Wednesday, 11 November 2020
Senate Committee Proceedings
At the request of Senator Green, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has been conducting an inquiry into identification of leading practices in ensuring evidence-based regulation of farm practices that impact water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef,
(ii) witnesses at the hearing on 28 August 2020 included Professor Ian Chubb AC, Chair of the Reef 2050 Plan Independent Expert Panel and former chief scientist of Australia, Dr Geoff Garrett AO, former chief scientist of Queensland, and Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, professor of marine studies at the University of Queensland, and
(iii) these eminent Australians and others in the scientific community have raised concerns about witnesses being talked over and having their longstanding commitment to their scientific field transparently treated with contempt, all because their evidence did not fit the apparently preconceived and intransigent views of some of the senators participating in this inquiry;
(b) recognises that all proceedings of Senate committees should be conducted respectfully and witnesses treated in a manner consistent with the standing orders and resolutions of the Senate; and
(c) calls on the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate to ensure the conduct of Senator Rennick at this hearing is not repeated.
The government welcomes the recent report from the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport concerning water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef and will respond in due course. This is a subject the government takes very seriously, with water quality outcomes being a major focus in the government's reef 2050 plan and the unprecedented $1.9 billion investment in the reef over the next decade. Committee hearings can at times involve robust exchanges by senators on all sides. It is incumbent on all senators to undertake their duties in a respectful manner, in line with the standards laid down by the Senate.
The Greens will be supporting this motion. The Australian Greens opposed this inquiry from the outset. We did so because it was an unwarranted attack on the science underpinning the reef regulations. It was an attack on the dedicated scientists doing the critical work of protecting our reef from the twin threats of the climate emergency and poor water quality. It was an unnecessary diversion of time and resources to continue this government's war on science, rather than supporting the communities who depend on a healthy reef. Our concerns were borne out in the public hearings, as some committee members dismissed expert views and ignored, cherry-picked or wilfully misunderstood the evidence.
Ultimately, the majority of the committee expressed its confidence in the high-quality science underpinning reef management policies, but the aggressively misguided views of some senators undermine community action. Australia has stewardship responsibility for the iconic World Heritage listed reef. The government must not only support our world-class scientific institutions; it must call out uninformed views, act on expert advice— (Time expired)
While agreeing with part (b), One Nation opposes this motion. I was present on the day and sitting beside Senator Rennick—and proud to be so. Firstly, I commend Senator Rennick for assisting me and others at the inquiry to expose the dodgy science from academics who do not deserve the title 'scientist'. I commend Senator Rennick for his patience in putting up with some academics dodging his questions. Secondly, Professor Ian Chubb and Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg in the past have misrepresented the science. Indeed, on another matter some years ago, Professor Hoegh-Guldberg reportedly made public statements contradicting his own research. In my experience, neither is a reliable witness. Thirdly, Labor senators, including former senator Doug Cameron, Senator Kim Carr and others, can be frightfully intimidating. So I respectfully suggest that Senator Green get her own party in order before calling into question the conduct of people doing their best to expose what is now proven to be a scam. The evidence we found is highly embarrassing for the Palaszczuk government because we unearthed the fact that there is no scientific evidence— (Time expired)
I will be abstaining from voting on this particular motion on the basis that there have been difficulties with the recording of proceedings today and I'm not in a position to be able to play back the events, so I'm not informed as to how to vote on this.