Tuesday, January 23, 2018

New Funding for the Great Barrier Reef

This is in response to Greenie claims that the GBR is "dying".  The reef has been there for millennia but Greenies talked up some recent changes as if they were catastrophic and final.  As is now clear even to a Greenie, the reef "fixes" itself.  It has rebounded from the small but highly exaggerated degree of damage that it suffered.

Dead coral revives when the stressor -- in this case a temporary sea level fall -- goes away.  To Greenies, of course, coral deaths are caused by Global Warming. 

The new money seems to be reasonably allocated even if the need for it was built on false pretences

THE number of crown-of-thorns starfish control vessels will be more than doubled under a new $60 million Great Barrier Reef funding suite.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will unveil the package in Townsville today as he continues the North Queensland tour that began in Cairns yesterday.

The Federal Government will spend $10.4 million for what Mr Turnbull labelled an “all-out assault on coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish” to increase the number of culling ships from three to eight.

Another $36.6 million will go towards measures to reduce run-off pollution entering the reef, giving farmers incentives to cut down soil erosion, improve nutrient management, and restoring coastal and riparian vegetation in reef catchments.

“This $60 million funding boost over 18 months will set in motion a major research and development program for coral reef restoration,” Mr Turnbull said.

“For the first time The Commonwealth will bring together key agencies to explore ways the reef can best adapt to the changing environment to protect it for decades to come.

“By supporting the development of innovative new reef technologies we are also helping to cement Australia’s international reputation as a strong innovation-driven economy.”

The Australian Institute of Marine Science and CSIRO will share in $6 million to scope and design the program to develop heat-tolerant coralswith a focus on leveraging private investment.

Mr Turnbull said $4.9 million would be spent to boost the number of field officers protecting the reef and the 64,000 jobs that rely on it.

“It is a vibrant, resilient ecosystem and one of the best-managed coral reef ecosystems in the world,” he said.

“While it is facing increasing threats we intend to remain leaders in reef management.

“The specific science focus of the R & D funding is part of the government’s broader focus on science, innovation and jobs and the central role they will play now and into the future.

“Innovation and science are key to future employment opportunities for Australians.”


Fewer students make the grade for teaching courses as new standards take effect

This tightening of standards for teachers was long overdue but may not be sustainable if teacher shortages develop

For the first time, Victorian school leavers wanting to study undergraduate teaching this year had to achieve a minimum ATAR of 65.

The change coincided with a 22 per cent decline in offers made to aspiring teachers in the first round of university offers, an analysis by The Age found.

A total of 1933 offers for education or teaching courses were made to school leavers, 220 fewer than last year. The remaining 697 places went to other applicants, down from 1211 in 2017.

It came as the average ATAR of students pursuing education courses increased to 69.53, up from 62.7 last year.

In previous years, some education courses have only required an ATAR of 30.

This turnaround was welcomed by Victorian Education Minister James Merlino. "We always said we wanted to raise the bar for those wanting to become a teacher to ensure we keep lifting standards in our classrooms," he said.

The minimum ATAR will be hiked up to 70 in 2019 as part of a state government push to improve teacher quality and stem an oversupply of graduates entering the profession.

All aspiring teachers also have to pass a new non-academic test that screens them for resilience, ethics and empathy.

But Joanna Barbousas, the president of the Victorian Council of Deans of Education, warned that the changes could lead to a teacher shortage.

"There are concerns around the short term finances of university education programs and what it will mean for the profession in terms of a decrease in teacher supply," she said.

Associate professor Barbousas, who is also the head of La Trobe University's education department, said entry requirements were important but the real focus should be on the quality of courses.

Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace dismissed concerns of a teacher shortage, and said the changes would improve the standing of the teaching profession.

"Teaching is an incredibly complex job and we need to make sure that we have people that can deal with those complexities and deliver the highest quality education," she said.

The number of offers for some teaching courses has more than halved over the past four years.

A total of 285 first round places were offered at Australian Catholic University's primary teacher education course in 2014, but this year there were just 131 offers.

The large drop coincided with an increase in the university's clearly-in ATAR score from 58.5 to 65.

Offers also plunged for Deakin University's primary teaching course, Victoria University's Prep-Year 12 teaching stream, and RMIT's Primary Education course.


Reduce migration, climate policies: Abbott

Former prime minister Tony Abbott wants the government to look at policies which give more jobs to locals, such as scaling back migration.

Tony Abbott thinks the coalition can win the next election if the government looks at policies like scaling back migration.

The former prime minister will also spend 2018 encouraging colleagues to take the pressure off power and house prices and making sure locals have jobs.

"These are the sorts of things when it comes to an election the government would get credit for," he told 2GB radio on Monday.

Asked about Mr Abbott's comments, Treasurer Scott Morrison talked up last year's strong jobs growth.

But he did argue there are skill shortages in some areas.

"Your immigration program has to work in with the labour needs in the market to ensure that the economy can function well," he told Sky News.

"You've got to keep a close eye on it, you can't let it get out of hand."

Mr Morrison - who was Mr Abbott's immigration minister - reflected on the level of net overseas migration under Labor peaking at over 300,000 a year, insisting it was significantly below that now.

"We run a strong program which is focused on skills, which means we invite people to come into the country to make a contribution and not take one," he said.


Government caves in to quack  medicine promoters

A lot of people believe in it -- and they vote

Evidence-based science is being “thrown out the window” during the formation of health policy, a regulatory expert with the Australian National University, Prof John Braithwaite, has said amid concerns from consumer health groups about the therapeutic goods amendment bill.

The bill proposes several changes to the Therapeutic Goods Act to simplify the process for managing complaints about complementary and alternative medicine advertisements and products. It will also introduce stronger compliance powers to deal with misleading advertising, including higher penalties.

But Braithwaite and consumer health groups are concerned by amendments to the legislation that will abolish pre-clearing of complementary and alternative medicine advertisements. The bill will also authorise an industry-submitted list of permissible uses for complementary medicines, including 140 uses that must be supported by scientific evidence and 879 that can be supported by a tradition of use, such as use in Chinese medicine and homeopathy, which has no scientific evidence for its efficacy.

On 24 January the Australian National University in Canberra will host a public forum to debate the bill, with speakers including Braithwaite and representatives from Choice, the Consumers’ Health Forum and Friends of Science in Medicine. The ad hoc meeting was arranged by health groups after the Senate’s community affairs legislation committee said it would not hold public hearings during its inquiry into the legislation.

“I am concerned that one of the fundamental principles of how we think about health in Australia – that is the principle of taking science seriously – is being eroded in the regulatory architecture,” Braithwaite told Guardian Austrlaia.

“Traditional, complementary and alternative medicine industries are bypassing the need to take science seriously and we are seeing same thing in climate change police. The science of protecting health is being thrown out the window and that is a threat to the integrity of consumer protection law.”

Guardian Australia has contacted members of the Senate community affairs legislation committee for comment.

Complementary Medicines Australia made its own submission to the inquiry, saying it was concerned by “vocal opponents of complementary medicine” claiming government regulators would be insufficient to protect consumers.

“Negative media attention would spread damaging misinformation about the industry and the government’s capacity to regulate,” the submission says. “These efforts are a misplaced ideological bid to throttle the use of complementary medicines in contrast to the worldwide boom in demand.”

Ken Harvey, from Monash University’s school of public health and preventative medicine, praised the bill’s provisions to fast-track new medicines to consumers.

“But there are other aspects of the bill that are potentially dangerous to consumers and need much more consideration,” he said.

“Advertising pre-approval is the only defence against seriously misleading advertisements appearing on prime-time television or in national newspapers. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has also ignored submissions that pointed out that including numerous traditional uses for products encourages industry to evade the requirement to have scientific proof of efficacy for their products and endorses pseudoscience.”

He and Braithwaite have called for pre-approval of advertisements about alternative medicines to continue until the other measures – increased post-marketing reviews and more stringent penalties for regulatory violations – have shown to be effective.

“The complaint system takes a long time to remove bad advertisements,” Harvey said. “Meanwhile, the damage has been done. Prevention is better than cure.”

Harvey said that in 2016 the Australian complementary medicine industry achieved revenues of $4.7bn, a compound annual growth rate almost 10 times faster than the growth rate of the overall economy. Australians spent more than $550 per capita on complementary medicines in 2016.

“This use is out of all proportion to the limited scientific evidence justifying the use of these products,” he said.

In its submission, the consumer advocacy group Choice said further measurers were needed for consumers to be able to make an informed choice about complementary medicines.

Its submission said: “Products displaying traditional use indications must also be required to display a prominent disclaimer on the label to the effect of; ‘This product’s traditional claims are based on alternative health practices that are not accepted by most modern medical experts. There is no good scientific evidence that this product works’.”


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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