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Scientific Link between Logging and Bushfire Risk


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Bushfires, Climate Emergency

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to talk about the link between industrial native forest logging and increased risk of bushfires, and while we are not to reflect on the vote - which I will not do - I am going to say a few words about what passed for a debate in the chamber over the past hour.

We had Dr Woodruff rise to her feet with a scientific paper in her hand, which is peer-reviewed, which is the eleventh example of a scientific paper which has confirmed a link between logging and bushfire risk.

The first thing that happened was that the Minister for Resources, who is responsible for native forest logging, fled the Chamber at about 5.05 p.m., arrived back only moments after Dr Woodruff was winding up, and did not contribute to the debate.

Dr Broad just read from the paper and made no substantive argument whatsoever. Then we had the most puerile, insulting and childish contribution from Mr Ellis, who is only in this place because Mr Brooks had to resign - even though he was elected - because he has allegedly committed crimes.

It is important that this House listens to scientists. Call me old fashioned, but independent scientists who work in the public interest are people that policymakers need to listen to. It is because policymakers around the world have been ignoring climate scientists for the last 40 years that we are in the deep trouble that we are.

We are at risk here again on this little island - with its wild forests, its rich carbon stores - of having both the major parties in here play deaf to the science.

If there was just one paper establishing a link between logging regimes and increased bushfire risk, I would think Dr Broad's scepticism was warranted - and I find the minister's inability to contribute unforgivable - but there is not. There are 11 papers establishing the link between bushfire and logging regimes. Eleven peer-reviewed papers, and all we asked of this place was that there be a conversation -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I need you to stay away from the actual paper itself, Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, I understand that. All we asked was for this House to listen to scientists at the University of Tasmania, who have undertaken work in the public interest that raises an alarm bell if you are thinking clearly about community safety, about the resilience of our wild places to bushfire, about the resilience of our infrastructure to bushfire.

That is surely something that every member of this place should be concerned about. There are many frustrating days in here when you are a Green. You get vilified. You get misrepresented. You get a bit depressed when you look around and realise how little people here are thinking about the future, but that debate was one of the worst I have had to sit through.

I ask members of this place to reflect on the reason we were elected. We were elected to represent the people of Tasmania. We were elected to do the right thing. We were elected to make good policy in the public interest. I think we were elected to be part of looking after this place. We were certainly elected here to tell the truth, and to behave with integrity and ethically, and we did not see that over the past hour. Every member of this place has a solemn responsibility to read the paper that Dr Woodruff tabled today.

I found that debate so disheartening. For the young people who will be striking for climate on the lawns here on Friday, they want to see change, they want to be part of the solutions, they want to see an end to native forest logging and see our carbon stores protected. They want that desperately.

We get accused in here when we raise the science of scaring children. I have said it before and you all know it is true, children are scared by a lack of leadership. They are scared by elected representatives who do not listen to science. They are scared by adults who tell them that they are not old enough to make up their own minds and to get back to school. Most of all, they are scared by a lack of leadership.

I will finish on this. Mr Ellis, who has now fled the Chamber after that puerile contribution, says that we do not support a net zero by 2030 target. As a matter of fact, Mr Ellis, I know it is hard for members in this place to think about the Greens being part of something good, but Tasmania reached net zero emissions because of our carbon sinks in 2013 under the Labor-Greens government because we set aside 570 000 hectares of forest under the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. Because you had a Greens minister for climate change, we undertook a forest carbon study which tells us that there is about four billion tonnes of carbon in the forest.

We need to start listening to science in this place. If the major parties in this place cannot do that, then we are lost in the 21st century when you have accelerating global heating, massive biodiversity decline, impact on eco systems that sustain not only us, but all life on Earth.

It is well past time the major parties in this place stopped denigrating scientists, started listening to them, invited them to the table and encouraged independent research.