authors of the original paper after they were alerted to an error. This is an excellent example of research integrity by the authors.

He also said -

The science was driven by data and scientists showed their integrity when they retracted studies after being faced with data that countered conclusions. This is what sets apart scientists from special interest groups. As such, all I can do is applaud the integrity of the authors as being of the highest standards.

It was not the approach that was taken by the author, the scientist, Atterwell and others who published a paper called 'Timber harvesting does not increase fire risk and severity in wet eucalypt forests and southern Australia' in the journal Conservation Letters in 2014. Their paper is one piece of science that the forestry industry relies on but when errors were found in that research, the authors did not retract their paper. A rebuttal to that paper by Atterwell was published by the leading fire scientist Ross Bradstock, highlighting multiple errors.

The fact that Atterwell and others did not retract their paper or do anything to correct their errors, shows an abject lack of scientific integrity.

Madam Speaker, let us be clear about what Dr Broad was doing last night. We know he has an ideological position that is morbidly opposed to sunlight shining on the many well-established destructive practices of native forest logging. Now he is stooping to attacking expert scientists who dare to conduct research into the range of human health risks, associated with current forest mismanagement practices in our native forests.

Dr Broad, do not shoot the messenger and especially, do not shoot your arrows of slander at scientists who are working with integrity. Why not take up your ideological cudgel and write to the authors of the paper that the forest industry still loves to cite, which has errors and has never been retracted?

Dr Broad falsely accused Sanger et al, of blaming Forestry Tasmania for the errors in their paper.

Dr Broad - It was in the newspaper, it was a quote. I quoted her.

Dr WOODRUFF - They did nothing of the sort, you totally misinterpreted that quote. Completely and abhorrently misinterpreted it.

The media statement from Dr Sanger said they were frustrated with the difficulty of being unable to access the high resolution forestry coup data that has been withheld by Forestry Tasmania from researchers.

Why wouldn’t the scientist have asked Forestry Tasmania for detailed records of forest activity in coupes? It is because they had heard that Forestry Tasmania do not part with those data. They have not in the past, when they have been asked to by researchers.

What they did, like any scientist would do, is use the best publicly available data they had, and that was the list map. The Government's own list map.

A forestry researcher who alerted Sanger et al of the existence of high-resolution aerial photographic data has now made it clear to them those data exist, because they were not aware of those data, and that is the material the researchers would like to access so they can repeat their work and assess the fire risks in Tasmania from forestry activities.

As Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick, who is a distinguished professor of geography and conservation ecology, said -

The clear and overwhelming evidence is that logging makes forests more flammable.

I would like the permission of the House to table eight papers from Australian and international journals that demonstrate that relationship. I have circulated them to members of the Opposition and to Government, and those papers make it very clear.

Before I table the papers, I say to Dr Broad, you should listen to the words of the veteran Australian forestry scientist Dr John Dargavel in The Guardian. He has launched a blistering attack on his professional association after it used the retraction of that scientific paper to dismiss links between logging and increased bush fire risk. In an open letter to the Institute of Foresters Australia that was seen by The Guardian Australia, Dr Dargavel said the institute's reaction, quote, 'damages our standing' and 'demeans all foresters in the public eye'. Professor Dargavel is retired, but remains an associate professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. He said, quote -

We cannot afford to continue to present ourselves as a blustering, reactive, negative profession, when the heart of forestry offers positive hope for the future.

Dr Broad, you cannot continue to present yourself and the Labor Party in this blustering, reactive and negative manner to scientists. If you continue to do so, you should rethink your use of your professional title.

Madam Speaker, I seek leave to table the papers.

Leave granted.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I will read the names of the titles of the papers into Hansard:

Article from Nature Ecology & Evolution, Vol 4, July 2020 titled 'Recent Australian wildfires made worse by logging and associated forest management' 

Article from CSIRO Publishing titled 'Extensive recent wildfires demand more stringent protection of critical old growth forest'

Article from PNAS, Vol 117, June 2020 titled 'New special analyses of Australian wildfires highlight the need for fire, resource, and conservation policies'

Article from Ecological Applications, 2018 titled 'Severe fire weather and intensive forest management increase fire severity in a multi-owned landscape'

Article from Ecological Society of Australia, 2018 titled 'Flammability dynamics in the Australian Alps'

Article from Conservation Letters, 2019 titled 'Effects of logging on fire regimes in moist forests'

Article from Conservation Letters July/August 2014 titled 'Nonlinear effects of stand age on fire severity'

Article from Nature Geoscience, Volume 12, February 2019 titled 'Long-term impacts of wildfire and logging on forest soils'