Meteorology Amendment (BOM online advertising) - 28/08/2014

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:15): I do support the Meteorology Amendment (Online Advertising) Bill 2014. As Senator Ludlam mentioned, the Bureau of Meteorology has a very, very valuable product—a product that is much in demand. I have always had the view that some of the great work the bureau does should be converted into a cash return to the taxpayer for the enormous amount of money the taxpayer has put into the bureau over a period of very many years. So, I certainly support the bill. I once had the privilege of being the minister in charge of the bureau, and I remember that even back in those days we were always trying to find ways that we could sell the wonderful product that the bureau produces to save the taxpayer the complete 100 per cent investment in the bureau, which does become more difficult to fund each and every year.

The bureau has a wonderful reputation, and I well recall my happy years interacting very closely with the bureau. I remember some wonderful people there, including Mr Bill Kininmonth. Talking about Mr Bill Kininmonth just reminds me—slightly off the subject, but certainly relating to the bureau—that I saw a letter in one of the papers the other day from Mr Kininmonth about a recent controversy with the bureau. As I said, I have a very high regard for the bureau, but there is a scientist who has recently been doing some work on what is called the harmonisation of temperature readings. Unfortunately, I am not terribly well prepared for this speech, and I do not even have the name of the scientist who raised some concerns about the bureau's harmonisation of temperature. As I always say—and Senator Ludlam will well agree—I am no expert in this field and in fact am just an ordinary member of the public reading reports.

But, as I understand it, there are a couple of places in Australia where the same temperature recording instruments have been used for decades and decades. One of them was Amberley in Queensland. These recordings show that the temperature is actually dropping, not increasing. There is not global warming in these couple of instances. Rather, those instruments—the same ones that have always been there—are showing that the temperature is falling. As I understand it, this scientist has done a lot of research and she has actually worked out that the bureau was not prepared to accept this one reading from Amberley and another place that was mentioned—I have forgotten what it is—but did what they call harmonising, which means that they take that temperature reading and harmonise it with other recordings around the area. And in this case, according to this researcher, it was not even near the area, near Amberley. This scientist raised the question of why the Bureau of Meteorology—someone as respectable and responsible as that—would be engaged in this harmonisation when, as I understand it, they did not need to, because it was the same instrument that was used. I understand from these reports that harmonisation is for where you have one sort of measuring device but then change it. And because there can be changes in devices you sometimes get different readings, which they then harmonise. But why you would harmonise when it was the same recording instrument is the question that has arisen.

I understand that the bureau has refuted that publicly and has given an explanation, but I noticed quite a number of letters to the editor that share my concern about the fact that there needs to be ongoing debate on the cause of climate change—the human induced carbon emissions that so many talk about. As one of the letters—or perhaps even this research—said, it is very clear that with peer reviewed research it is the peer reviewers who, like the initial researcher, are getting grants from governments time in, time out. And dare I say, without defaming them, that they have another interest, in making sure that this global warming debate is there. It always concerns me that if you are like this independent researcher, having a different view, or like Professor Bob Carter, having a different view, then you are pilloried. I am surprised that the Greens have not catcalled as they usually do when I mention any scientist who does not conform with the standard IPCC view on life of man induced global warming.

Senator Cameron: Why would you?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, there you go; there is Senator Cameron: if you do not like what the scientist says, you pillory them. It is only if the scientist has your view on life that you think they are good. That really does disturb me, and it has been raised a bit here—that there is this view—

Senator Cameron: Mr Acting Deputy President, a point of order: I cannot let that go unchallenged. I made no comments about the scientists. People just cannot make things up as Senator Macdonald is doing through his whole speech. It is an absolute joke. That is why no-one really worries about him anymore—even his own party!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Smith ): Thank you, Senator Cameron. There is no point of order.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I always know I am getting close to the truth, near the mark, when Senator Cameron makes that sort of point of order.

Senator Cameron: I just couldn't help myself!

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Senator Cameron would do well to not embark upon this thing. Just because people do not agree with you, Senator Cameron, it does not mean that they are to be discarded or pilloried, as happens in the climate change debate. That is the concern. I suspect this independent researcher—and I apologise to her for not having her name, but I think it is Dr Marohasy—will be suffering an attack from her own class of scientist for the views she has so courageously published. I am not for a moment suggesting she is right. As I always say in these debates, as an amateur I really cannot get into the debate. But I read with interest that there are qualified scientists and researchers with equally good qualifications and learning who do not follow the IPCC view on man-induced global warming. It always makes me very well aware that in spite of what the Greens and the Labor Party and other politically correct groups say, the debate is far from over. There is no universal understanding of what I call the Greens view or the IPCC view. I raise it in the context of the bureau, and again repeat my highest admiration for the bureau. But I do mention bureau scientists of the past who have different views, but who, when they raised them, were disregarded, as Senator Cameron tries to disregard me. It does not worry me, and I am sure it will not worry this rather courageous researcher who has put her work out to the public in the last seven days, I think it is.

It is good that it is there so the debate can go on. Unfortunately, because I am chairing another committee, these days I do not get the opportunity to go to the Senate environment committee, where I could ask the bureau these questions, which is a shame. But I would like to engage with the bureau as to why they have harmonised data where there did not seem there would be a case for harmonisation. As I said, I have read that the bureau gives a different view, but this very courageous scientist has clearly got support from other scientists and researchers. I say to the bureau: do not get tied up in the political argument that has been promoted by the former government. I can well understand why the bureau was very much in favour of that line under the former government, because I know that if anyone in the bureau had had a different view to the Gillard/Rudd government, they would have been sacked on the spot or pushed out, and I can understand that. But I say to the bureau now that they are under the control of a government that does allow free speech, that does encourage diversity of view. Senator Cameron reminds me that I am one of those who sometimes do have a diverse view on different things than my own party and my own government do—unlike the Labor Party, who are not allowed to do that. But we have a government that does allow a difference of opinion, and I say to the bureau for what it is worth, and out of respect for them from the time when I worked closely with them: do not get drawn into the politics of these things. Be careful with your research and your reputation. I would urge the bureau to seriously consider some of the work that has been put forward by this very courageous independent scientist-researcher that I refer to. Unlike Senator Ludlam, I do think this is a good idea for the bureau that the online advertising be enabled to give the bureau additional resources. I certainly support the bill.

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