Having read the recommendations of the draft committee report and after discussing with Senator Scarr the Coalition Senators Dissenting Report I note that this confirms this topic as complex. It deserves to be handled with care and respect.
While the recent fire season is far from the worst in many metrics that is not relevant to the victims of the fires. Instead victims deserve to know the facts as to the causes of the fires and the effectiveness of the emergency response to the fire. We have a responsibility to develop more effective responses to future fires to limit the impact of fires on human lives, livelihoods, assets and communities and to understand and where necessary to manage the impact of fires on the natural habitat.
The first step in caring for people and the natural environment is to carefully gather data accurately, thoroughly and comprehensively and to make decisions and plans based on such data.
This inquiry sadly reflects the politicisation of bushfires and that detracts from the inquiry, taints its recommendations and disrespects the Senate. It hurts, and lays vulnerable, people living in areas prone to bushfires and it detrimentally affects all Australians depending on federal parliament’s governance.
Within this context and possibly because of it I highlight the paucity of accurate data that drives damaging policies as a result of parliament’s politicisation causing an abandonment of scientific integrity. For example, when Greg Mullins was asked during his appearance at the inquiry for evidence of his implicit claims that human activity is changing the climate due to our use of hydrocarbon fuels he asked the Chair whether he was required to answer my question because he lacked respect for my position on climate - notwithstanding that my position is in fact based on empirical scientific evidence. While I was comfortable with his avoidance of providing empirical evidence because his action highlights his lack of empirical evidence that carbon dioxide from human activity affects climate and needs to be cut, it is disappointing that the Chair at the time did not direct Mr Mullins as witness to answer the question.
This highlights the vacuous way in which parliament has avoided its responsibilities to scrutinise science and especially policies claimed to be based on science. When advocates such as Mr Mullins, regardless of his expertise in firefighting and despite the apparent sincerity of his intentions are able to disrespect scientific principles and to avoid accountability it demonstrates that the Senate cannot be relied upon.
It raises many serious questions about the way in which the Senate conducts itself and the subsequent policies that have emerged from parliament.
The people who pay the price for this abandonment of scientific process and scientific integrity are the people of Australia. Australians deserve better.