Bligh Ministers split over Chief Scientist advice

The tired, 20-year Bligh government has been caught out failing to have the science on soil and land use conflicts checked or reviewed by the Chief Scientist.

Shadow Minister for Mining and Resource Management Jack Dempsey said while both farming and mining groups disagreed with the Department of Environment & Resource Management’s position on the science and criteria for listing land as ‘strategic cropping land’ – DERM hasn’t even asked the Government’s own chief scientist to check.

Mr Dempsey said answers in budget Estimates revealed two key government Ministers had totally different views about the role of the chief scientist.

“Mining Minister Stirling Hinchliffe says the Chief Scientist has a role in advising government across the board, while the Resources Minister Nolan says her department didn’t refer to the Chief Science because his personal expertise was in metallurgy.

“So, according to the minister responsible for the land use conflicts between agriculture and mining, unless the science involved metallurgy it wouldn’t be referred to the Chief Scientist. That seems to be a very narrow role for the Chief Scientist.

“Surely it makes sense, especially where there are disputes about the science behind policies as important as strategic cropping land, that you would get the Chief Scientist’s advice?

“Yet again we see the arrogance of DERM thinking it is the font of all wisdom – which it is not.

“DERM sees itself as the policy architect, the regulator, and as has been now revealed – the final arbiter on the science behind its own decisions. It can’t be judge, jury and executioner.”

“Surely it would be prudent to get the Chief Scientist to ensure that critical science-based decisions are independently peer reviewed to ensure all Queensland stakeholders can have confidence in the process.

“In the case of SCL, this has not been done by DERM.

“The LNP will use science not politics as the basis for important decisions.”

In Mining budget estimates 19/7:

Mr HINCHLIFFE: …The Chief Scientist has a role in advising government across-the-board around matters that are important to Queensland that involve science…

In Natural Resources budget estimates 19/7:

Ms NOLAN: I think the committee will be interested to know that the Chief Scientist, while a very eminent scientist, is a specialist in metallurgy. The people who were consulted on the development of the soil science that underpins the government’s comprehensive framework on strategic cropping land are well-recognised government and independent experts in the field of soil science. It is my view that, given the choice, that is probably the way to go.

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