An edited version of the speech delivered by the Hon. John
Kerin, Chairman of the Board of the Tropical Savannas CRC, at the
end of the Savanna Futures Forum, February 28th 2008.
Acknowledgment of the Larrakia People, the traditional
Thanks to Charles Darwin University; Helen Garnett
Great to see so many of you here whom I recognise – AND a
few, if not so many, interlopers, NEVER seen you before. Obviously
here for a free feed or to hear my swansong speech.
This has been an important get together: it has been important
in people terms. It is important in terms of looking where we have
got to during the lives of the two CRCs and how our research
findings may continue to be utilised in the future but without
getting nostalgic. There have been disappointments but
there’s been many successes and unique insights.
I’m sad that we won’t be continuing, particularly
when I think of some of the presentations today.
Now that democracy has been restored to Canberra other things
are or may happen. It is crucial for Australia that
Commonwealth/State financial arrangements are revised and that the
processes of good government be followed.
It is near certain that there will be an opportunity to apply
for another round of funding for public interest CRCs in 2009.
However I don’t detect that the current partners to the CRC
agreement we have, want to saddle up again. We have learnt that any
future CRC will need to build on the strengths we’ve
identified, to acquire some new areas for research, to re-focus and
to my mind, be more policy/strategy focused on NRM. Also I
don’t want to hear other proponents clamouring to mount a
After the CRC Review announced by Minister Carr other people and
interests may come forward.
Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water has reviewed
the committee set up by the previous government. We look forward to
what may come from this. And other things may crop up as events
Over the next immediate years the Climate Change challenges or
scenarios, and what Australia is actually going to do about Global
Change/Climate Change will involve the North. The whole
debate on environmental services and valuing nature will hold a
more prominent place on the policy stage. The concept of
environmental management systems is going to be stressed more by
governments with respect to property management.
Most of you have heard my one-liners and recitation of history
of the CRC, so I won’t go through them again, but I do
remember the early days of looking at environmental indicators and
And then we expanded and went to themes and to regional concepts
and sophisticated tools (Bayesian decision systems; Tom Stockwell
uses them everyday). In doing this, many benchmarks and basics were
Now some expectations were met and some weren’t —
that’s the nature of research. In reality we achieved a lot
and there is now a firm legacy of findings, understandings, tools,
databases and publications that those who follow us may
utilise — if they so desire.
When we were going for our Third Round Bid John Woinarski
observed that if we didn’t succeed it could be that we had
succeeded in our original aims. What we didn’t expect that
after being sucked in by the CRC Secretariat to prepare a $300,000
Business Case, we weren’t even given an interview.
The point of sound research is that it should inform policy and
give effect to changed and beneficial practices and decisions by
government and changed and beneficial management practices. We have
communicated what we’ve learnt but it has been hard to
measure the effect.
Knowledge, for its own sake, always has a value. But we have
tried to be a practical CRC and deal the people here: the human
welfare notion. Good economics is not just about technical
efficiency but economics. Good science is not just about learning
more and more about less and less without purpose.
My personal regrets at our passing in four months time is one
that centres on people — those that I have come to know from
some contact. Personally I’ve learnt so much, even learnt
about the Carpentaria Rock Rat. I’ve gained greater, but
still totally inadequate knowledge of issues associated with
Of course to many of you the Board and Savannas Advisory
Committee members have been remote. The Board didn’t revolve
membership as often as the Consultative Committee and then the SAC.
But even there, there have been some long-term players. Sonia
Tidemann has been on these committees since 1996–97 and Daryl
Pearce has chaired the Committee and the SAC since 1998. And there
are so many people I can nominate and they are in effect
volunteers, that also so actively participated.
I’d particularly like to thank David Garnett, Peter
Jacklyn, Janely Seah, Penny Wurm, Julie Crough and Keith Boakes for
arranging today’s forum.
Folks, we’ve done a lot of research to inform policy,
we’ve invented real management tools, built up an
international reputation. We should be proud. You are the people
who have done it. And again, I’ve never been associated with
a better group of people.