Page 348 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 20 February 2018

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1995 Joe considered whether the ACT was meeting its greenhouse gas emission targets. In that same year he discussed Canberra’s urban forest, concerning himself with whether it was adequate to ensure absorption of CO2. He looked for leadership in the commonwealth on establishing core environmental indicators. The issue of the environment was considered in its regional context and he sought out ways to encourage alliances to build environmental best practice and regional policy positions.

In his early reports Dr Baker raised the built environment and the need for government buildings to be subjected to environmental audits. This interest in auditing office energy, water, waste and paper use was in its infancy in Australia at that time, and Joe’s interest in these matters illustrated the blending of the intellectual, practical and policy considerations which typified his whole scientific career.

His personal commitment to change and his great humility are evident from the manner in which he recognised and celebrated the contributions of the staff of his office and the reference groups which assisted him in producing rigorous and robust scientific reporting for the ACT. In fact, in a life well before politics, Caroline Le Couteur was one of the people on his reference groups.

Can I also take this opportunity to note that Helen Sims is in the public gallery today. She worked extensively with Joe to establish the Commissioner for the Environment’s office here in the ACT and has made a very significant contribution to that office in her own right.

Even as Joe drove the reporting and consulting work of the ACT Office of the Commissioner for the Environment as a part-time commissioner, he also found time to provide scientific advice and guidance to the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries as the Chief Scientist from 1999. The acceptance of this appointment attests to his boundless energy and commitment to using his ability to improve environmental outcomes in multiple settings.

One of his lasting legacies will be the work he did as a foundation member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Joe was amongst those who presented the arguments for the reef receiving World Heritage listing in 1981. His abiding interest in marine science had set him on this path early in his career, and it was a commitment which never left him. We are lucky to have had Joe Baker on the side of this unique natural asset over the years.

The valedictories for Dr Baker speak of him as a tireless campaigner for environmental issues, an inspiring mentor and a generous collaborator. Kerrie Tucker, a former Greens MLA who was in this place from 1995 to 2004, has also passed on some of her thoughts upon Joe’s death last month which I would like to share with you now. She wanted to underline that Dr Baker was a very honourable and caring person who, by his very nature, brought goodwill and respect for others with him. His overwhelming motivation seemed to be the desire to enhance both his own and others’ understanding of the world we live in and to make it a better place. He was not prone to hubris but to commitment. Kerrie’s comments match my own personal experience. Joe was always incredibly warm, willing to share his knowledge and enthusiastic to talk about the environment.

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