Friday, 31 January 2020

Dr Jen: Keeping You in the Loop

Keeping You in the Loop

Copyright © 2020 Jennifer Marohasy 
We live on a rotating planet, differentially heated by the Sun, and mostly covered in seawater. The largest body of water is the Pacific Ocean, and on its southwestern edge is the Great Barrier Reef. 
This is arguably the largest coral reef system to have ever existed on planet Earth. It is but a thin veneer of limestone that has grown on top of at least five previous extensive reef systems; each destroyed by past dramatic falls in sea level.
Ribbon Reef No. 10 is the longest of the most northern outer barriers at the edge of Australia's continental shelf, with an inside (westerly-facing) edge that drops to 40 metres and an outside (easterly-facing) edge that drops vertically to 2,000 metres.  Both edges are covered in a great diversity of colourful corals.   This last week I got to dive both edges!  It was so much fun sinking below the waves with the reef sharks and trevally, meeting manta rays and cuttlefish.  
At the northern tip of this ribbon is an opening that was once where the Starke River entered the sea; that was more than 16,000 years ago when sea levels were up to 120 metres lower than they are today. 
That river canyon is now underwater with strong currents, that wash in nutrient-rich upwelling from the Pacific Ocean twice a day. The water rushes in, and then out. So I was pleased that there was a lookout on the top deck of our boat the entire time I was diving, with a tender handy, should I come-up in a current that I couldn’t kick against and needed to be picked up. 
In fact, I always surfaced at the stairs to the boat, thanks to the great navigation skills of my underwater buddy. 
Beyond the southern end of this coral reef system is the much smaller Ribbon Reef No. 11, and a dive site known as Goggle Gardens. The corals here are at 15 metres and were totally bleached white from March to October 2016. 
What I learnt from a very experienced diver, who documented this event through photography, is that white and bleached coral is not necessarily dead coral.

The zooxanthellae — unicellular algae that give coral its colours and normally feeds it with energy from the sun via photosynthesis — were expelled, as the corals were stressed by the exceptionally warm waters during the summer of 2015 – 2016.  But the corals at this dive site did not die. 
Coral polyps also have tentacles, and these tentacles were used to feed on small animals and plankton and also to clean away bad algae that would otherwise settle and smoother it. 
So, corals are not necessarily totally dependent on zooxanthellae, they can be omnivorous. 
In fact, bleached coral can take-back zooxanthellae, become colourful again, and reshoot after months of being stark white and bleached. 
I hope to show how this happened at this dive site in my next mini-documentary. 
There are a few photographs, including of me with a giant potato cod, at my most recent blog post:
But mostly we took an underwater video, and there is also some drone footage.   It just needs editing and some narration.

Thanks for caring. 
Dr Jennifer Marohasy
Researcher and Writer
The photograph of the corals at the top of this note was taken looking over one of the underwater cliffs on 21st January 2020: filming for my next mini-documentary that I know you will enjoy.
Copyright © 2020 Jennifer Marohasy, All rights reserved. 

King Kevin through the back door

Are the politicians planning to crown one of their own?

24 January 2020

Extraordinary plans are afoot in Canberra for Malcolm Turnbull, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd or someone of their ilk to succeed Queen Elizabeth in her capacity as Queen of Australia.
This is to be done through the back door, not by the people, but by the politicians doing a deal among themselves .
With the hope that nobody will much notice, pseudo-king Kevin or whoever is chosen will be called ‘governor-general’.
And as is typical of these soi-disant republicans, this will involve a secret agenda and the complete disregard of any unintended consequences.
What is clear is that the pseudo-king will be able to exercise all of the apparent powers of the Crown but without any one of the constraints. And to demonstrate that the plan is serious, expert legal advice has even been obtained on how best to hijack the succession to the Queen without the tedium of first obtaining your or any other rank-and-file Australian’s vote.
Politicians in the principal parties rarely speak without approval of the machine and given there has been no subsequent attempt from his party or other republican politicians to distance themselves from this plan, it may well have been dropped into the media, just before Christmas, by Victorian Labor MP Julian Hill to test the waters.
It was of course soon superseded by news about all of those many serious problems created or made worse by our mainly republican politicians, including  drought, bushfires, energy prices, the run-down of manufacturing, fishing and agriculture and falling school standards

Unlike the political class and the commentariat, there is little interest in, or strong support for, such soi-disant republicanism among the rank and file. This was true even around the referendum. In fact, the only demonstration which attracted a decent crowd was when Australians for Constitutional Monarchy called out over 20,000 supporters into Macquarie Street Sydney over the Carr government’s seizure of Government House. Every republican demonstration, including one widely promoted for the referendum, has been an embarrassment.
Republicanism in Australia has never been about republican principles as understood in, say, the United States. It has always been for some ulterior purpose. In the nineteenth century, it was to create a white apartheid regime and in the first half of the twentieth century, to annex Australia to the evil communist empire responsible for the massacre of over 100 million people.
The one which has so excited the political class and the commentariat for the last quarter of a century has nothing at all to do with the principles of republicanism. Based on an embarrassing and infantile obsession against the Queen and the country’s oldest and most enduring constitutional institution, its aim and effect are to increase the power of our mainly republican politicians. Hence the winning referendum slogan, ‘Vote No to the Politicians’ Republic’ devised by ACM’s Rick Brown who, in delivering Victoria,  ensured a clean sweep for the No case.
More recently, when Harry and Meghan decided on a new stage in their lives, the usual coterie once again saw this as the long-awaited silver bullet which would revive their flawed and unappealing politicians’ republic.
Hence the plethora of royal watcher commentaries filled with invention, viciousness and spite and invariably concluding with yet another call for that republic.
What they all fear is another referendum would result in a bigger defeat than in 1999. So they all call for a variation of the solution first proposed by Paul Keating a quarter of a century ago, a government-funded mass opinion poll. Called a ‘plebiscite’ to make it sound serious, it was to ask: ‘Do you want an Australian Head of State?’.
Too clever by half, Keating chose a term which was so obscure it wasn’t even in the then Macquarie Dictionary; with only public international lawyers fully understanding what the term meant.
But Keating wasn’t fast enough for QC and soon to be made judge, Lloyd Waddy, who observed, with consummate ease and wit, that he would advise ACM followers to vote Yes for the simple reason that we already had an Australian Head of State –―the Governor-General. Nothing more was heard on this from Keating .
The latest version of the proposed and arguably unconstitutional plebiscite tries to overcome this by asking: ‘Do you want Australia to become a republic with an Australian Head of State?’. But as David Long wrote recently in The Spectator Australia
‘Any first-year university political science student familiar with the writings of John Locke will know that Australia is already a republic.’
Indeed, in writing ACM’s foundation charter, Michael Kirby included the belief of some (including both John Howard and Tony Abbott) that Australia is already a republic, a crowned republic. As Kirby wrote, Australia enjoys ‘all the desirable features of a republican government and a constitutional monarchy without any disadvantages of either system.’
So if the planned plebiscite is not first ruled unconstitutional, it will prove just as totally useless as Keating’s would have been.
That’s why dispensing with the people’s vote as Hill proposes may well be  proving attractive to the republican politburo. They would then try to use an obscure provision in the 1986 Australia Acts to have all seven parliaments agree on circumventing Australians’ right to decide such questions in a referendum.
This legislation was introduced to regularise the status of the states, not to steal the people’s vote and make someone like Kevin Rudd a ‘King’ Kevin.
If it looked as if the politicians were going to adopt Hill’s plan, you can be assured that ACM will be in the High Court and before the people quicker than Hill can say ‘God Save The Queen’, to whom, incidentally, he has sworn or affirmed his allegiance twice.

[This comment was the subject of an interview with Michael McLaren on 2GB, 4BC, 3AW and the Macquarie Media Network on 22 January 2020 at ]