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Public debate will show up shoddy reef science – if they turn up

By Alex Stubbs, AgForce Reef Taskforce chair. 

Columnist Mike O’Connor hit the nail on the head with his article ‘Reports of Reef’s death exaggerated’ (paywall) on the weekend.

Treat yourself and have a read. It is spot on. In the column, Mike calls out the misinformation and hysteria around the health of the Great Barrier Reef and the politically motivated regulation of industries like agriculture and mining that are blamed by special interest groups for all the “damage”.

AgForce and other producer and community groups have for years questioned not only the effectiveness, but even the need, for regulations.

More importantly, we are extremely sceptical of the motivations and more importantly the inaccurate science underlying them – they are quite simply based on assumptions, models and theory, not on evidence-based science.

With just five weeks to go before the election – and also the release of the report of the Senate inquiry into the impact of agricultural activities on reef water quality – we need the state government to come clean on the facts.

At the Senate inquiry, Dr Paul Hardisty, the CEO of Australian Institute of Marine Science, or AIMS, finally gave evidence acknowledging that land use activities like farming did not impact on coral growth.

We have challenged Dr Hardisty to a public debate on their research and assumptions on Reef health next Thursday (October 8) in Townsville.

We believe an open discussion with other specialist scientists will flush the truth out.

Dr Peter Ridd, foremost among a significant and growing group of marine scientists questioning AIMS’ research and analysis and the regulations based on them has welcomed the chance for a debate.

Of course, we have little confidence our offer will be accepted by AIMS; they have been dodging this sort of debate for many years and are something of a protected species themselves.

But we will proceed without their involvement because it still offers an excellent opportunity to expose this critical issue in the open ahead of the election.

Keep an eye out for more information if you would like to take part in this event, organised as part of our campaign.

The more people who take part in the discussion will add weight to our concerns and – hopefully – force the pollies to listen and to act.

As the saying goes, sunlight and fresh air are the best disinfectants – and we need this mess cleaned up before it’s too late.

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