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Science and Technology – Logging and Bushfire Risk

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 June 2022

Tags: Bushfires, Native Forest Logging

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I hope you agree, as minister for Science, that Tasmania should have a science-driven government. I am interested to know what your role is and what you can contribute to making sure that the Government is science-driven.

I have referred to this research, as has Dr Woodruff in the House, undertaken by researchers from the Australian National University, Macquarie University and University of Queensland which confirms that logging elevates the risk of high-severity fires. Professor David Lindenmayer, for example, says logging increases the probability of canopy damage by 5 25 per cent and leads to long-term elevated risk of higher severity fire. Dr Chris Taylor from ANU, even in mild fire weather, logged forests are more likely to suffer high-severity fire than unlogged forests under more severe conditions.

Are you aware of this science, minister, and what is your response to it?

CHAIR - The time for questions has expired and I will note that the Resources portfolio was examined earlier in the week. But if the minister has any broader response, she may feel free to do so.

Ms O'CONNOR - This is about the science, Chair.

Ms OGILVIE - I am a big believer in science, and Tasmania's science sector is a key contributor to our economy. This sector employs approximately 4000 people and contributes over $300 million to gross state product.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, sorry, point of order. You are reading again from a script. I have asked you a specific question and it is respectful to answer the question.

CHAIR - Thank you for that point of order, Ms O'Connor. I will note my earlier comments regarding the portfolio that Resources sits under. The minister has an opportunity to answer any broader policy matter that she chooses, but if you are not interested in the response, we can move on.

Ms OGILVIE - You might like the answer if you have a little patience. Are you ready?

Ms O'CONNOR - I am interested in an answer.

Ms OGILVIE - We sponsor and conduct science research across several agencies. I am happy to speak broadly about science. Where it touches on specifics in agencies, we may need other inputs. Particularly matters of high importance to our state including environmental management, biosecurity, conservation, water management, renewable emergency and climate change.

Ms O'CONNOR - Human safety.

Ms OGILVIE - We have projects and a range of science research infrastructure such as the Hyper/Hypobaric Chamber, Integrated Marine Observation System, Southern Ocean Observing System, the Blue Economy CRC, Analytical Services Tasmania, Entomology and Animal Health lab, Tasmanian Seed Conservation Centre, Centre for Aquatic Animal Health and Vaccines. There is fantastic work going on between the University of Tasmania, applied science research outcomes in fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and health, through the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, which I know you are a firm supporter of -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair. The standing order that relates to relevance. This is a question to the minister for Science about contemporary science. What we are getting is another read-out spiel from the department that has no relation to the question I asked, which is very relevant to this portfolio.

CHAIR - I appreciate your point of order, Ms O'Connor. I have ruled that a question for the Resources minister is a question that was asked during the Resources portfolio output.

Ms O'CONNOR - On the point of order, this is police, fire and emergency management as well.

CHAIR - If you would like to ask a question of the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management, please feel free to do so in the Police, Fire and Emergency Management committee. We are currently examining the Science portfolio. The minister is providing an answer but if you would like us to move on to another question, we can do that.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, I'd like an answer.

CHAIR - Mr Wood, you have the call -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair, I just said I'd like an answer. I get one question in this rotation. I want an answer.

CHAIR - Ms Ogilvie, if you have anything further to add.

Ms OGILVIE - I do, thank you. When it comes to climate change and renewable energy, my door is always open. If there's a particular science you'd like us to have a look at, please feel free to send it in. But you and I both know that Tasmania is a leader in renewable energy and fighting climate change. We achieved 100 per cent self-sufficiency in renewable electricity in 2020 and achieved our net zero emissions target in six of the past seven years. The Government has legislated to double our renewable energy capacity to 200 per cent by 2040 and is committed to legislating a target of net zero emissions by 2030.


Ms OGILVIE - Yes, we have. Our Renewable Energy Action Plan and Renewable Hydrogen Action Plan will harness our abundant natural resources, drive investment in new technologies and skills, and deliver a stronger economy.

That is the best answer I can give you. I would be very happy to receive further information for you, if you would like.

CHAIR - The time for this answer has expired. Ms O'Connor, would you like the call again?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, thanks very much. Minister, I note that you did not once acknowledge the substance of my question or the research that I am quoting from.

Ms OGILVIE - I've asked you to send it to me, if you're happy to share it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, I will certainly do that. But the study's authors, who are some of the most respected ecologists and fire specialists in the country, have said that logging is not just increasing the risk of severe fires but also the risk to human lives and safety.

With respect, I think it's really insulting to the committee to just not answer a question. If it's something that you don't feel comfortable answering -

Ms OGILVIE - What's your question?

Ms O'CONNOR - The question is, what is your response, as minister for Science, to the most contemporary science that says a policy of government is placing human lives and the environment, and therefore our economy, at risk?

CHAIR - Thank you, M O'Connor -

Ms OGILVIE - I feel your passion. Please send it to me.

CHAIR - I will note that that matter largely falls under the Resources portfolio -

Ms O'CONNOR - It doesn't.

CHAIR - but, minister, if you have any further comment.

Ms O'CONNOR - You're not really the minister for Science, are you? You're the minister for propaganda.

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, Mr Wood has the call.

Ms O'CONNOR - What a joke.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Chair. Minister, I’m just trying to get to the bottom of what it is you do as minister for Science. It doesn't sound like the job is actually making sure that Government has access to and is responding the most contemporary science. What do you do as minister for Science?

Ms OGILVIE - Ms O'Connor, you have asked a number of very specific questions. One of them was relating to a particular piece of science research that I don't have. I've asked you to send that to me. I appreciate your confusion with the highly matrixed nature of the science portfolio -

Ms O'CONNOR - I am not confused.

Ms OGILVIE - The Science portfolio sits across a number of areas, and a critical piece of it is the digitisation of Government services. It also includes: the growth of science and technology in Tasmania more generally; the work with the university, the CSIRO and IMAS; the development of new industries; the leadership role that we take, particularly working with our partners in TasICT and other technology sectors; CRCs; research development; the university medical research; science and technology; and children - getting them into schools, getting people excited about science. It is a highly matrixed area and I'm always open to new ideas. If there is something that you would like to bring forward for us to have a look at, I'm very happy to receive it.

Ms O'CONNOR - You talked about kids getting excited about Tasmania being a player in the space arena; but what kids actually get inspired by is governments that take their responsibility to deliver a safe climate seriously. You talked earlier about IMAS and other science institutions here. Have you had a chance yet, or sought meetings, with any of our climate scientists? If so, what have they told you about what the state needs to do to make sure we remain a global climate leader because of our forests?

CHAIR - The minister will have the call but, of course, noting, Ms O'Connor, that the climate change portfolio was yesterday. I am not sure if you attended but the minister may wish to add something in a broader policy sense.

Ms O'CONNOR - With respect, this is about the science of climate and the minister specifically cited IMAS. I am a bit worried about these constant attempts by the Chair to delineate between portfolios when I have been sitting at Estimates tables for 14 years.

CHAIR - I appreciate the feedback, Ms O'Connor. The minister will have a chance to respond if she wishes to on the broader policy matter.

Ms OGILVIE - I have been around for many years myself and had the opportunity to meet with IMAS, CSIRO and the University of Tasmania across science and other technology portfolios. I have had the very good opportunity to sit down with the climate people, particularly around looking at bringing forward legislation. You may recall I drafted a bill myself which aligned with your thinking at that time -

Ms O'CONNOR - Not quite. It didn't go anywhere near far enough.

Ms OGILVIE - Nonetheless, as times have moved on we now have a government position everybody is happy with. My door is open on science.

Ms O'CONNOR - I just wanted to know what the climate scientists said to you.

Ms OGILVIE - Which climate scientist?

Ms O'CONNOR - You said you had met with some climate scientists.

Ms OGILVIE - I drafted a bill. I can provide that.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, you said as minister for Science you have sat down with some climate scientists. Have you?

Ms OGILVIE - I did not say as minister for Science, I said I have been around for 10 years and I have met with a number of people including climate scientists. If you have new information for me, I would be very happy to receive that information.

Ms O'CONNOR - So as minister for Science you haven't sat down with any climate scientists.