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Thursday, 6 February 2020
Page: 546

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (16:54): I want to take a moment to shine a light on very interesting studies which have been undertaken over a period of three years by a group of international scientists from four different countries. The studies are interesting for two reasons. They have revealed that some previous research on the effects of carbon dioxide emissions on reef fish seem to be entirely incorrect. They are also interesting because the finding is not popular and it's largely being ignored by media outlets around the country.

Seven leading international scientists from Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden took it upon themselves to check the science, if you will, regarding the effects of carbon dioxide emissions or acidification of our oceans on species of reef fish.

They sought to replicate the alleged effects of carbon dioxide emissions on reef fish reported in eight previous studies published by researchers from James Cook University's coral reef centre. Try as they would, they found that the claims from this particular group of eight studies could not be validated at all. The findings of the Clark and others 2020 report, titled Ocean acidification does not impair the behaviour of coral reef fishes, were published in the science journal Nature on 8 January this year.

These scientists wanted to check on claims that rising carbon dioxide levels were causing strange and destructive behaviours in reef fish. The claims were that rising carbon dioxide levels were making the reef fish hyperactive, altering their vision and causing them to be attracted to, rather than repelled by, the smell of predators. It was claimed that these effects would cause populations to be dramatically reduced or even wiped out. There was widespread publicity of the findings at the time claiming that we were seeing the demise of Nemo and Dory! It was dramatic stuff that couldn't fail to tug at the heartstrings.

Scientist Timothy Clark, from Deakin University, led the group that sought to replicate these findings. They spent three years studying six fish species to validate or prove the earlier alarming claims. And what did they find? In not one instance could they replicate the alarming effects which had been claimed by the small group of JCU researchers.

In their report, these scientists stated:

Here, we comprehensively and transparently show that—in contrast to previous studies—end-of-century ocean acidification levels have negligible effects on important behaviours of coral reef fishes …

That is a 100 per cent failure rate. There is not one jot of evidence to support the alarmist claims made by the JCU researchers. These findings provide a glaring example of why we need to establish a scientific quality assurance agency.

One would think that research findings such as these would be worthy of coverage by journalists and media commentators, but green-leaning groupthink renders a thoughtful consideration of any science that does not support the climate disaster dramatists impossible. Despite repeated attempts to share the details of these scientific findings, to the best of my knowledge just two media organisations have bothered to tell the story. One is an overseas based agency and the other is Sky News, which, I was happy to see, covered the story on Sunday morning during an interview with Dr Peter Ridd.

Another disturbing element to these findings is that a researcher who was found guilty of fabricating data in Sweden was involved in some of the JCU studies. JCU promised to investigate the work of this marine biologist, Oona Lonnstedt, and finally, after nearly two years since she was found guilty in Sweden. It appears they are getting started on the investigation. We eagerly await the outcome. I would also hope that the Australian Research Council will ensure that we see that outcome as soon as possible.

Professor Peter Ridd, a very good man, was sacked from James Cook University for raising concerns about findings from the coral reef centre at the university. It seems that Professor Ridd was right to distrust their work. These scientists and universities all around the nation are generously funded by the Commonwealth to conduct their research, and their findings are used as a basis for policy decision-making. We need to have great confidence in that research, and that's why an independent scientific quality assurance watchdog should be established.

I look forward to raising these very serious concerns with the Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel. My North Queensland colleagues, the members for Herbert and Leichhardt as well as Senator McDonald, have joined me in issuing an invitation to Dr Finkel to visit North Queensland for further discussions on reef science and the flow-on policy effects, which are impacting farmers and fishers. Some of the science coming out of the coral research centre is at best dubious and at worst totally false, but it is science which informs policymaking in Queensland regarding land practices. Rather than reef fish being destroyed, it is our farmers, graziers and canegrowers who are being targeted and who are now the endangered species.

House adjourned at 17:00


Thursday, 6 February 2020

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Vamvakinou) took the chair at 10:00, a division having been called in the House of Representatives.