Man Bites Murdoch

Former News Limited Editor, Bruce Gutherie, will be a panellist on ABC TV’s Q&A on Monday evening.   In his new book ‘Man Bites Murdoch’ Mr Gutherie alleges a problem within the culture of News Ltd.. 

There is a problem not only within News Ltd but more generally within the mainstream media in Australia; too many journalists are advocates rather than dispassionate reports of the facts.

The News Ltd flagship, The Australian, ran a ‘Save the Murray’ campaign from 2001 until the October 2004 federal election.   During this period it was repeatedly stated that there was a need for water to be taken from irrigators to save the River from rising salinity; never mind that salinity levels had been falling for nearly twenty years and were approaching historic lows.

I documented the newspaper’s campaign in an article published by Quadrant magazine in December 2004 entitled ‘Why Save the Murray’:

“I WAS SURPRISED when I learned that the Australian was running a “Saving the Murray” campaign. I realised that journalists often fail in their quest for the truth, but I assumed that they at least subscribed to the ideal. Campaigning – organised action to achieve a particular end – is the antithesis of honest reporting.

Environmentalism is now big business and big politics. It would therefore seem important that journalists at our national daily newspaper scrutinise the actions and the media releases from politicians, environmental activists and the growing industry and research lobby, particularly on an issue as important as the Murray River. Yet they were running a campaign.

In August, in advance of the federal election, Greenpeace, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Wilderness Society announced their policy platform as saving the Murray River, ending logging of old-growth forests in Tasmania and “tackling” climate change. On September 6, the editorial in the Australian suggested “it would be hard to slide a cigarette paper between the environmental policies of the major parties” on these three issues. The editorial did not acknowledge the newspaper’s particular interest in saving the Murray. And there were in fact significant differences between Labor and the government on the issues of climate change and old-growth logging – with the differences on old-growth logging emerging as a defining election issue. In contrast both Labor and the Coalition had committed to increasing environmental flows in the Murray, the only difference being the amount of water to be “saved”.

Since the Australian launched its “Saving the Murray” campaign in February 2001, public and political support in metropolitan Australia has been effectively galvanised to lament the dying of the Murray River and support the need to return water as environmental flows. But along the Murray, communities see things quite differently.

If, as the Australian’s editor Michael Stutchbury suggests, the newspaper is about Australia “having a conversation with itself”, then the “Saving the Murray” campaign provides a depressing illustration of the extent to which metropolitan Australia is being swept along by environmental fundamentalism. The problem with fundamentalist creeds is that they are driven by adherence to predetermined agendas and are rarely tolerant of new information, irrespective of the weight of evidence.

THE CAMPAIGN

THE “SAVING THE MURRAY” web page at the Australian’s website states:

On February 5, 2001, the Australian’s environment reporter, Amanda Hodge, and photographer Shaney Balcombe began an epic voyage along the Murray River, on a campaign to save the nation’s greatest waterway. The voyage culminated in a summit at Goolwa, South Australia, on February 25.

The “epic voyage” was in fact along one of our most closely settled and highly regulated river systems. The Murray – Darling Basin is home to approximately 2 million people, and supports almost three-quarters of the irrigated agriculture in Australia. Agricultural production from the basin represents 41 per cent of the national output from rural industries. Irrigated agriculture has been a feature of the Murray River, the main river in the basin, since the early 1900s when the first dams and irrigation channels were constructed. In 1974 the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme was completed and water was diverted west with the aim of generating hydroelectricity, drought-proofing the region and providing additional water for irrigation. Agricultural productivity in the region continues to increase, with a record wheat harvest last summer.

The “epic voyage” and summit at Goolwa were recorded in more than forty published stories by several of the Australian’s journalists, including an editorial titled, “It’s time to rescue our sacred river”. The “Saving the Murray” series covered a diversity of issues from storm water management in the town of Albury, to descriptions of a colony of 100,000 wading birds breeding in the Barmah – Millewa red gum forest, to the culinary exploits of Stefano, an “effusive Italian-born political adviser turned cook” in Mildura.

Amanda Hodge, the journalist who undertook the “voyage”, was awarded a United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Award for the “promotion of understanding and resolution of environmental issues” through one of the stories in the series.

The stories are interesting and easy reading. The continuous disconnection, however, between the description given of the river environment and each story’s headline is disconcerting. The substance of the stories generally suggest that the river is healthy with fish, water birds and well-fed communities striving to achieve world’s best environmental practice. Yet the headlines, side comments and conclusions, in almost every story, seem designed to reinforce the concept that the Murray River is dying and that we are in the midst of an ecological crisis.

In one of the last stories of the journey filed by Hodge, she appears to grapple with the contradiction, writing:

It is almost impossible to stand on the pristine sands that form the gateway to the white-capped Southern Ocean and declare that the Murray is a river in crisis. The point at which the two great waters meet is a breathtaking vision of natural beauty framed by grass-topped sand dunes and masses of water birds … The river that sustains and delights millions of Australians and international visitors bears few of the obvious hallmarks of an ecological disaster … Much of the damage that has been inflicted on this Australian lifesource cannot be viewed from its waters.

If the damage is not evident from a three-week cruise down the Murray, then presumably it can be shown by the published research and the environmental statistics.

At the Goolwa Summit, the then federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, announced that the Prime Minister’s National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality would provide $1.4 billion to address water quality and salinity issues across Australia, with approximately half of this amount to be spent in the Murray – Darling Basin.

On April 7 (some six weeks after the “epic voyage” and summit) Amanda Hodge summarised the river’s problems in an article titled “Rescue for a river in ruin”. The key environmental problems were identified as: rising river salinity; dryland salinity spreading throughout the basin; reduced biodiversity; over-extraction of water for irrigation; and declining native fish stock. However, no data, expert opinions or credible published reports were provided or cited to support any of these claims. Rather, these problems were assumed.

A survey of public attitudes to farming and the environment undertaken by Crosby/Textor two years later, in 2003, showed that across four states, in both regional and metropolitan cities, Australians believe that the “health of the Murray – Darling system” is the nation’s most important environmental issue, with salinity and rising water tables (associated with dryland salinity) identified as particular problems.

Indeed the perceived ailing health of the Murray River is driving water policies nationally, including the recently endorsed National Water Initiative. In November last year the Northern Territory government went to the extraordinary step of banning the growing of cotton on the basis that this crop, along with irrigation developments, had “devastated” the distant Murray River.

THE EVIDENCE

I CAME TO THESE ISSUES in June 2003. At that time both the government and Labor had recently agreed that “saving the Murray” was a national priority and both were canvassing the possibility of taking water from irrigators to increase environmental flows – the Opposition were committed to 1500 gigalitres (equivalent to three Sydney Harbours) and the government appeared likely to agree to a similar quantity.

At market prices of approximately $1200 per megalitre, this represents up to $1.8 billion worth of water. Water is considered the lifeblood of the communities along the river, and denying irrigators this amount of water was likely to have a serious social and economic impact on river communities, and on the competitiveness of dependent agricultural industries.

I was interested in checking the evidence regarding the notion that the Murray – Darling system was in decline. I focused on those indicators of river health that key research organisations had identified as most important. These indicators broadly accorded with Hodge’s summary of April 7, 2001.

River salinity. I started by requesting data from the CSIRO Division of Land and Water that I assumed must have existed to justify the organisation’s statements – which were clearly enunciated on their website at that time – that salt levels were rising in almost all the basin’s rivers.

No data, however, could be provided. I was referred by the CSIRO instead to the Murray – Darling Basin Commission (MDBC). The commission provided me with salt readings for Morgan – a key site just upstream of the pipeline off-takes for Adelaide’s water supply – back to 1938. Surprisingly, the MDBC data showed that salt levels had actually halved over the last twenty years, and were then at pre-Second World War levels.

In August 2003, I gave a paper titled “Received Evidence for Deteriorating Water Quality in the River Murray” at a meeting in Canberra. In the paper I showed graphed data for the four key water quality indicators (nitrogen, phosphorus, turbidity and salinity) at three key sites along the river.

Internet publishers On Line Opinion posted the paper on their website and it was extensively distributed among the basin’s farming community. A consequence was that the CSIRO and MDBC conceded in the rural press that the situation had been one of improvement, not deterioration, in salt levels over the last decade. The text on the CSIRO website was removed. Spokesmen for these institutions, however, continued to sidestep discussion of the data for the other water quality indicators.

The critical point is that water quality indicators for key sites suggest that the situation is stable, not deteriorating. The data are consistent with a healthy river system in the context of the environmental conditions which characterise inland Australia.

Subsequently I discovered that the disconnection between rhetoric and data was just as overwhelming in the case of the “other problems” identified by Hodge in her article of April 7.

Fish. Murray cod was listed as a threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in July last year. The media release from the Minister for the Environment and Heritage gave the reason for the listing as a 30 per cent decline in numbers over the last fifty years. The Australian reported this immediately in two articles, “Murray cod on national list” and “For cod’s sake, Murray needs stronger flow”. However, there are no data to support the claims of a decrease in cod abundance over the last thirty years; nor do any data support the claim that there has been a 30 per cent decline in numbers over the last fifty years.

The most widely quoted source of information on native fish status in the Murray – Darling Basin is a New South Wales Fisheries survey undertaken in 1995-96. This survey did not provide any data from which trends with respect to improvement or deterioration in fish numbers could be determined. The report’s principal conclusions include the statement:

A telling indication of the condition of rivers in the Murray region was the fact that, despite intensive fishing with the most efficient types of sampling gear for a total of 220 person-days over a two-year period in twenty randomly chosen Murray-region sites, not a single Murray cod or freshwater catfish was caught.

Most remarkably, at the same time, in the same years, in the same regions, that the scientists were undertaking their now much-quoted survey that found no Murray cod, commercial fishermen harvested twenty-six tonnes of Murray cod!

The commercial fishery was closed in 2001. It is evident from the available commercial fishing data that a collapse in the cod fishery did occur in the early 1960s, after which numbers remained low but stable through to the 1990s. There is anecdotal information suggesting that numbers are now on the increase.

Red gums. On July 31, 2003, the Australian published a comment by journalist Asa Wahlquist, “National challenge needs steely courage”. Without providing any evidence or citing a particular authority, she stated that “Australia faces a catastrophic water crisis” and that “River red gums that have lived for centuries are dying”.

A survey of red gums undertaken by the MDBC in March 2003, which did not distinguish between stressed and dead trees, nonetheless indicated that the “red gum problem” was limited to South Australia and was associated with the drought.

The reality is that red gum forests in Victoria and New South Wales are generally healthy. Indeed they are recognised as internationally important wetlands precisely because of their high biodiversity and because they regularly support large colonies of water birds. Since the early 1990s there have been specific and substantial water allocations for these forests, which have continued to sustain them through the drought.

Dryland Salinity. The Australian’s journalists have relied heavily on the government’s report “The National Land & Water Resources Audit’s Australian Dryland Salinity Assessment 2000” (NLWRA) for information regarding the spread of dryland salinity. The document warns that the area with a high potential to develop dryland salinity (from rising groundwater) will increase from 6 million hectares in 2000 to 17 million hectares in 2050, as reported by Hodge in the Australian on March 17, 2001.

The NLWRA has been widely cited and was used to help secure $1.4 billion in funding through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. It is therefore worth considering its technical integrity.

Interestingly, the report does not distinguish between what might normally be considered irrigation salinity as opposed to dryland salinity. It determined that areas with groundwater within two metres of the surface are at high risk of dryland salinity. The forecast ground-water levels were “based on straight-line projection of recent trends in groundwater levels”.

Yet no data supports the notion that we currently have a situation of rising groundwater in the Murray – Darling Basin. Groundwater levels in the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Coleambally irrigation areas – the regions considered most at risk – have generally fallen during the past ten years.

The CSIRO has provided me with the following reasons for the general fall in groundwater levels: improved land and water management practices; relatively dry climate over the past ten years; increased deeper groundwater pumping and higher induced leakage from shallow to deeper aquifers; and lower water allocations during the last couple of years.

Based on the NLWRA’s own definitions of dryland salinity, and the available evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that the area at risk of dryland salinity has substantially decreased in the Murray – Darling Basin system over recent times.

Data collected by Murray Irrigation Ltd since 1995 from 1500 sites covering 500,000 hectares of agricultural land considered most at risk from irrigation salinity, has shown that this region has experienced a 90 per cent drop in the area affected by shallow water tables.

The information presented in the NLWRA is speculation and is not based on actual data. Even when values are shown for years before the assessment was published, the values are “predictions”, not measured statistics. The NLWRA does not provide any information about the actual measured extent of dryland salinity, nor does it test its projections against actual outcomes.

The NLWRA has been extensively quoted and accepted uncritically by the Australian as evidence of a spreading dryland salinity problem.

Bjorn Lomborg, Danish statistician and author of The Sceptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, in his address to the National Press Club in Canberra last year cautioned against giving automatic credence to the ambit claims of environmentalists. He made the point that “everyone has an interest”. I would go further and suggest that journalists should treat all claims of environmental deterioration and impending doom, including government reports, with healthy scepticism.

THE RESPONSE TO THE EVIDENCE

IN DECEMBER 2003 the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) published my monograph Myth & the Murray – Measuring the Real State of the River Environment, in which I detailed the available evidence for those environmental indicators that have influenced public perception of the Murray River’s health. Victorian Farmers’ Federation President, Paul Weller, was reported in the Victorian rural weekly, the Weekly Times, commenting that the report exposed the extent of the misinformation peddled by key research institutions and that the media should not continue to let this travesty of justice be perpetuated.

Amanda Hodge phoned me on December 8, the morning of the document’s launch, indicating she had been told to cover the story but that she was too busy to talk with me. In the event the Australian never covered the story or reported on my findings.

In March 2004, the federal government’s Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries handed down an interim report that emphatically stated that the scientific evidence does not support the claim that the Murray River needs saving. The committee clearly sought to understand the issues and discovered that scientists had been substituting advice from “expert panels” for basic data collection. The committee relied heavily on my monograph and also the work of ecologist Dr Lee Benson.

The majority report of the committee (which comprised seven Coalition members, three Labor, and one independent) recommended that, as a matter of urgency, the government delay its proposal to commit water for additional environmental flows. The committee cited concerns with the quality of the science advice and understanding that underpinned the mooted policy recommendations, which cumulatively are likely to have a negative economic and social impact. One (Labor) committee member dissented.

The Australian immediately responded with three pieces that were overwhelmingly dismissive of the committee’s report: “MP revolt on rescue of Murray”, “River mouth needs less talk, more water” and “Downer rejects Murray water delay”. Two days later the national daily followed up with two more articles, “Delay in Murray flow catastrophic” and “Red gums’ water of life comes down to the river”.

Not one of the stories explained why, for example, the delay might be “catastrophic” or why the river mouth needed more water. No effort was made to understand or analyse why the parliamentary committee – which also included Labor members – was providing such strong advice that challenged the existing environmental policies of both the major parties.

I was not contacted by any of the four journalists who wrote the five stories. A letter-to-the-editor which I drafted, and my suggestion that I contribute an opinion piece, were disregarded. I was, however, referred to in one of the articles as a “loud lobbyist” and for being responsible for the committee “totally discounting millions of dollars of public investment in research over the years”.

CONCLUSION

WHEN EMBARKING on the “Saving the Murray” campaign, Michael Stutchbury needed, at the very least, to give substance to his stated vision:

As the nation’s daily newspaper, we are the forum in which all sides of these big issues are chewed over. But where we believe we can lead the national debate forward – such as in our championing of a republic or our campaign to save the Murray – we will clearly make our own views known while providing a voice for those who disagree.

Yet there was no voice for those who disagreed. Perhaps it was unreasonable to expect that the same journalist, Amanda Hodge, who spearheads the “Saving the Murray” campaign, could dispassionately interview people, like me, who were challenging the evidential basis of the same campaign.

In April, I sent a draft of this critique to Stutchbury. I was interested in dialogue with the journalists who had run the campaign and had an understanding of the status of the campaign. His response was to offer me an opinion piece. A short piece was eventually published by the newspaper on budget day. Not a single letter to the editor or other comment in response was published by the newspaper. I know there were letters, because several were copied to me.

When the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry handed down its final report in June, the Chair, Kay Elson MP, summarised the committee’s position:

The committee is not swayed by the emotions of some commentators who portray the River Murray as dead or dying. Indeed, the steady flows in the River Murray today are in stark contrast to the trickle reported by Sturt in his journals more than a century and a half ago. The committee understands that variations in flow are quite natural and not necessarily an indicator of poor river health. The significant progress which has been achieved in other areas of river health, such as controlling salinity, should be more widely acknowledged and recognised.

Incredibly, the Australian responded to this 201-page report not by focusing on the findings, but by suggesting one of the committee members, Patrick Secker MP, was likely to lose his seat at the approaching federal election. “He was part of a parliamentary committee that recommended extra flows down the Murray be postponed. It was potentially suicidal, and he knew it,” wrote Richard Sproull and Jeremy Roberts on September 15, 2004. The article went on to quote Mr Secker saying, “I don’t call myself a great politician, I never have, I say what I believe is right and then so be it.” Far from losing his seat at the election, Mr Secker was returned with an increased majority.

The Australian was born forty years ago as a bold venture in national journalism, vowing to provide, according to editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, “the impartial information and the independent thinking that are essential to the further advance of our country”. The Murray River and its communities would appreciate some independent thinking from the Australian. Instead they have been served up environmental activism and environmental fundamentalism – the antithesis of independent thinking.

[First published by Quadrant Magazine in December 2004]

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74 Responses to Man Bites Murdoch

  1. Neville October 16, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Very interesting Jennifer and of course Sturt and Hume’s 1828 expedition that discovered the Darling had to be abandoned because of the severe drought and the lack of fresh water.

    The Darling in fact was so salty that not even the cattle would drink from it although they stood in the water for a long time. ( I have his book )

    For years the Darling was known as the salt river by the early explorers/ settlers.

    http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=1324#Sturts1828expedition

  2. Ron Pike October 16, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    Well done Jennifer and more than timely given the present nonsense in this debate.
    Regular readers of this blogg will be well aware of my long interest in this subject in which I support everything that Jennifer has posted.
    At the height of the Australian’s campaign “to save the Murray,” like Jennifer I became so totally frustrated at not being able to get a contrary opinion published or acknowledged, that I went to Sydney and arranged a meeting with Asa Wahlquist, a journalist who was writing many of the misleading articles.
    Asa claims to understand and have the ecology of the Murray River at heart.
    I was armed with copies of several opinion pieces that had obvious errors of fact, many unsubstantiated assumptions and most blatently two photos that supported the article, that purported to be clearly what they were not.
    I still have these articles.
    Asa apologised for the misleading photos by saying that she only wrote the words and to use her words, “the editor gets some junior to select and caption the photos.”
    When I pressed my point that the articles were also incorrect and totally misleading, as near as I can remember the response was. ” Look Ron I have sympathy with your point of view but I have to satisfy a managing Editor who has a totally different point of view.”
    Following further discussion I was informed that I would have a really difficult task because, ” the tide of opinion was that the Murray had to be saved.”
    I have been fighting for truth ever since.
    As an aside in relation to the river red gum issue.
    It was Bob Brown that started this whole nonsense with his claim that the Murray was dying and all the red gums were dead or dying.
    I contacted Bob B and I make the same wager now to all as I did to B.B. then.
    I will give you $100 for every red gum you can show me that has died from lack of stream flow as long as you give me $100 for every red gum I can show you that has died from too much water.
    BROWN’S CLAIM WAS ALWAYS FALSE and started this whole debate on false premis.
    Much, much more could be said but Jennifers summary covers most of it and from my 70 years of practical experIence is totally correct.
    Pikey.

  3. Larry Fields October 16, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    No discussion of water issues is complete without Mark Twain’s definitive albeit putative statement on the subject:
    “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over!”

    Unfortunately, this is the extent of my knowledge on the subject. Here in the Western US, we’ve had ‘water wars’ in and out of our courtrooms for more than a century. That’s one thing that we have in common with Aussies.

    Although Steve M and Anthony W do an outstanding job in covering climate issues, I still think that your blog is the best on the general subject of evidence-based environmental policy. In fact, I’d never heard that expression until I read it here. Welcome back, Jennifer!

  4. Dave Shorter October 16, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    Hi Jennifer,I’ve just posted this question at Q&A. Tim Flannery,the MDBA proposes to divert three to four thousand gigalitres away from production for human need to the environment.Assuming no Australians stop consuming food and fibre who will and what would you say to them ? (Don’t forget what happened to Marie Antoinette !) Good luck on Q&A Jennifer Cheers Dave.

  5. John Sayers October 16, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    Excellent article Jennifer – thank you.

  6. John Sayers October 16, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    BTW the second par “dispassionate reports of the facts” should be “reporter of the facts”?

  7. cementafriend October 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Good article Jennifer. I have been suspicious of some of the ivory tower academics giving opinions on the Murray-Darling without measured data.
    There is a lot of information (including photos) on the Murray-Darling during the long Federation drought which started a little over one hundred years ago. Inconvenient history is ignored.
    All farmers know that climate changes in cycles. The cycles are associated with ENSO and PDO which in turn may result from planetary alignments.

  8. Binny October 16, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    There is a symbiotic relationship between environmental activist groups and the mainstream media. The situation as it stands is that these activist groups run an advertising campaign, in order to run raise money to run an advertising campaign, in order to raise money to run an advertising campaign. Apart from the bit skimmed off, for various directors and staff salaries, advertising campaigns are the main expense of these groups. They have campaigned war chests value in the millions, not surprisingly the mainstream media is very supportive of this relationship given the level of advertising revenue that comes from these groups. The only real problem they have is thinking of things to campaign about.

  9. Derek Smith October 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    They say “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.

    Thank you Jen for this post. Over the last year or so I’ve come to rely on people like yourself and Ron for the truth on these and other matters because it’s so hard to get it from anywhere else. The frightening thing is that the average person has no idea that they are being lied to as these are supposedly trusted institutions disseminating the “facts”.

    Thank you again, and it’s great to have you back.

  10. Roger Carr October 16, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Depressing, Jennifer.
    Maybe we should just send all the recent rain back and be done with it…

  11. Ron Pike October 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi Everyone,
    To win the water war and ensure that Australia is never short of this most basic necessity of life, we have to win the following battles in the court of public opinion.
    1: Australia is nor short of water. (see my paper “Water in Australia.”)
    2: Water is our most abundant renewable resource. (We have so much it causes problems.)
    3: It is the highly variable flows of our rivers that causes the problem, but this variability is
    also the answer. It is called water conservation in times of excess.
    4: Dams, weirs and other storages do not destroy rivers. They enhance them.
    All dams do is store water in times of excees flows to be used for hydro power, domestic
    and industrial use, agricultural use and most importantly to maintain stream flow for the
    environment and recreational purposes in times of low inflow.
    5: It is the dams, weirs, run-off storages, channels and even some irrigated fields that are the
    best and most reliable habitat for all of our aquatic species.
    When we can convince Joe Public of the truth of the above we will never again see the outlandish waste and stupidity in building desalination plants and Australia will never again be short of water.
    Pikey.

  12. Luke October 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    ” Dams, weirs and other storages do not destroy rivers. They enhance them.” – Depends on your point of view – tell that to the turtles smashed to bits around dam walls and so-called “lifts”. Genetic studies show fish migration and interbreeding is severely affected dammed systems.

    All this business about fields being habitat for aquatic species. Ya sure – one wiff of agricultural chemical and they’re all belly up.

    As for truth – let the Murray turn into a drain. Let the irrigators rip and fight among themselves till there’s nothing left. It’s little better than an irrigation ditch as it is.

    Let’s face it – there’s no negotiated answer involving compromise. And remember lads – this is Howard’s rules bring it to all to yo all! And what has the National Party done for you over the years on the issue – nuttin !

  13. spangled drongo October 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    Pikey,

    So true, but this govt is a “no more dams” believer particularly now with the watermelons that give it legitimacy.

    Where I live they built the Hinze Dam in recent decades and what have they now got?

    Well, apart from abundant water they have a catchment close to a big city which cant be subdivided so therefore remains a rich farming area close to town, a huge environmental zone and wildlife habitat and a great recreation and wilderness area close to a large population.

    Without this dam what would they have?

    Another sea of roofs and industrial area.

    Dams are a win/win/win/win.

  14. Ron Pike October 17, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    Luke,
    It will be a day of quite enjoyment when any of us on this site see you comment on a subject on which you have some practical knowledge.
    Your entertainment value is high.
    Your capacity for truthful, reasoned and enlightened debate is close to zero.
    There are NO turtles in the Murray-Darling Basin.
    Start by reading the report from the University of Canberra on aquatic species (frogs in particular) and then consider that rice is grown in the Riverina with little or mostly No insecticides and you may begin to appreciate what anyone with practical experience can tell you. That rice paddies are ideal habitat for all aquatic species.
    Both my children and my Grand children have spent countless hours catching, yabbies, tadpoles, fish and many other critters in the rice fields of the Riverina.
    Rice paddies are a pristine aquatic habitat for all species and all water birds proliferate in that environment.
    Get out of that sense suffocating environment which you habitate.
    Suck in some fresh air, see the world as it is and stop peddling nonsense.
    As for fish and dams (I have been a fisherman on these rivers all my life, as were my Father and Grand Father), there is NO native fish species of the Murray-Darling Basin that needs to move up or down stream for any purpose.
    They are mostly territorial.
    All thrive in man-made storages.
    Luke, this has nothing to do with Party Politics, it is about TRUTH and what is FALSE.
    We have had 5 years of false claims and are now looking at policy that is based on those false assumptions.
    “Our democratic decission making process is less at risk from what people do not know, than it is from what people do know that is false.”
    You Luke, on this subject are making claims of which you have no knowledge that adds to the list fo that which is false.
    Pikey.

  15. Luke October 17, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Your previous comment was about “Australia” in general, not simply our southern Australian drainage ditch. And Pikey – perhaps I must have dreamt about the mitochondrial DNA studies. Gee all irrigation is now rice is it.

    Mate it’s you that needs to get out more – especially out of your cosy local little southern NSW microcosm. You’re just peddling the same old politics Pikey. What’s thriving are carp.

  16. Luke October 17, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    You see Pikey catching a few fish with Dad isn’t an ecological study is it?

    No turtles in the MDB eh?

    http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/WfHC/Chelidae/index.html

    And all those Perch must move up and down the river for fun. http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/MF9830857.htm

    So yes Pikey TRUTH and FALSE eh !

  17. davidc October 18, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Thanks Jennifer. More computer modelling replacing observation. It is cheaper, I suppose.

  18. Ron Pike October 18, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Well Luke, I don’t know why I bother responding to such infantile tripe.
    But will this time.
    Turtles:
    I was simply pointing out that of the family Chelonia that live in the MDB, they are Tortoises, because they have toed feet as opposed to Turtles that have flippes and live in the sea.
    What I said was
    “there are no native species (of fish) that NEED to move up and down the river.”
    This is fact and if you wish to waste some more time read some of the research from THe Inland Fisheries Department at Narrandera.
    The trigger for native fish species to sporn only differs slightly between the 3 main species which are mentioned.
    While temperature does play a part the overiding trigger is a flush or flood in the river.
    In other words the species have adapted to sporn when the food chain explodes and the finglings are most likely to survive.
    For many years we believed that we could not get these species to reproduce in farm dams.
    But then we found that we could simply by mimicking the situation in Nature.
    All of the run-off catchment structures that I built in recent years (some quite large in size), we stocked with golden and silver perch and sometimes Murray Cod.
    We then always added yabbies and Asian carp (collected by the kids). The Asian carp, while introduced has become an important part of the food chain for native fish.
    We then found that if a storage was drawn down for irrigation and then we had big run-off, usually the result of thunderstorm activity, we often got huge spawning of native species.
    To repeat my claim, rather than man made dams and other structures hindering native fish breeding they actually enhance the process.
    By the way I am very sceotical of the claim the Yellow Belly travel 1000 klms. VERY SCEPTICAL.
    You are certainly right about one thing; the biggest environmental problem in the MDB is European Carp.
    If you have been reading my many papers on this subject you will be aware of this.
    It is totally unacceptable and an insult to our understanding of the system that the body appointed by the Government to protect “The Environment” of the Basin (The MDBA) has just released a 260 page document in which there is not one single mention of European Carp.
    Luke, I was very lucky to have a Dad who was a devoted environmentalist who taught me more than fishing.
    Pikey.

  19. toby robertson October 18, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    Great read Pikey, thankyou. Always useful to hear it from people with their finger on the pulse. As Jen points out above, when “scientists” tried to catch fish they caught nothing and therefore believed cod to be in real danger….but fisherman who actually new what they were doing had no trouble catching them. Anybody who has spent any time on the murray is aware of carp problems , so how they avoid mention in an environmental study is strange to ay the very least….

  20. Luke October 18, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Totally disingenuous Pikey and you know it.
    Yes I know they’re tortoises but the well quoted common name are turtles.
    And does not take away from the gut churning damage weirs and dams do to these species. Smashed shells – not a good look. Seen the pics of bashed to bits turtles?

    95% of golden perch are killed in undershot weirs too.

    Then there’s the sterilisation of habitat with cold water release from dams. Carp love it though.

    Then there’s the ongoing “accidents” with cotton chemicals.

    I put it to you that you have no idea of the nature of dispersive migration and gene pools in the top end of the system chain of ponds – councils pumping out water holds to dampen the dust – and that’s the refugia population between big wets gone !

    Try to out get more eh?

    Now not I didn’t say that I was anti-dams or irrigation – simply to say they have no impact really is bullshit. And technology needs to be better.

  21. Luke October 18, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    Hey best wishes to Jen tonight – dislike the personal attacks being made on-line against your motivations. Keep professional.

  22. Ron Pike October 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    Really!
    Who is being disingenuous?
    Luke, I repeat that there is far more permanent wetland in the MDB now (being the last few years), than there was before man built dams.
    Just get in a aircraft and go and have a look or even doing a run around with Google Earth and you can see that.
    Your other sweeping statements are not worthy of comment.
    Pikey.

  23. Luke October 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Which turned to dust when the water ran out. Like your rice paddies.

    Or perhaps we might remember Jen’s article about the dyke through the Macquarie marshes

    You haven’t answered my other points simply coz you can’t. Poor form and predictable denialsim.

    Which is why you lot can never be negotiated with. Just don’t ask for my tax dollars to prop you up ! Any new infrastructure – raise private funds.

  24. Ron Pike October 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Wrong Luke!
    As usual.
    All of the wetlands I am refering were kept from partially to totally full right throught the drought.
    Your ignorance of fact is only exceede by your bluster and wild assumptions.
    Pikey.

  25. Luke October 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Wrong Pikey !

    You know I’d love to believe your homespun down on the bayou anecdotes, but you know …..

    http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/soe/soe2009/chapter6/chp_6.3.htm

    But might be one of them thar com-knew-nist plots eh?

  26. John Sayers October 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    Luke – you keep on pronouncing your endless knowledge on all subjects yet we know not whence you came. All we receive are your endless tirades and abuse as if you are the master and we are mere slaves.

    I’ve announced whence I came so don’t you think that it finally time to announce where you come?

  27. Ron Pike October 18, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    Luke,
    Your incompetence in even trying to appreciate what is being said beggers belief.
    The paper you have referenced doesn’t even take into account the wetlands I am talking about.
    Both you and the papers Authors are beyond rational appreciation of the truth on this subject.
    Find a subject where you have some practical knowledge and maybe, just maybe you can gain some relevence.
    Presently you are the blog “Smartass” with zero credibility.
    Pikey.

  28. Luke October 18, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    So what we have from John and Ron – no data and abuse ! John – frankly I don’t care who you are or where you come from – we’re discussing objective evidence I thought.

    No statistics – no information – simply Pikey’s homespun yarns from down on the bayou. Fishing daze with Dad – Pullease ! I’ll start to tell you my own stories.

    Pikey you simply slag off as you’re not numerate. A few anecdotes ain’t a survey – ain’t measured areas. One end of the MDB ain’t the whole basin – it’s a big place.

  29. Ron Pike October 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    Yes Luke,
    And unlike you I know every bit of the MDB.
    You don’t and likely never will.
    Pikey.

  30. Luke October 18, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    Well give us some numbers then? So if there has been a net increase in wetlands – how much and where?

  31. el gordo October 18, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    Welcome back, Jennifer. Somehow I can’t picture you as a “loud lobbyist totally discounting millions of dollars of public investment in research over the years”.

    Luke, we face 20 years of a well-watered MDB, so we don’t need the dams or water but back, but what we desperately need is the for the msm to publish the truth for a change.

  32. John Sayers October 18, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    Congrats Jennifer – you were wonderful tonight – you looked great, you spoke great and you made your imprint.

    I expect more from you from now on. You’ve made your mark.

  33. cohenite October 18, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    Very gutsy effort Jennifer; especially against the faux avuncular patronage of Flannery.

  34. Debbie October 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    Interesting comments. Why does it always seem to get down to the environment versus the users and conservers of water? Most of us out here know how to peacefully and proudly co-exist with our environment. We can all do so much better than this! Jennifer seems to be the only one who is looking at positive solutions! Hey Luke….when did Primary Source evidence go out of fashion? It is just as valuable as any computer model. The truth out here in the basin is that we live in a country of extremes…sometimes (like now ironically) it’s too wet, sometimes too dry and rarely just perfect. Thank god our forefathers had vision….otherwise this latest drought would have killed off most of South Australia…..you know we actually kept all the rivers running despite the drought? All the wetlands struggled through too…despite the rhetoric and criticism…we didn’t do a bad job! If we were smart we would build more storages, solve the problems in SA by using resources and solutions in SA and stop scrapping as if we’re all enemies! We love living in this environment….come out and have a look what’s happening right now. It’s a cacophony of noise and abundance…including in the crops! More storages will also mean more water for the environment….you all do realise that don’t you?

  35. halfacow October 18, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    Luke,
    Keep up the good work. Lots of misinformation on this blog with a very healthy dose of bias.

    Jennifer,
    Your form on QandA tonight was nothing short of disgusting, you really need to learn some manners and show the basic courtesy that was afforded to yourself.

  36. Dallas Beaufort October 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    Well done Jennifer, if a frozen Koala can be trans located to private property, then photographed,and run the next day in the newspaper, it would only take 30 days for the government to regulate the property as significant Koala Habitat.
    The quality of the facts or tampering with evidence is of no interest to green labor and others who benefit through this corruption.

  37. christine October 18, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    Jennifer,

    I was so impressed with your information and your commitment to reason and facts on Q & A tonight, that I looked up more information about you. I will now try to see that people I know also refer to your articles and hopefully that will be one more small step for democratic, reasoned argument of the Murray Darling Basin issue.

    I agree with all you say about journalism’s lack of objectivity; but then I left journalism when I was very young (45 years ago) because of that very same thing! Basically then it was laziness and a desire to fill the pages and get to the pub or Duckboard House) quickly, that motivated most of the paper’s influential people, such as sub and features editors, to abandon true objectivity and go for the quick fix in story telling. A personal agenda or campaign bias without objectivity on the part of a reporting journalist or editorial staff, is still laziness.

    The trouble is, mankind is ruled by ego and the need to be part of a tribe – preferably in a leadership position. A journalist with licence to promote his/her pet theories and to satisfy his/her ego in leading the pack, is a very common – albeit dangerous – creature. Even the most attractive media – and seemingly ecologically – friendly personalities, who carry people along with their seemingly passionate love for nature, are susceptible to this seductive power!

    Thank God for the Internet. Newspapers now have some real competition and so be it. Of course ithe Internet too can be misleading but it also gives such scope for personal research. There are some wonderful journalists who write for the print media in a novel, balanced and entertaining way; but they are sorely betrayed by the others. I see no reason why the better of these professionals should not live on to write for the Internet or better publications and be paid well for their efforts.

    Interestingly, did you note Mike Kelly’s repeated reference to the wonderful opportunities – meaning business opportunities – for new industries related to climate change? That, I believe, is the rub. There is a vested interest, from the media to the windmill farms and more, to see climate change as an established fact, and to stiffle any further debate on it. It happens in all sorts of industries, medicine being a notable case, where you have established industries that are mature or hard to break into and/or you do not really have any new market opportunities (or reader interest)! That is, until you have a crisis. So the answer is, help create one!

    I am not, at this stage, either a believer or a sceptic about climate change, or the health of the Murray Darling River system. All I want are more facts and more high quality debate. But I do love the Murray Darling basin farmers. They are going to kick up one hell of a stink and, knowing a lot of farmers, I don’t believe it is just for their own survival – although of course there will be some that are only operating out of self interest.

    The farmers have been “jerked around” for a long time and, though many of them are often very taciturn, this time they are drawing on their core strengths that have got them through all that nature throws at them.

    But if they – or anyone else – want to really draw attention to the need for true debate, they should focus on the cost to the consumer of closing down the farming industries there. NOTHING, but nothing, works as well as hitting the nation’s hip pocket. It’s the stick that gets the donkey’s attention.

    See what it did for the miners?

    Good luck and keep up the good work and your courage Jennifer. When the media realises it has worn out the crisis-to-the-environment angle on the Murray Darling Basin, it will turn to the crisis-to-the- economy-one (as will the politicians) neither of which is a Good Thing but at least that will start to force more Australians to investigate the science and the issues and think for themselves.

    And remember, when people start making personal attacks on you, as happened tonight on Q & A, remember, you have touched a sore spot in them that they can’t handle without aggression.

  38. Dallas Beaufort October 18, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    And Jennifer, the lost lefts attack on news limited tonight is only envy dressed up as news by the lazy abc and their climate change fans to fill a lot of their vacant spaces. Tim Flannery came over as a cuddly playschool trojan horse bluffing his way through while repelling all. He would make a good replacement for Tony Jones.

  39. cementafriend October 18, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    Good effort Jennifer particularly at the end on the Murray. You had Flannery flummoxed there.
    However, I personally thought that to let him in at the start was a mistake.
    Firstly, you could have said that the earth is not a closed system so the concept of a glass/plastic film “greenhouse” does not apply to the any planet. It has been shown with measured surface temperatures on Venus that there is no “greenhouse” there. The temperature can be explained by the high pressure (90 atm or 9000 kpa) of the CO2 atmosphere.
    Secondly, you could have said that while CO2 does absorbs radiation in three very narrow wavelengths in the infra-red spectrum, there is a) doubt about the extent of surface radiation in comparison to heat transfer by evaporation and convection b) the range of wavelength absorption of water vapor is very much greater -about 5 times that of CO2 c) there is fifty times as much water vapor in the atmosphere as CO2 and d) clouds which have been shown to cover on average 67% of the globe in one year has a much greater effect on incoming and outgoing radiation than all the atmospheric gases put together. This together makes the effect of CO2 at present or in future insignificant.
    Flannery admitted his expertise is not in climate. It is a pity Greg Hunt was there to also display his lack of understanding of basic science.

  40. Debbie October 19, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    Tim Flannery raised that ugly divisive argument about how he and the Wentworth Group think they know which are the more valuable crops. They claim because of what happened in the water trade in 2007, they can determine which types of farming enterprises are more valuable. Obviously they only looked at statistics from a very narrow timeframe….put those on a computer model….and came up with their answer! He never bothered to ask WHY people sold water that year and WHY people bought it. That’s why it’s important to “observe” as well as “compile statistics”. He also claimed that because of what happened in the drought and the water trade in the worst year of the drought, that proves that irrigated agriculture can survive with 60% less water…..which planet does he come from? Just so it’s clear….people sold water because they didn’t have enough at the right time to do anything on their farms. The only thing they could do with it was to sell it. People bought water because they were running dairies or had permanent plantings and had no choice! Well I suppose they had the choice to let their animals and their trees die. It had absolutely nothing to do with which crops or enterprises were more valuable.

  41. Susan October 19, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    Nice try Jennifer to get some facts out there about the real problem of the barrages. There is a new blogpost here http://lakesneedwater.blogspot.com/ for anyone looking for more information about the problem with the barrages and how they affect the health of the river.

    Now, where do I get one of those “Remove the Barrages” T-shirts!

  42. Mark October 19, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    Jennifer, anyone who understands the science behind current environmental debates has known for a long time that you are a deliberately myopic, one-eyed problem-denier. Was great to see you exposed as such on QandA last night. Your constant talking-over the other panelists when they said something you didn’t want the public to hear spoke volumes about your approach to these debates- you are all tricks and smoothetalk.

  43. cohenite October 19, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    Wrack off mark; Jennifer was repeatedly told by that thug flannery that she should not talk over her betters but if she didn’t she wasn’t going to get any opportunity from Mr abc balance jones. You’re an idiot mate.

  44. Debbie October 19, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    From the turtles, or actually, as Pikey points out, tortoises.
    Dear Luke,
    Thanks for pointing out that a few of us run into grief at the dam walls. We wonder if you would mind telling everyone to stop diving their cars and stop mowing their lawns and to put down their pet dogs and cats? Those are the real problems for us tortoises!

  45. el gordo October 19, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    Anyone who understands the science, knows that Mark doesn’t.

  46. toby robertson October 19, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    That will be the last time i waste my time listening or watching QnA. The panel was originally 4 and ended up with 6 and more time was spent on the “sainthood” of mary than the serious topic we were hoping for. There was really no decent question and sadly Jen, I dont think anybody will modify their thinking based on the few minutes you were allowed to speak. Surely both AGW and the MDB are worthy of the whole hour? By being so superficial, nobody walks away having been able to say much and nobody has learnt anything. Basically the ABC get a “free kick” and can now say they offer balance. Never again.

  47. DaveB October 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    It must have been the worst Q&A I have ever seen. Important issues such as climate change and the Murray River were relegated to 20 min at the end. So good to see public intellectuals challenged, but so little time given to it. Talking over Flannery was probably not a good look for the sceptics, but I can certainly relate to the frustration Jennifer must had experienced in trying to get her views across in such a limited time. Flannery and his mates up till now have had the luxury of unlimited air-time, I can only hope this will change.

  48. Green Davey October 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Hello,
    Been overseas for a while, but saw the Q & A last night. Did I hear Tim Flannery claim climate expertise on the basis of a background in palaeontology? I believe this is the study of extinct plants and animals. While this may be relevant to past major climate changes, I can’t see its relevance to prediction of ‘anthropogenic catastrophic climate change’ in the 21st century. Tim should bone up on philosophy. His rhetoric was exemplary, but I question his logic and epistemology. Jennifer came across, at least to me, as more sincere, albeit comparatively naive in rhetoric. At an interview for a reliable scientist, I would choose Jennifer.
    P.S. Tim, regardless of IPCC, CSIRO, and ABC tendencies, be careful about rhetorical use of the term ‘95% confidence’. There may be careful statisticians listening, and wondering what you actually mean.

  49. cohenite October 19, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Well GD, it was annoying that a lot of what flannels had to say went through to the keeper; his comments about the reliability of IPCC conclusions because they were based on high confidence levels was a prime example; this article deals with the issue:

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/29880.html

    The comments are instructive on this point of statistical certainty and confidence levels; if you can wade through the vitriol.

  50. Ian Mott October 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Sorry Jen, I glazed over and bailed out while they were still on McSainthood.

    Just past the far end of the Darling River is the Brisbane River. And you can see what a mess the metrocentrics have made of it at http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2010/10/you-waste-we-pay

    Standard urban MO. Imagine a problem, ignore all the evidence to the contrary, call it a crisis, borrow billions, spend like a drunken sailor, and then find a rural community to foot the bill. Plus ca change..?

    And as for the boy wonder. For fox ache Luke, your stats on dead turtles at dam walls are oblivious to the absolute certainty that the total population of turtles would have been substantially boosted by the dam itself. You would get the same results at the bottom of any waterfall. But unlike the natural feature, dams actually expand the population and surprise, surprise, more living turtles eventually leads to more dead ones. As all the elders of real ecology will tell you, start worrying when you don’t see dead turtles because that is when you won’t find any living ones as well.

  51. GM October 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Must agree with the comments about ABC – a whole pile of irrelevant rubbish about Saint Mary and but a few minutes on the subject at hand, given the range of expertise and knowledge in the panel. Might be good next week to have in some bishops and priests and ask them questions about climate change.

    Nice to see some new contributors to comments on this blog too, regardless of their perspectives. Though Luke does himself no favours with his adolescent twaddle. He seems to know his stuff and I like his counter arguments, but the childish insults simply show him in a bad light to an infrequent visitor. I wouldn’t have him to dinner. Would anyone else? Perhaps his mum didn’t teach him manners…

  52. Green Davey October 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Cohenite, thanks for the pointer to the ABC’s ‘Drum’ website, but I find it impossible to read, due to use of black text on a partly black background. Is this a cunning ploy by the ABC webmaster? Is there some cunning way I can get around it?

    Motters, I agree with your point about more dead turtles meaning there are more live turtles. Where I live, brown bandicoots have increased enormously since the foxes were poisoned. As a result, we see more dead bandicoots on the roads. Some people take this as evidence that bandicoots are ‘rare and endangered’. I don’t theenk so – they even dig up the tater peelings I bury for eco-friendly ‘organic gardening’. Come to think of it, I buried tater peelings long before ‘organic gardening’ was invented, but there were few bandicoots then.

  53. Green Davey October 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    Okay Cohenite,
    I found the cunning way around (Google button). All clear now.

  54. el gordo October 19, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Reading through last night’s QandA transcript I think the ABC should chance a full blown climate debate. No Mary stories to bother us, just a robust discussion, evenly matched.

    Flummery and Jen will be there and for our side I also nominate Jo Nova.

    If there’s anybody at Aunty with any sense, they would see this as riveting TV.

  55. Luke October 19, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    So enjoyed the classic Mottsian logic of “get a bloody big storage into yas”. Assuming turtles are like lung fish.
    http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/register/p02214aa.pdf

    From that bloody big Fairbairn Dam in Central Qld.

    A total of 498 live Emydura macquarii krefftii and 2 live Chelodina expansa were captured.
    There was a lack of small immature turtles within Lake Maraboon, indicating reduced recruitment of hatchlings in recent years.
    During water releases in 2006, 163 E. m. krefftii and 5 C. expansa died on the trash screens. All were adult or near adult turtles. Mortality on trash screens from water releases during drought years has the potential to account for several hundred turtles per year.
    An additional 65 dead E. m. krefftii and 4 dead C. expansa were recorded in and below the dam.
    Boating interactions are estimated to kill several hundred turtles per year.
    “Ghost fishing” by lost or discarded opera traps is estimated to kill several hundred turtles per year.
    Mortality from deliberate killing of turtles caught on fishing lines accounts for an undetermined but possibly small number of turtles per year.
    Addition of Acrolein into the irrigation channel to reduce within-stream vegetation has the potential to impact on freshwater turtles that can move freely between the upper irrigation channel and the flow into the Nogoa River.
    There was an outbreak of bacterial “shell rot” infecting E. m. krefftii at Gildie Bay within the impoundment.

    There have been two recorded events, each over several months, between 2003 and 2006 with numerous turtles trapped and killed on the outlet screens at Fairbairn Dam (SunWater, 2003, unpublished SunWater data). In response to the continuing problem, SunWater requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) turtle biologists to survey the turtle populations at this dam.
    There are six recognised species of freshwater turtles recorded within the Fitzroy/Dawson Catchment area (Table 1). Four are commonly found species: one is classified as vulnerable (Rheodytes leukops), and one is a newly described species of conservation concern but whose conservation status is yet to be evaluated (Elseya albagula). Previous studies within this area (Tucker, 1999) demonstrated a reduced level of species diversity within the impoundment and a higher diversity in quasi natural stream environments further downstream. Tucker (1999) in a study of the Fitzroy, Burnett and Mary Catchments demonstrated that the greater the size of the impoundment and the longer it had been in place, the lower the species diversity. The loss in diversity was primarily threatened species.
    This report summarises the results of a rapid survey of the turtle populations at Fairbairn Dam during 7-13 March 2006 and identifies sources of turtle mortality from human activities
    Of course that would be from your greenie commie EPA types.
    So given these species are adapted for riffles (fast shallows) it looks like bloody big water bodies like dams may not be all they’re cracked up to be. But don’t let riffles ruffle yas.

    So what did SKM reckon :

    Hamann et al. (2004), Limpus et al. (2007) studies in the Burnett and Fitzroy Rivers
    respectively to identify other likely negative impacts of these structures on the health
    and mortality of turtles:

    Impoundment structures are barrier to the movement (migration) of turtles up and
    down the streams. In the long term this has the potential to limit gene flow within
    the population as a whole.

    No existing fishway has been proven suitable for enabling turtles to pass back and
    forth safety past impoundment infrastructures.

    Some turtles are significantly damaged or killed when they are washed over
    impoundment structures with flooding events and smashed on the concrete or rock
    structures at the base of walls or when turtles trying to climb the walls fall back
    onto the concrete or rock footings.

    Turtles are attracted to and aggregate within the low velocity stream flows
    associated with environmental flows from impoundment structures. Some of these
    same turtles are significantly damaged or killed when they are washed back with
    high velocity water releases through an impoundment wall, e.g. with agricultural
    flow releases.

    Filter systems to prevent trash entering and blocking water release intakes on the
    upstream side of impoundment infrastructure can trap large numbers of turtles and
    cause their death.

    But what would consultants know eh?

    And enjoy http://iae.canberra.edu.au/reprints/2009_kennett_etal_CRM_longicollis.pdf – “Threats to Survival” on second last page.

    Seems like turtles know not to cross the road. LOL !

  56. Derek Smith October 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Debbie the turtle, excellent point.
    Where I live in the Adelaide hills, there is not a lot of obvious wildlife, the same small group of grey roos etc., so it bothers me when I see native road kill. I’ve had the misfortune to have run over a couple of sleepy lizards while slashing my property but as much as it cuts me up, I can’t not slash.

    This is where the malcontents on this blog misunderstand most of the rest of us. We have a deep connection to and passion for the environment that is in no way contradicted by our position on climate change.

  57. John Sayers October 19, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    turtles sure don’t know how to cross the road.

    When I see then on my local roads I stop and carry them across the road so they can survive. Unfortunately they are reptiles so they need heat to survive – so like the lizards that hang around the roads edges they are prone to being run over because they take their heat from the bitumen roads we create.

  58. Derek Smith October 19, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    I remember reading some time back in the Adelaide hills Courier, a letter to the editor about the “beware, Koalas crossing” signs near the bottom of the freeway. The woman thought that it would be more sensible to locate the signs in another spot that wasn’t so dangerous for said Koalas to cross.
    Now there’s thoughtfulness for you.

  59. toby robertson October 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    Here in the Yarra valley there are many wombats killed on the roads. Wwhen I first moved here this really used to concern me greatly. However I have since spoken with many rangers who assure me these are infact a good sign, “worry when you stop seeing dead ones” is their comment.

  60. hunter October 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    If turtles are getting injured by the debris screens, there are solutions for that which permit them to climb out of harm’s way.
    Another aspect is to encourage breeding programs to mitigate negative aspects of human impacts.
    Road kill is a significant issue and diversions barriers and over passes have been used successfully.
    But if people are this concerned about river management, then how much should we all admire the marketing efforts that have imposed windmills on so much landscape?

  61. Len October 20, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    I was speaking to the fellow who gave Timmy grant money to do his post graduate degree. Tim’s bachelor degree was in English. My friend told me,Tim from his basic degree in English, is firstly, a specialist in Bull$hit.

  62. Luke October 20, 2010 at 7:09 am #

    Some graphic pictures of dam induced turtle damage and a turtle bashing fish lift.

    http://swampnews.squarespace.com/display/ShowGallery?moduleId=785947&galleryId=45254

  63. cohenite October 20, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Your concern is touching luke, but rest assured the turtles are adjusting and indeed are fighting back:

    http://ramascreen.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles.jpg

  64. CJ Morgan October 20, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    I just watched Monday’s Q&A on iView, and I really must encourage Jennifer to try and get more TV exposure.

    She’s the best advertisement against AGW denialism and water over-allocation that I’ve seen. Terms like ‘ditzy’, ‘airhead’, ‘discourteous’ and ‘vapid’ leap to mind.

    Perhaps the Greens could put her on a retainer? She’s wasted as an industry shill.

  65. el gordo October 20, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    Len

    Flummery doesn’t understand the meaning of verballing, but he knows the smell of money.

    http://asiancorrespondent.com/gavin-atkins-shadowlands/geothermal-a-relatively-straightforward-way-to-lose-your-money

  66. Debbie October 20, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    Good point Derek.
    Unfortunately our wildlife can’t read. Neither can the native flora. Roads, traffic and man’s need to have an ordered urban environment are by far the most worrisome problems for our wildlife and our native flora. Considering the demographics of our great country, we can’t do much about changing this, but, it should still be recognised. Maybe we should teach native fauna and flora to read and then they would know not to cross there, swim there or grow there because they could read the warning signs?
    Have you also noticed that “Mother Nature” can’t read either? The computer models and calculations have not predicted this latest flood event. She musn’t have read and studied them or taken any notice of their warnings!
    The massive alarmist campaign about water conservation and climate change and global warming and farming is becoming quite ironic when you bear these facts in mind. As pointed out by other contributors: farmers in Australia, though not perfect by any means, are rapidly learning to peacefully co-exist with the environment and, as an added bonus, becoming more productive. We need to be looking for positive solutions rather than getting involved in pointless squabbles about who is causing what and who is the most to blame. We all make mistakes and we can also fix them because, unlike our native species, we can read and we can learn and we can do better! Thinking in regressive or negative terms, which seems to be the fashion amongst too many of our academics at the moment, has little chance of solving anything.
    Jennifer is looking for and encouraging positive and progresive solutions. Maybe others like Tim Flannery could start thinking that way too? Most of his “gloom and doom” predictions have not come true. He is always preaching…STOP! A DISASTER IS COMING! TAKE BACK! SHUT DOWN! etc etc. The strangest part is that it is always someone else who has to do all these things. Not the precious doomsday academics.

  67. Luke October 20, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Well in that case we have a major extinction event underway across the top of Australia from a complex of multiple attacks – toads, cats and fire – so what are we doing about it then?

  68. CJ Morgan October 20, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    I just watched Monday’s Q&A on iView, and I really must encourage Jennifer to try and get more TV exposure.

    She’s the best advertisement against AGW denialism and water over-allocation that I’ve seen. Terms like ‘ditzy’, ‘airhead’, ‘discourteous’ and ‘vapid’ leap to mind.

    Perhaps the Greens could put her on a retainer? She’s wasted as an industry shill.

  69. Larry Fields October 20, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Jennifer,
    I’ve written a prospect guest-post, “How Natural is Veganism?” Although I have not done any scientific experiments in that area, I have connected a few dots. If nothing else, it should be a good conversation stater. However, there’s a small problem.

    When I’ve tried to contact you directly in the past, my emails didn’t get past your spam filter. Apparently it’s allergic to Yahoo addresses. So I got around the problem by posting the prospective articles as comments in the Sydney fireworks thread, at the end of 2008.

    If this latest effort passes muster, you can upgrade it to a guest-post. Otherwise it’ll languish at the bottom of Sydney Harbor.

    Regards,
    Larry Fields

  70. Green Davey October 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    Luc,
    Mon cher ami, c’est facile. Encourage ze cats to eat ze toads, so poisoning zemselves. Zen set fire to ze bush and incinerate les crapauds. Next probleme?
    P.S. Install sponge rubber at the base of dam walls to prevent turtle fracture. Or Peter Garrett might be interested in a design I have for a miniature turtle bungee rope – think of the tourist income. Ross Garnaut could do some modeling on that, and produce a glossy report.

  71. cementafriend October 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Larry Fields, try Jennifier’s site for a start, subscribe and tell her about yourself. Then she will have something to go by. I personally filter out many addresses including “yahoo.com”, “aol.com” and “hotmail.com” to reduce spam. Get yourself a respectable account. You can get broadband for about $20/month.

  72. el gordo October 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    Luke

    Those bloody toads are a worry, but as soon as all that money devoted to AGW comes back on stream for the environment, we should come up with the ultimate solution for defeating the buggers.

    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/cartoon_-_GW_Causes_Stuff.jpg

  73. jennifer October 20, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Larry,
    Found your post here:
    http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2008/12/sydney-to-offset-new-year-fireworks/
    Much thanks.
    Not sure why I don’t get your emails. I get other emails with a yahoo address… do you use your real name with the @yahoo.com or something else?

  74. Larry Fields October 21, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    Jennifer,
    I’m completely baffled about that. Yes, I do use my real name. I do have a few Yahoo handles, but I use this one 99% of the time. And I have another avatar–a Border Collie. Is there a separate yahoo.au that your spam filter feels more comfortable with?

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