Monday, August 24, 2020

Revealed: how the Great Barrier Reef is really doing

Even the academics are finding it hard to moan about it

Is it dying or thriving? The state of the Great Barrier Reef has become a hot button topic, but a report out today gives the most complete picture of the state of our most valuable national icon.

Reports of the death of the Great Barrier Reef may have been exaggerated, with new research showing “encouraging” signs of coral growth in two-thirds of 86 monitored reefs.

The annual report of the health of the reef by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, published today, has been welcomed by tourism operators who say they are battling widespread perceptions the reef is already dead.

Today’s report shows modest increases in coral coverage in the reef’s central and southern zones, and a stabilisation in the north, after several years of hits from bleaching, cyclones and outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish.

Head researcher Dr Mike Emslie said the survey, which is now in its 35th year, showed “the reef is resilient, but this resilience has limits”.

Dr Emslie’s team conducted their assessment between September 2019 and June 2020 at reefs scattered from below Rockhampton to the very tip of Cape York. The work is done by means of a “manta tow”, in which a marine scientist is pulled along a section of the reef underwater for two minutes, and afterwards calculates the percentage of sea floor covered by coral.

“Out of the 86 reefs we surveyed this year, two thirds were low or moderate, with less than 30 per cent coral cover,” he said. “There were 23 reefs that had high coral cover, which is 30 to 50 per cent, and only five had very high coral cover, over 50 per cent.”

Comparing this year’s results to previous years of coral coverage gives a different perspective on the health of the reef.

In the northern reef, coral coverage in 2020 was just half of what it was at its recorded peak, and in the southern reef it was at 60 per cent of its best-ever result. The peaks in both areas were recorded in 1988.

Coral coverage in the central part of the reef reached its highest level ever recorded in 2016, Dr Emslie said, but this year the coverage had fallen back to 61 per cent of that peak.

“The reef is taking repeated hits from coral bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns outbreaks. While we have seen the Great Barrier Reef’s ability to begin recovery from these pressures, the frequency and intensity of disturbances means less time for full recovery to take place,” Dr Emslie said.

The full effect of last summer’s mass bleaching event – the third in five years – would not be known for several months, he added.

“The 35-year data set we’ve got shows that the long term trajectory of hard coral cover is actually ratcheting down,” Dr Emslie said.

“There are lot of good reefs still out there, but there’s also lots of impacted reefs. People can still go out and see the Great Barrier Reef in all its glory but we really need to be aware of what the long term data is telling is.”

Gareth Phillips, CEO of the Association of Marine Park Tour Operators and himself a reef scientist, said people who worked on the reef were seeing its recovery day to day, but negative publicity about the condition of the reef had been affecting visitor numbers prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The overwhelming message is ‘Go now to see what’s left, and what you will probably see is this stark white reef that’s just on it’s last legs’. It’s just completely false,” he said.

“Marine operators do not deny that the reef has gone through some substantial pressures but as this report has shown, the reef has ability to recover,” Mr Phillips said. “It’s exactly in line with what the operators have been trying to say – that the reef is not dead and it is a beautiful place.”

Tourism operations on the reef were currently running at about 10-15 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity, Mr Phillips said, but he rejected popular suggestions this lack of activity could help the reef “heal”.

“Tourism actually has a positive impact on the reef,” he said. “With recent bleaching events, the tourism locations had very little impact because (operators) showed good stewardship. They monitor the reef. They’re a critical part of its management.”

The lack of commercial enterprise on the reef during the lockdown was also leading to an increase in illegal fishing in the area because the tourism boats provide surveillance, Mr Phillips said.

Cairns Tourism Industry Assocition president Kevin Byrne said operators were “continuously fighting against this over-egging of the decline of the Great Barrier Reef”.

The perception that the reef was dying was “fuelled by the contest of academics to try and paint the most gloomy picture,” he said. “The reef needs to be managed, it doesn’t at the moment need to be saved.”

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, there were 2.1 million “visitor days” to the reef in 2019.


Gender reassigned to the ideological sin bin

The ACT is set to become one of the first jurisdictions in Australia to cement into law the triumph of gender ideology over common sense. It is be­ing achieved under the guise of a bill outlawing conversion therapy, which was supposed to be debated on Thursday but was postponed, due in part to unexpected public reaction.

The reason is that this bill, which ostensibly outlaws “conversion” therapy for sexual and gender identity issues, is not really about outmoded and cruel conversion therapy; it is about stopping any therapy for gender dysphoria, even in minors, other than to affirm transgender identity. This has been achieved by a clever sleight of hand. There is no real definition of conversion therapy in the bill. Instead, the bill endorses any therapy that validates transgenderism and criminalises anything that doesn’t.

By using the word conversion, and deliber­ately conflating outmoded and unethical techniques of gay conver­sion with legitimate therapies aimed at easing a young person’s anxiety about gender identity that enable them to accept their biological sex, it compounds opacity with deceit.

The bill is about ideology, not welfare, which is clear in the opening statements, which affirm the validity of all sexual and gender expression. One may well ask why it is the business of a government to tell us this, and the ideological purpose becomes clearer when it gives examples of the types of therapies that would be considered legitimate: only those that affirm sexual expression and identity — so, by extension, criminalising any therapies that don’t.

This would encompass even the most benign forms of open-ended psychotherapy for gender-confused children, many of whom have other psychological problems.

The proposed ACT bill goes much further than the similar Queensland law and is potentially far more damaging to fundamental human rights, particularly the rights of parents.

This is because the ACT bill, unlike the Queensland law, is not aimed solely at psychotherapists and other medical personnel. It is aimed at everybody, even parents. Any parent potentially could be charged with an offence if they try to prevent an adolescent or a child — even an underage child — from seeking trans-affirmative treatment, and there is even a provision to allow underage children to agree to their own treatment without parental consent. What is more, it penalises anyone who wishes to remove a child to another jurisdiction for treatment. The penalties are harsh, including incarceration and unlimited fines.

Outmoded and sometimes cruel gay conversion therapies, often based on aversion techniques, are universally rejected in psychiatric circles. However open-ended therapy, particularly for children displaying transgender traits, which helps them to conform to their biological sex and usually attempts to treat their underlying psychological disorders, such as autism, is perfectly valid. But this is not what the transgender lobby wants — it wants one route only, the path to a gender reassignment clinic.

Dianna Kenny, formerly professor of psychology at the University of Sydney and currently in private psychotherapy practice, has pointed out that the legislation is fatally flawed by virtue of its “illogical and ill-founded ideological base”. It is based on the ideology of gender identity rather than gender-related psychological treatment. Consequently it is a minefield, particularly for those treating children and adolescents.

“The legislation does not specify how these proposed changes to clinical practice in transgender therapy will be administered, or how professional bodies overseeing the work of health practitioners will interact with those administering the proposed legislation,” Kenny says.

She warns it is “steeped in errors” but, most important, it also has not defined the term conversion therapy with any rigour or accuracy and “deceitfully conflates lesbian and gay issues with transgender issues”.

The transgender lobby seeks to make the validation of gender identity at all costs the only approach and has used suicide statistics to bolster its claims. Lately, however, this ideology has had a few setbacks.

The Tavistock in London is being sued by adults who underwent reassignment surgery as children, and Swedish research claiming children who underwent gender reassignment surgery were less prone to suicide, which has been used as evidence by clinicians in Australia to make surgery more easily available, has been proved false.

The August 1 edition of the American journal of Psychiatry had to publish a rare correction, an editorial and letters from a dozen psychiatrists, clinicians and researchers in four countries identifying multiple flaws in the 2019 Swedish paper, with the conclusion that the data showed “no improvement in mental health after surgery or hormonal treatment”.

It is obvious that the ACT government pushed this bill under the COVID radar. It has ploughed on with this legislation while the federal government is distracted by the crisis and the federal Health Minister’s inquiry into gender reassignment for very young children has not begun. A cross-section of stakeholders, including independent schools, was sent a fact sheet describing the proposed ban but was given only 18 working days to submit feedback. This was said to be in lieu of the standard public consultation “due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19”.

However, the uproar during the past week when news of the bill became widespread has, one hopes, allowed the ACT government time to put in acceptable amendments and clearer definitions. As the independent schools rightly state: “This approach is unacceptable for a law which allows for complaints to go through the ACT Human Rights Commission, as well as the creation of criminal offences, the regulation of health practitioners, and the treatment of ‘conversion’ prac­tices as a form of child abuse or neglect.”

Those of us who live in the territory have become almost blase about the never-ending quest of the Labor-Green alliance, with a majority of one, to refashion the way we live, and now the way we think. But the legal tactics of the trans lobby mean the rest of Australia also may have to get used to it — sooner rather than later.


Australian tourism is at 'boiling point' as world's toughest coronavirus border restrictions unleash havoc on embattled businesses, inquiry hears

Tourism businesses are at boiling point over the lack of certainty due to coronavirus restrictions, and jobs are on the line, a Senate inquiry has been told.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Jenny Lambert has told the inquiry an immediate fix for the sector is to ensure business is confident of a way forward.

She says business confidence has been rocked by decisions made after Victoria's virus outbreak, particularly on border closures on the basis of a small number of cases.

'The frustration of the business community is boiling over,' she said on Thursday.

'Businesses will hang on - they'll keep remortgaging their house, they'll keep doing whatever it takes to hang on if they see a future.

'But if they don't see an immediate future then it's very hard for them to hang on and that will mean many, many thousands of jobs lost in tourism in the next month or two.'

ACCI has warned 172,000 businesses only have two weeks left of financial reserves.

Tourism groups are frustrated state governments haven't stuck to the coronavirus roadmap and are urging for national guidelines on when borders can close and reopen. Australian Tourism Industry Council chief Simon Westaway has suggested state borders reopen after 28 days of no community transmission.

Without public confidence, there will be no sustainable tourism industry in the future. 'This is the critical elixir,' Mr Westaway said.

Queensland's border closures alone has cost $21 million and 173 jobs a day.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will discuss border controls with premiers and chief ministers when national cabinet meets on Friday.

The Senate inquiry also heard from hospitality workers who expressed frustration about the impending JobKeeper rate reduction.

United Workers Union member Josephine Annink told the inquiry she had no choice but to drain her superannuation account to stay afloat.

It comes as Qantas announced they will not begin flying internationally again until at least July 2021 as it records a $2billion loss in the 2020 financial year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At least 6,000 staff lost their jobs and another 20,000 were stood down as the embattled airline's profits plunged by 91 percent after the crisis grounded almost all international travel in early 2020.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the second half of 2020 was the toughest few months in the Flying Kangaroo's illustrious 99-year history - it turns 100 on November 16th - and called on state premiers to reconsider tough border closures. 'The impact of COVID on all airlines is clear. It's devastating and it will be a question of survival for many,' he said.

'We don't understand why states with zero cases still have borders closed to other states with zero cases... If it's safe, we need to reopen them.'


Curriculum ignores history value

Twenty-first century history is being made each day. The news is full of  statue-toppling anarchists and clueless looters, politicians making life and death decisions on COVID-19, increasing cyber crime and human rights abuses, loss of respect for longstanding international conventions of the sea and air … and the list goes on.

As times like these, there can be a realisation of a desperate need for knowledge and skills to examine ourselves and our past to reassure ourselves that people are capable of great goodness.

Only the sophisticated, inquiry-based study of human history can do this.

Down Under, reviewers of the Australian Curriculum have a tiny window of opportunity to make History the go-to subject that will finally stand tall alongside English, Mathematics and Science as signalled when those first four learning areas were prioritised back in 2011.

Unfortunately, like foreign languages and the arts, Australian education places History in the category of ‘nice to have’ but without widely accepted value ‘in the real world’.

This subject area suffers from some of the same issues as STEM and languages – too few highly trained teachers, and too little public support for intellectually rigorous education.

At its very best, the study of history — more than any other area of the curriculum — produces analytical thinkers, researchers with academic integrity and deep curiosity, competent writers and thoughtful debaters who marshal the evidence to explain the past, the present and the possible future.

But Australian education is reaping what we have sown — a weak, disjointed curriculum, lacking a powerful overarching national narrative (see Singapore for contrast) and clear, high standards.  This is particularly evident in History, with its inconsistent delivery, small enrolments in Years 11 and 12 and minimal alignment with the separate subject of Civics and Citizenship.

So who will write the history of these strange times? As the saying goes, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. And history does tend to be written by the winners.

The revised Australian Curriculum needs to be a winner, especially in that most precious field of History.


 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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