Investigate the Scientific Fraud: Rob Gourlay on Salinity Research & Funding in Australia

Rob Gourlay from Environmental Consultants ERIC, is calling for an independent investigation by the Australian Government to get to the bottom of the claims in today’s Channel Nine Sunday Program:

“The Channel Nine Sunday Program on Salt Solutions (28 May 2006) was a wake-up call to public workers involved in dryland salinity science and administration in Australia.

There is evidence that points to possible scientific fraud and deceit in salinity science and management that is controlled and manipulated by Australian and State government agencies.

Public workers have used a rising groundwater model based on claims that land clearing causes the groundwater to rise and bring salts to the surface. Computer predictions by government agencies during the 1990’s promoted a dramatic spread of salinity across southern Australia.

Public workers have operated as a cartel to control public funds on dryland salinity and exclude private industry R&D, innovations and services from funding schemes. Evidence now suggests that the public science and predictions were hopelessly flawed.

Many government agencies attempted to suppress contrary evidence from private industry and published false information about the capability of industry technology, while promoting their own mapping technologies and engineering solutions to attract public funds.

Environmental Research and Information Consortium Pty Ltd (ERIC) was one of the companies with an award winning technology in salinity mapping affected by the lock out within government agencies. ERIC has answered questions raised by public workers during the investigation by Channel Nine. These papers are at http://www.eric.com.au/html/news.html.

ERIC, along with many other independent scientists and farmers have demonstrated that degradation in soil health is the primary cause of an increase in dryland salinity from natural levels. This includes a significant loss of soil carbon and microbes, soil compaction and loss of soil structure (eg. hardpans); caused by conventional methods of agriculture. This degradation has caused less rainfall/irrigation percolation to the groundwater, soil salts to be released into the soil water and increased lateral flows of salts into drainage lines and low lying areas.
Public workers have been provided with this alternative evidence to the rising groundwater model since the 1950’s.

ERIC produced conclusive evidence in 1994 and provided further evidence to the National Dryland Salinity Program in 1997, including the House of Representative Salinity Inquiry in 2004 and Senate Salinity Inquiry in 2006. However, public workers have continually failed to produce evidence to support a rising groundwater model and actively denigrated ERIC’s evidence without disproving the evidence.

The Australian public needs to know the extent of the cover-up and protection racket by these public workers. An independent investigation is now required by the Australian government to get to the bottom of the claims in the Channel Nine Sunday Program.”

A full transcript of the program is available, click here.

18 Responses to Investigate the Scientific Fraud: Rob Gourlay on Salinity Research & Funding in Australia

  1. Joseph Podosky May 28, 2006 at 12:10 pm #

    I find it interesting that the Sunday program, whilst opening up an interesting and no doubt worthwhile debate about saving the Murray River, was very one-sided in its coverage of the story.

    Apart from Wendy Craik from the MDBC, Nine’s Ross Coulthart only spoke with opponents of the MDBC and the broader scientific community.

    People like the CEO of Murray Irrigation which in fact is owned by the irrigators who draw water from the Murray. And you, the head of the Environment unit of a right-wing, conservative think-tank.

    Talk about vested interests.

  2. Warwick Hughes May 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm #

    Gidday Joseph,
    You mention “sides”.
    Spare us Joseph, we have heard the side you are defending filling the media for years.
    What a great day this Sunday 28 May 2006 would be if it marked a “tipping point” from whence we heard less from the pontificating prelates of the “Wentworth Group”.
    I am sure Jen is keeping her feet on the ground but what a rare triumph.

  3. detribe May 28, 2006 at 12:45 pm #

    Lest we forget ACF, who were NFF’s bedfellows on this:
    From World Socialst Website: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/sep2001/sal-s24.shtml
    WSWS : News & Analysis : Australia & South Pacific
    Salinity: a major environmental crisis in Australia
    By Alan Leigh
    24 September 2001

    The government’s “Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in Australia” claims that it will provide the necessary skills, information and substantial funding to community-based organisations for the development and implementation of integrated catchment or regional, natural resource management plans. It suggested that 20 catchments/regions highly affected by salinity be addressed first.

    The funding, however, is grossly inadequate. The NFF and ACF estimate that at least $65 billion is necessary over 10 years to deal with salinity and water quality issues. According to ACF director John Conor, it is like buying a health insurance policy for 50 cents a week. Commenting on the individual components of the plan, CSIRO scientist Dough Cocks said: “Most are just very small relative to the size of problem they address. None of these programs have more than a token program to understand and combat the treat.”

  4. rog May 28, 2006 at 2:04 pm #

    It was an excellent broadcast and those that want to extract political mileage from the salinity/irrigation issue will become irrelevant.

    I was amazed that they are now finding that soil health and microbiological activity holds the key to salinity. This has long been the domain of organic farmers. The deep chisel plough technique has been around for a while, P A Yeomans developed his plough decades ago. Most people, including CSIRO regarded them as crackpots.

    http://www.csu.edu.au/special/fenner/papers/ref/04%20Hill_Stuart.pdf

  5. rog May 28, 2006 at 2:05 pm #

    If the AWB can be held accountable so can the MRDC.

  6. rog May 28, 2006 at 2:14 pm #

    ..MDBC..

  7. Malcolm Hill May 28, 2006 at 5:15 pm #

    What an enlighenting program that was. But isnt it all just too familiar:
    1. Publically funded R&D organisations putting together dodgy reports.
    2. Positions being peddled because it is the consensus of science, despite known evidence to the contrary.
    3. Mega bucks to fix a bit of it, before it is too late, and then we need more mega bucks.
    4. No established relationship between cause and effect, despite the consensus of science.
    5. Models used to agitate for a public policy response to an extreme position.
    6. Models that dont accord with known real world measurements.
    7. Pillorying those who expressed serious doubt to the contrary, and by all accounts from the program,could prove the basic is theory is wrong by practical examples.

    This sounds very much like the debate over AGW involving the the same Govt organisations peddling more alarmist and unproven nonsense based upon models that also has a very poor cause and effect relationship.

    If there is to be an inquiry it should also look at why we are giving them money in the first place, and if we have to make the scientists more accountable for what they peddle, just like everyone else has to be.

    It might also mean that the way peer review works needs looking into as well.

  8. Jim Turnour May 28, 2006 at 6:24 pm #

    Hi Jen,

    Nice work! I missed the program but read the transcript. You hit the nail on the head talking about the problems with managers running science.

    The crisis in honesty however runs beyond science to the leadership of this country.

    Takecare
    Jim

  9. Schiller Thurkettle May 28, 2006 at 11:07 pm #

    Friends,

    This is a marvelous expose of the misuse of public funds for the sake of “the environment.” However, the hard work is yet to come if the public is to learn a lesson from this fiasco and the problem is to be fixed.

    In all likelihood, the problem will be portrayed as “fixed” by casting blame on certain individuals, and perhaps removing a few from their positions.

    Whereupon, the system will continue unhindered and conduct business just as before.

    Some systems are constructed in a way that attracts the unscrupulous, and offers lucrative rewards to those susceptible to financial persuasion.

    The system which created the “salinity crisis” and the subsequent splurging of public funds will continue to attract the unscrupulous and susceptible if it is not fixed. In due course, a similar scandal is then sure to arise.

    It is a fine spectacle to see the mighty brought low, but a spectacle isn’t a solution.

    Schiller.

  10. Louis Hissink May 28, 2006 at 11:13 pm #

    Well, well,

    seems we are slowly waking up and discovering govt. run science is really no different to religion.

    Authority using whatever to support decisions, whether based on theology or mis-applied science.

  11. Wesley May 29, 2006 at 11:07 am #

    What is “consensus”? Different views, particularly from individuals and private industries on public issues, are just to be constantly dismissed as happened in this case.

    What is honesty? There is none if suppression or particular interest exists. Not to exaggerate, the honesty crisis does exist in public science and government agencies.

    I really appreciate those who have the courage to speak out and “condemn” those who are silenced by whatever the reasons.

  12. Warwick Hughes May 29, 2006 at 12:01 pm #

    Nice listing Malcolm.
    Re Detribe’s alluding to the NFF’s bedfellows, I am peering back in my memory of the NFF from the early 1990’s. Was there not a sudden leap into bed with the Greens ? I am reminded of the saying about lying down with dogs and getting fleas.

    rog mentioned the MDBC and accountability. I would not hold my breath on that one rog. The MDBC was asleep at the wheel during the great train wreck in National water policy represented by the development of Cubbie Station and from what I can gather, survived that debacle OK.

    With these stunning revelations public now, that a major sector of public service science and associated policy has feet of clay, must have major implications for National water policy. I note that when you probe behind State water policy paradigms you find very similar strands patched together by model driven pessimistic CSIRO scenarios simple enough to be grasped by pollies and with an over-riding detachment from observations.

    Yet the aircraft carrier of Fed/States water policy is still getting messages such as this on ABC Online News 19 May.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200605/s1642165.htm
    Struggling: Governments are being encouraged to buy water for the Murray.
    Murray River ‘needs four-fold water increase’
    A new CSIRO report says the Murray-Darling basin needs four times more water if it is to maintain its current state of health.

    Alice would smile.

  13. detribe May 30, 2006 at 8:27 am #

    The CRC for Salinity have put out a press release about the May 28th Sunday TV program.

    http://www.crcsalinity.com/news/media.php?id=109

    They welcome open discussion, reinforce a few of the good ideas in the program, but play down the issues a bit.

  14. David Pannell May 30, 2006 at 10:06 am #

    The CRC is hosting a discussion on the subject at http://forum.crcsalinity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=59

  15. Bruce May 30, 2006 at 5:09 pm #

    Amid the mumbo jumbo last Sunday there were a few good points made – for example the link between River Murray salinity levels and on-going pumping of intercepted salt and the influence of a record breaking drought in the MDB. Unfortunately that message was probably lost on many viewers (if there were many) as the interviewer and his guests charged on in pursuit of a conspiracy.

    In that context the National Dryland Salinity Program and subsequently the CRC Salinity has operated an email list that has encouraged discussion and debate to which several of Sunday’s disgruntled crew have contributed. The list is moderated, but mainly to censor out the abuse that occasionally tries to find its way through. The CRC publishes online a bi-monthly Salinity Update that last September directed readers to four new publications on the ERIC website. As others have pointed out, there is an online forum on our website at http://forum.crcsalinity.com/forum/index.php. The next issue (June 21) of the CRC’s SALT magazine features a case study of one of the farmers interviewed on Sunday. Incidentally, not one of the case studies in this issue (nor the past few that I recall) is advocating the planting of trees all over the landscape.

    So, if there has been a cover up I am disappointed. The CRC goes to considerable lengths to not only make available its own research but also to involve farmers in that research and to encourage dialogue and exchange of views. For some reason Channel 9 chose not to interview anyone from the CRC. Perhaps there is a conspiracy after all.

  16. rog May 30, 2006 at 6:49 pm #

    The corrected link for the CRC site is http://forum.crcsalinity.com/forum/index.php

    Thanks Bruce, I’ve never heard of your resources but I am sure a few more now are.

  17. Warwick Hughes May 31, 2006 at 11:48 am #

    Gidday Bruce,
    Is it possible you could be a bit more specific about this drought you mention and what records were broken.

  18. carl dransfield January 1, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    A scam is a scam regardless of how perpetrated. science,religion &politics -all designed to shift money from the bottom to the top.Water 50% of licences now owned by speculators Power 75% owned by foreigners.Mines,similar.Science stolen by second rate university hacks,CSIRO and rent-a-crowd. Army and police now specialising in population control and its weapons. Apathy reigns. The opinion of the majority is the line of least resistance for the greatest number of people. Real scientists and supporters need to have a get together spare for getting totallity into our arguments rather than peacemeal efforts- any takers for a scientific wickedpedia?

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