This from Dr Peter Ridd
The Chinese government has pushed UNESCO to list the Great Barrier Reef as endangered damaging our international reputation even further. This furore over China has ignored the real culprits – Australian reef-science and reef-management organisations. They have been claiming for decades that the reef is endangered based upon shoddy research. They loaded the gun and pointed it at Australia. The Chinese government merely said “thank you” – and pulled the trigger. It is also inconsistent to get upset with the Chinese government when, in 2019, the Queensland State government did far more reputational damage to the reef by introducing pointless legislation to “protect” the reef from the supposed dangers of farm pollution. This legislation was in response to the documents produced by the reef science organisations and is causing direct financial loss to Queensland farmers as well as falsely telling the world that the reef is in diabolical trouble. Statements about the imminent doom of the reef can be found in important documents such as the 2019 Reef Outlook Report produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). The Chinese need not have read any further for their ammunition. But this document is riddled with factual errors, exaggerations, logical inconsistencies, irrelevancies, and scandalous omissions. It has clearly not been subjected to adequate quality assurance and reads more like an ideological document. For example, it claims that the Reef is at high risk from agricultural pesticides, ignoring data showing pesticides are in such low concentrations on the reef that they generally can’t be measured even with the most ultra-sensitive scientific equipment. And the most recent data of coral cover does not give any reason to be pessimistic. There are certainly major fluctuations in coral cover, but almost all regions are at, or above, average coral cover, some like the Townsville region are at near record highs. GBRMPA is the “end-user” of the science – it has an obligation to make sure the science is properly checked. However, they accept without question the “science”, which has only been peer reviewed. At least 50% of peer reviewed papers are wrong. Fortunately, there is a small group of politicians, such as Stephen Andrew, Matt Canavan, George Christensen, Nick Dametto, and Malcolm Roberts, Gerard Rennick who are prepared to stand-up and question the doom-stories about the reef. Nick Dametto has recently tabled legislation in state parliament to repeal the anti-farmer reef legislation. We will soon see which state parliamentarians effectively side with China and UNSECO, and which are squarely on the side of regional Queensland and Australia – metaphorically at least. The false stories about the reef will continue to cause trouble for Australia both reputationally and financially. The solution is to make our science and management organizations reliable again. I have been proposing an Office of Science Quality Assurance that would be tasked with doing a major audit of reef science. Who could argue against a little more quality assurance but, unsurprisingly, it is so far not supported by GBRMPA? Please GBRMPA – support this sensible call for science QA. You have an obligation to make sure the science is properly checked. We in regional Queensland can work sensibly together on this. Let us start with a workshop of scientists, and politicians from all sides of the debate on how the quality assurance can be put in practice.
Note: this is similar to an article published in The Australian on 3/7/2021