Reef Facts – After We Stop the Spin by the QRC

spin doctoring

Now everyone knows there is a certain amount of spin doctoring when it comes to advertising and media campaigns. The manipulation of data or the selective use of particular data is an effective tool that can be used without ACTUALLY lying.

To Keep it Simple

To Keep it Simple

But the latest ads that have come out to support the coal industry via the Queensland Resources Council [QRC] are a novena to the art of tap dancing around the point, misleading dissemination of data and partisanship on the behalf of the coal industry disguised as ‘giving the public the facts about the reef‘.  In all my years in Public Relations as well as involvement in the political side of life I have never seen such a blatant misuse of public funds except perhaps the Strong Choices Campaign currently being run by the same government.

The data in the most recent commercial claims that the loss of coral is attributed to a number of sources none of which are related to coal or shipping.  The basis for the statistics in the two QRC ads come from an excellent 2012 peer-reviewed paper, “The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes”, published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The paper found, just as the ad shows, that 48% of coral death was attributed to cyclones, 42% to crown of thorn starfish and 10% to bleaching BUT the way that those facts are used in the ads is highly misleading. [The Conversation]

queensland-maps-australiaThe data in the 2012 study come from coral reefs predominantly on the mid-shelf of the Great Barrier Reef – that is, 30 to 100 kilometers from the coast.  The study does NOT address the causes of death and decline among inshore reefs, seagrass meadows, dugongs, turtles and inshore dolphins. All these ecosystems and species are also in decline, with inshore coral reefs – those found up to 40 km from the coast – sea-grass and dugongs in severe decline in most of the reef south of Cooktown.

It is misleading for these ads to selectively quote one study that only looks at coral mortality on mid-shelf reefs, and then claim that shipping and port activity has no impact on “the environmental health of the Great Barrier Reef”. It also ignores completely the fact that the reef is not solely coral and contains a myriad of marine life existing in a delicate balance.

Protecting mid-shelf coral reefs is important BUT unlike the QRC ads, most studies on threats to the Great Barrier Reef consider threats to the complete range of species and ecosystems that make it so unique. The main water-quality threats to these ecosystems are sediment, nutrients, pesticide, toxic metals and hydrocarbons from the land. These come from agricultural activities and from coastal development – including ports.

The video clip below is a wonderful parody of the latest ads put out by the QRC courtesy of The Guardian and in all honesty a parody is better than the original deserved but if you would like to see the ad presented by the QRC just follow the link in the first paragraph and you will find it on its site.


21 thoughts on “Reef Facts – After We Stop the Spin by the QRC

  1. I’ve seen documentaries where they show the reef being bleached white… That is terrible. Finally I now know where Mackay is after you posting this map… Wow you must have a view… Peace


      • Are there cliffs or does the land bank gently into the ocean.. Haven’t a clue.. Does the jungle butt up to the ocean.. How are you koalas.. They are night animals right.. What animal eats koalas?


      • No real cliffs just grass, sea grass, sand and then water for most of the area that I am in. Western Australia is different but in Qld we often have to build retaining walls to prevent the sand moving too far inland. There are rocky shorelines with cliff faces at various points up and down the coast but in the main it just merges with the mainland.


      • Ahhh… It’s 1:19 in the morning where you are and 7:19am Monday in California… You keep writing your posts about this planet of ours… Those short sighted souls haven’t a clue nor do they care about our Mother Earth!


      • Correct about the time – hope you have a good day at work and it isn’t too hot as you said in a previous post the heat had started.

        Thanks for the support regarding my rants about the environment it helps. Jenni


      • Some has to be mad as hell and we shouldn’t take it anymore.. As the mad newscaster said in the 70’s movie Network…


      • See here only children are “cranky” as is the toddler hadn’t had his nap or juice box and he was cranky.. Ahh the English language..


      • Sadly I am overtired and now that you have mentioned it in want of a juice box so the term ‘cranky’ does apply [sticks out tongue and blows a raspberry in a mature response]


      • Have to finish marking some papers tonight – uni students have this nasty habit of wanting their assignments returned in short periods of time. So I should finish what I’m doing here and do the next 5 that I set myself as a goal before I would go to bed. 😦


  2. I hate that they can say this and they aren’t actually lying. Damage to the Great Barrier Reef is DIRECTLY caused by coal. The existence of coal isn’t damaging the reef. But the burning of coal and the environmental damage causes the things that cause the damage to the reef. So frustrating that this can happen. We need someone higher up than the government that can make information like this illegal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t worry every time this group brings out a new ad they have people all over it checking where the info came from and tearing it down within 24 hours. The sites that receive the real information plus the info regarding the sneakiness of the QRC actually have more readership than any current newspaper or government site in Australia so they’re screwed and now they’re scrambling.


  3. The same corporate interests that screw us in America are doing the same to the Aussies. Wouldn’t surprise me if Goldman Sachs was behind it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post Jenni. Loved the video, well done. I tried to bring up the gov’t site but it wanted a lot of personal info to sign in and I didn’t want to give it. The mid-shelf studies being applied to inshore reefs is bull. It reminded me of a case study in B School. It was Mary Kay cosmetics trying to break into the Japanese market. They felt that because the “culture”was collaborative in nature, the move was a natural for their company. Turned out to be completely wrong – Know why? Because all the social data in Japan had been derived from the males, who worked together, partied together and clubbed together. The asumption was that this defined the “culture” when in fact the females, were home centered, subservient, isolated and not a part of any cultural data. (This has changed some.) The entry program crashed and burned. The two genders in the same house, town, country, lived together and in two completely different cultures sinultaneously. Mary Kay still has not been able to open any sales opportunities in Japan – to this date. However, they initially rejected China as a contender because the males did not interact as much and it actually turns out that the females do interact a lot – and China now has a booming Mary Kay cosmetics presence. Same thing with the reef data – it is illogical, unscentific and bordering on deception to use mid-shore data to cover in-shore concerns. Two different environments (or eco-“cultures”) It is either a fool’s errand or deliberate whitewashing to say the two are similar. The resulting decisions will be destructive (worse than Mary Kay’s lost millions for sure).

    Thanks very much for the post Jenni. It was very enlightening.


    • That doesn’t surprise me about the error in data interpretation regarding Japanese buyers. It is far to easy not to check from where the information is derived and confirm that is applies to what you are interested in.

      Personally I loathed statistics at Uni but it was a compulsory subject in the Business part of my degree and oddly once I was able to apply it to marketing and research findings I found it really useful.

      I always try to make a point of discovering the basis of the research findings – it doesn’t take much effort usually a scan of the abstract is enough to tell you if the info is applicable or not and if you need to read the entire paper.

      As I’ve gotten older I’ve discovered a real love of research, I do enjoy following the trail of information from article to references and from references to papers and from the papers to the raw data – sounds boring but I see it as a form of academic CSI and it has made me popular as a fact checker for a few groups.

      I’ve been a little lazy with some of the pieces on this blog as I was enjoy the ‘non-work’ part of things but this example of spin doctoring just made me cross so I did a little digging – along with a few others it turned out.

      Catch up with you later – Jenni


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