Thursday, September 17, 2020

Scientific cancel culture exposed

An inquiry into Great Barrier Reef farming yields remarkable confessions as institutions are challenged by evidence.


The Senate committee inquiry into the regulation of farm practices impacting water quality on the Great Barrier Reef has yielded some remarkable confessions by science institutions about the state of the reef. It has been the first time many of the scientists have been asked difficult questions and publicly challenged by hard evidence. They have been forced out of their bubble.

It was revealed by Paul Hardisty, boss of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, that only 3 per cent of the reef, the “inshore reefs”, is affected by farm pesticides and sediment. He also stated that pesticides, are a “low to negligible risk”, even for that 3 per cent.

The other 97 per cent, the true offshore Great Barrier Reef, mostly 50km to 100km from the coast, is effectively totally unharmed by pesticides and sediment.

This has been evident in the data for decades but it is nice to see an honest appraisal of the situation.

Why has this fact not been brought to the public’s attention in major documents such as the GBR Outlook Report produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority? Why has everybody been deceived about the true extent of the problem?

AIMS was also forthcoming on other important points. Records of coral growth rates show no impact from agriculture. Large corals live centuries, and have annual growth rings like trees. They record their own rate of growth. If farming, which started about 100 years ago on the reef coast, was damaging it, there should be a slowing of the growth rate. The records show no slowing when agriculture started a century ago, or when large-scale use of fertiliser and pesticides began in the 1950s.

I have written previously that AIMS has been negligent in not updating the GBR-average coral growth data for the past 15 years. We have the scandalous situation that there is data going back centuries – but nothing since 2005. AIMS claimed coral growth rates collapsed between 1990 and 2005, due to climate change; however, there is considerable doubt about this result because AIMS changed the methodology for the data between 1990 and 2005. At the Senate inquiry, under some duress, AIMS agreed it would be a good idea to update this data if the government will fund the project.

Updating the coral growth rate data will be a major step forward. It will prove or disprove the doubtful decline between 1990 and 2005. It will also give the complete record of how the GBR has fared in the past 15 years, a period when scientists have become more strident in their claims that it is on its last legs.

Hardisty, to his credit, has recently implemented red-blue teams within his organisation to help with quality assurance of the work that AIMS produces. A red team is a group of scientists that takes a deliberately antagonist approach to check, test and replicate scientific evidence. A genuine red team is a far more rigorous quality assurance approach than the present system used in science – peer review – which is often little more than a quick read of the work by the scientist’s mates. What AIMS has done internally is similar to what I have been proposing – an Office of Science Quality Assurance that would check, test, and replicate scientific evidence used for public policy.

Unfortunately, Hardisty’s commitment to quality in science was not reflected by many other important witnesses at the Senate inquiry. Many are in denial and resorted to shooting the messengers. An extract from a letter signed by Professor Ian Chubb, a former Australian chief scientist, was read out by Senator Kim Carr.

Disputing the conventional wisdom on the reef was likened to denying that tobacco causes cancer, or that lead in petrol is a health risk. Worse still, the reason sceptics do this, apparently, is “usually money”. Scientists such as Dr Piers Larcombe, the pre-eminent expert on the movement of sediment on the reef, with decades of experience, is thus written off as a corrupt charlatan.

It is scientific “cancel culture”. It is easier than confronting Larcombe’s evidence that farming has very limited impact on the GBR.

It is customary to be very cynical of our politicians, but it was senators Roberts, Rennick, Canavan and McDonald who forced some truth from our generally untrustworthy science institutions. Only our politicians can save us from them.

The evidence about the reef will not be buried forever. All the data indicates agriculture is having a negligible impact on the reef, and recent draconian Queensland legislation against farmers is unwarranted. And this issue will be influential come the Queensland state election on October 31.


Calls for daylight saving to be scrapped over health risks

There are growing calls from health professionals around the world to scrap daylight saving, with warnings turning clocks forward for half the year can have significant health impacts.

An Australian professor has spoken out about some of the health risks associated with changing the clocks, warning the health risks could be amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor of diabetes at Monash University, Paul Zimmet, told 3AW the Victorian Health Department needed to consider the negative impacts of the upcoming change to daylight.

“In terms of the scientific evidence, which we will want to stick with at the moment, there are more heart attacks just after daylight saving, more road accidents, and then you’ve got workplace accidents, car accidents and their implications,” he said.

“There is also cognitive dysfunction in relation to the daylight saving and the change in timing to our normal body rhythms.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews shut down the possibility of cancelling daylight saving when asked about Prof Zimmet’s comments during Wednesday’s press conference.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to the professor, who may be a very learned individual. No. Daylight saving will be proceeding,” Mr Andrews said.

“That’s why the curfew changes, that extra hour is really important, well ahead of daylight saving.”

Mr Andrews said the extra hour of daylight would hopefully help make the summer “like no other”.

“If we stay the course we’ll be able to get close to normal, COVID normal but close to normal, but people will be able to go out and enjoy the city, enjoy the state, enjoy being back at work, enjoy a sense of confidence as they go into 2021 and you know what they’ll enjoy most? They’ll enjoy the fundamental truth that all that they’ve given, all that they’ve done count counted for something,” the premier said.

“It wasn’t frittered away. It wasn’t because pressure came on a bad decision was made, the wrong decision was made. We’ve got to avoid that.

“This will be a summer like no other and daylight saving, I can confirm, will be a feature of it.”

Daylight saving will kick off at 2am on October 4, with residents in NSW, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania turning their clocks forward by an hour.

The debate around daylight saving ramped up last year when the European parliament voted to scrap changing the clocks from 2021.

From next year, countries that are part of the EU will be able to choose whether they want to stay on permanent summer” or “permanent winter” time.

Under the proposal, those that chose permanent summer would adjust their clocks for the last time on the last Sunday of March 2021, and those that choose winter will do so on the last Sunday of March 2021.


NSW police spent $24m on legal settlements, including for battery and false imprisonment

The New South Wales police spent $24m of taxpayer money on almost 300 civil legal claims brought against officers during the last financial year.

The figure, obtained by the NSW Greens, includes settlements for serious misconduct claims including battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Data on the cost of civil claims against police have been notoriously hard to access, until now. Out of court settlements with government departments generally include gag orders, and police have resisted attempts by justice advocacy groups and politicians to access the figures.

NSW Greens upper house MP David Shoebridge has been attempting to force police to release the figures through freedom of information requests and parliamentary processes for several years.

In July, Shoebridge was able to pass a so-called “call for papers” motion with the support of the opposition Labor party and key crossbenchers in the upper house.

The motion compels government departments to produce certain documents within a specified timeframe. The first tranche of that release also revealed that NSW police have settled more than 1,000 civil claims made against officers in the past four years.

In a statement to Guardian Australia, Shoebridge said the figures were the first real insight “into the financial cost of police misconduct” in NSW.

“This is money that should be used to support and protect communities, rather than deliver secret payouts,” he said.

Justice advocates have long criticised the lack of transparency surrounding civil legal cases against NSW police.

In February, Guardian Australia revealed that Patrick Saidi, former commissioner of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, had sought an investigation into what he called the “systematic failure” of police to address the number of civil cases filed against officers for misconduct.

An internal investigation into the LECC showed Saidi had raised concerns that NSW police treated the millions of dollars paid in damages each year as “the cost of doing business” and believed officers subject to complaints were often not exposed to internal consequences.

Among his concerns, Saidi wrote, was his belief that officers subject to legal complaints were “given no feedback as to the illegality of any action on their part” and that unit commanders were often not informed about findings made against police.

“Up till now, commanders who have had police officers under their command have not been advised of the fact that damages or compensation monies have been paid as a result of the misconduct or unlawful actions of police officers under their command,” Saidi wrote in documents published as part of the investigation.

Shoebridge said the figures released by NSW police did not explain how police dealt with officers whose conduct was the subject of a civil settlement.

“The outcomes of these cases are usually suppressed, meaning it’s impossible to know whether the police whose misconduct has resulted in large payments to victims have faced any sanction at all,” he said.

“It’s very likely that most or all the officers whose actions have led to the police being sued are still working in the police with no sanction and often having been promoted.”

In a statement, NSW police said the full cost of civil claims was not reported in the force’s annual reports because the data is held by other departments.

“These figures were obtained from the Treasury Managed Fund, which provides insurance coverage for the portfolio,” a spokesperson said.

“As the NSW police force is insured, contingent liability for this portfolio is not borne by the NSW police force.”


Professionalism to lift teaching status

Lifting teaching’s status can be achieved through embracing — rather than obstructing — market-based reform.

Australia’s education unions falsely blame alleged underfunding for the declining status of teaching, rather than failure to adopt the professionalism commonplace in other highly valued professions.

Any pretence that the source of teaching’s decline is low average rates of pay is debunked by evidence — as definitively shown in OECD data.

Instead, the fundamental problems are the flat pay structure — which has virtually no nexus with performance — and that this has made teaching unattractive to a generation of high-ability graduates.

Ultimately, the greatest threat to the status of the profession is its failure to embrace performance management — which undermines the efforts of hard-working teachers across the country.

Scathing government reports have repeatedly identified a lack of performance evaluation, few financial incentives for performance, and limited opportunities for career advancement.

But consistent, independent, and objective assessment of staff performance in the classroom will help teachers improve their craft, and ultimately deliver improvements in student achievement.

It’s also clear there’s a need to better attract, recruit, and retain high-ability teachers. But policy efforts have mistakenly imposed supply restrictions as the sole policy lever of choice.

These have included the blunt instruments of: tightening the eligibility to become a teacher (such as ATAR cut-offs and aptitude tests); increasing the hurdles needed to jump for accreditation (through compliance with additional professional standards); and requiring additional years of study and professional development to qualify for positions.

Rather than cutting the supply of teachers, policymakers should be expanding it. A wider pool of teaching applicants means schools — and the universities who admit prospective teachers — can be more selective in who they accept.

Reducing the barriers to entry for teaching — which currently prevent mid-career transitions and alternative on-the-job training pathways — will better target existing workforce challenges. More flexible pay structures can follow from more flexible teaching recruitment approaches.

All Australians will benefit from the education dollar being spent more wisely than persistent calls for more funding without accountability to match.

To genuinely address the declining status of teaching demands divorcing the profession from the anti-professionalism that holds back our educators.


 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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