Senator Eric Abetz (The Examiner, March 23) seems to think that he has stumbled upon some secret green conspiracy. Incredibly, he has accused me of being a fake expert due to my previous involvement with environmental organisations.
My recent paper on the link between logging and bushfires was retracted once my colleagues and I realised there were errors.
We did the right thing and have been commended for our actions. Despite our paper retraction, there is still clear and overwhelming evidence that logging makes forests more flammable.
There are four peer-reviewed, scientific papers that show the link between forestry and fire in Australia. There have also been multiple scientific reviews which have the same finding, as well as many international studies.
There is only one paper which states there is no link between logging and fire. Multiple errors have been found in that study, yet those authors have refused to retract their paper. All of the authors in that study have long histories working in the forestry industry, yet where are the questions about their independence and research integrity?
I heartily agree with Mr Abetz that there needs to be more transparency when it comes to claiming conflict of interests in research.
But it cuts both ways, which Mr Abetz has not objectively considered. There are numerous examples of forestry researchers which have not declared any conflict. Take for example a Tasmanian researcher who is a former president of the Institute of Foresters of Australia, a powerful, well-funded lobby group which advocates for the forestry industry.
Six papers relating to forestry were published during his presidency yet absolutely no mention was ever made of this significant conflict of interest.
Similarly, one of the current IFA directors has recently published three papers but has not declared this appointment on any of these papers.
As a forest ecologist, I care about the environment. I have been involved with many environmental groups, primarily on a volunteer basis. To declare these involvements in a scientific paper would be laughed at by other scientists. Forestry Watch, for example, is a group of friends who get together to try and raise awareness about forest issues.
Our annual budget is less than $500. Similarly, The Tree Projects is a small environmental outreach organisation that I run with my husband. We climb trees, take photos of them, and talk about their importance.
These grass-roots organisations are not powerful lobby groups like the IFA or Australian Wood Products Association who are heavily funded by the forestry industry.
These organisations have the resources to sustain a continued attack on me and my colleagues, and forced the University of Tasmania to conduct an investigation into our paper retraction.
We were cleared of any wrong-doing, a critically important detail which Mr Abetz has failed to mention.
This accusation of not publicly disclosing conflicts of interest seems ironic coming from a politician. Current political donations laws in Australia allow for donations below $14,300 to be hidden from public view.
The government has spent over $1 billion dollars in subsidies to native forest logging over the last two decades. I question how anyone could be so supportive of such an unpopular industry which serves neither our economy nor our environment, unless they were being paid to do so.
Dr Sanger has a PhD in Forest Ecology