Risky Business

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By Annastasia Robertson

The Science Theatre was buzzing on Thursday evening when some of the country’s most prominent names sat down in front of an audience to discuss risk management in life, politics, business, climate change and medicine.

It was also buzzing with police and security because, risk management.

The question and answer seminar was a panel of five including, The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, new UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs, President of the Australian Council for International Development Ms Sam Mostyn, Professor Herbert Huppert of Geophysics at UNSW and Cambridge, and science journalist and ABC radio presenter Robyn Williams who acted as more of a mediator.

The first half of the session was an opportunity for each panellist to outline their ideas in relation to risk, mostly in their own areas of expertise.

Robyn Williams opened the discussion, saying that risk is a human reaction and choice and that “what you do affects others”. Professor Huppert, however, focused more on the probability of risk in relation to small risks versus large risks, quantitative evaluations and relativity.

Sam Mostyn, after acknowledging the Indigenous owners of the land, raised the idea of resilience in risk, and that “we live in a community where fear drives our risk”.

The evening’s discussion covered topics from risk in mathematics, medicine, investments, technology, terrorism and politics. However, the topic that caused the most spice was climate change.

There was a theme of fear in risk as Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, communicated that to manage risk, we must embrace its volatile nature rather than be threatened by it. He also took the opportunity to announce some new decisions fresh out of Canberra that will see changes to legislation for the Employee Share Schemes. Second to this, start-up companies will have the chance to sit in parliament to pitch their innovative ideas to the government. Our Vice-Chancellor welcomed this saying that he looks forward to increased investment into research in universities.

Conversation heated up between Turnbull and Mostyn when the topic of  ‘boat people’ was raised briefly and dropped just as quickly as the two spoke over one-another.

As Williams turned the towards the question-answer portion of the evening, so began the open dialogue. Questions from the audience began and ended with talks of climate change, and UNSW’s position on fossil fuel versus renewable energy. The Vice-Chancellor welcomed open discussion on climate change, but said that it is not the place of a university to have a political position, or a campaign.

Between this, were discussions around impact investments, share values and bonds as well as the use of metadata to combat terrorism.

Undoubtedly the most exciting, outrageous and controversial part of the evening came from the final, very passionate questioner, who asked the panel to address the topic of UNSW divesting investment in fossil fuel companies, and government responses and policy on the matter.

A “lively, robust discussion” that the Vice Chancellor endorsed adding that UNSW is committed to conversations about issues surrounding climate change.

Though, what is a panellist forum without a political message, and Malcolm Turnbull delivered by bringing up this Saturday’s state election.

“If you want to minimise risk, vote for [Mike] Baird on Saturday”.

If you also attended the Q & A, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Stay tuned for more articles on this topic.

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