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Response to Dean Jaensch (November 2019)

The following is a response from Mark Parnell MLC to an article published by Dean Jaensch, regarding the Greens' stance on hazard reduction. This response was not published. 

Sent: Wednesday, 20 November 2019
Subject: Response to Dean Jaensch

Over a long academic career, Dean Jaensch has formed strong views on politics. Sadly, over the years, he seems to have lost the ability to fact-check. Instead, he lets his imagination and prejudices run wild, as evidenced in his latest opinion piece on bushfires. (20th November).

Take for example the following claim: “The Greens are implacably opposed to backburning and landclearing hazard reduction to a level that every leaf is sacred (to sort-of quote Monty Python).” He might get a few laughs, but what he can’t do is point to one shred of evidence to justify this assertion. I have represented the Greens in State Parliament for nearly 14 years (and before that worked in conservation for 16 years) and never have I said anything publicly or privately that indicates an “implacable” opposition to hazard reduction burning. In fact, my Greens colleagues and I have always supported scientifically-based hazard reduction burning programs whether conducted by National Parks staff on public land or approved controlled burning on private land.

Jaensch’s claim that talking about climate change and bushfire is somehow bringing party politics into it, misses the point entirely. It’s not politics, it’s science. If some politicians and commentators want to ignore or belittle climate science, that is their business. However, to deny the link between human-induced climate change and the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events including droughts, floods and fires, is to deny the scientific consensus.

Climate change means that bushfire season is starting earlier, that forests and grasslands are drier, igniting more easily and burning more readily, and that there are more and more days of very high, severe, extreme and catastrophic fire risk. The major cause of climate change is the mining, burning and exporting of coal, oil and gas.

When you delve further into Jaensch’s “logic”, you find that he has swallowed hook, line and sinker the conservative view that because climate change is a global problem and Australia is a small nation, nothing we do here can possibly make a difference. This is a view that leads to inaction (or minimal action at best), until the rest of the world also shows resolve. It is a lazy and irresponsible approach and rightly rejected by the next generation who will inherit the disaster we are creating.

Young activists, like Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg and the school climate strikers, don’t accept that this is the wrong time to talk about the impacts of climate change on people and the environment. They are mostly too young to remember Monty Python, but they certainly subscribe to even older tenets such as “If not us, who; and If not now, when?”

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