Tropical Savannas CRC > Networking > Savanna Futures Forum '08 > John Kerin's Farewell Speech

John Kerin Swansong Speech

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 owners.

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 bid.

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 happen.

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 fluxes.

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 established.

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 Aborigines.

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.