But Jonathan Holmes: Your Report Has Not Been Peer-Reviewed and It’s Wrong

LAST Monday on ABC TV’s Media Watch the sniggering Jonathan Holmes suggested that there was something wrong with Peter Ridd peer-reviewing my technical report ‘Plugging the Murray’s Mouth: The Interrupted Evolution of a Barrier Estuary’.

Today I was interviewed on ABC Radio National’s Counterpoint and Michael Duffy commented that Professor Peter Ridd said he might have not seen flaws in it.

I replied that Peter Ridd told me a Media Watch research person had phoned him. Apparently she spent a lot of time talking with him about the flaws in peer review. Peer review is a process in which suitably qualified scientists are invited to comment on articles prior to publication. Peter is a scientist from James Cook University who is qualified to comment on the report I wrote.

The bottom line is Professor Ridd and I are colleagues. The paper was not sent to a journal. It was a technical report for the Australian Environment Foundation and Professor Ridd was asked to review it. Had he found errors I am sure that he would have told me and I would have corrected them before it was published.

I was also asked on radio today if anyone else had peer-review the technical report. I comment that I have sent the report to other estuary expert and they have told me it is sound. But they have not been prepared to have their named attached to it because of the politics.

Mr Duffy also commented on national radio today that two scientists who wrote papers I quoted have since said they disagree with me. I was asked to comment on this and I replied that Media Watch sent me specific written questions. The first question was: Do you accept that the vast majority of recognised experts on the natural history and hydrology of the Lower Lakes disagree with your conclusion that they were estuarine immediately prior to the erection of the Murray Mouth barrages, or at any time in the past 2000 years?

I replied: No. The relevant scientific literature, as published in peer-reviewed journals by recognised experts, indicates that the Lower Lakes were estuarine prior to the erection of the Murray Mouth barrages. I then provide the names of experts and quoted some of them.

Listen to the complete interview here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/counterpoint/murray-mouth/3908760

I explained that Bob Bourman is an expert on the geomorphology and hydrology of the Lower Murray and he has written that:

“Originally a vibrant, highly productive estuarine ecosystem of 75,000 ha, characterised by mixing of brackish and fresh water with highly variable flows, BARRAGE construction has transformed the Lower Lakes into freshwater bodies with permanently raised water levels; freshwater discharge has been reduced by 75% and the tidal prism by 90%”

That Media Watch chose to ignore this quote and suggest that Professor Bourman thought otherwise shows that Media Watch does not care about the truth and/or is incapable of independent assessment of information.

So what information did Media Watch rely upon?

Not a peer-reviewed report and clearly not the peer-reviewed work of Professor Bourman.

In fact Media Watch replied upon a report written by Jennie Fluin, Deborah Haynes and John Tibby entitled ‘An environmental history of the Lower Lakes and Coorong’.

This report commissioned by the South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage appears to have never been peer-reviewed. This is the key report that the South Australian government quotes when anyone make enquires about their claim that Lake Alexandrina has a freshwater history.

This commissioned report that has never been peer-reviewed is also the report that the Media Watch team relied upon.

Of course the real value of a report, be it my report, or their non-peer reviewed report, is whether or not the information presented stands the test of time.

I’m confident that my report will. I’m of the opinion that the report replied upon by Mr Holmes will not. This report by Drs Fluin, Haynes and Tibby implies that the modern pre-barrage Murray River estuary represents a steady-state that was formed de novo some time prior to 7,000 years, and which has remained essentially unchanged since.

Such an interpretation denies geological and environmental reality, for the scientific literature clearly shows that Lake Alexandrina has a marine origin that dates back to a period of late Pleistocene and Holocene sea level rise (say over the last approximately 12,000 years).

During this time the coastal sand barrier and related landward estuarine environments have evolved and changed naturally, including manifold changes in salinity in different parts of the estuarine complex.

Drs Fluin, Haynes and Tibby have published papers discussing the past history of lakes and wetlands based on the presence or absence of particular species of diatom – unicellular algae with bodies of silica – in sediment cores.

But their claim that there is no evidence of substantial marine incursions is at odds with not only what we know about how Southern Australian estuaries evolved and now function, but also many studies published in reputable scientific journals including research papers authored by the same scientist, Drs Fluin, Haynes and Tibby.  Indeed the claim is inconsistent with the specific diatom assemblage described in their published papers and also in their report to the South Australian government.

The Fluin et al. analysis of diatoms in sediment cores also ignores a large international scientific literature that shows that the majority of reported diatom species have a salinity tolerance in excess of 50 per cent seawater. It is difficult to understand why this critical fact was not discussed by these scientists in their report to government. Most of the diatom species are common in estuaries around the world including in Japan, China, India, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, the UK, Portugal, Holland, Germany and Sweden.

The Murray Mouth Controversy
ABC Radio National. Counterpoint. Michael Duffy
March 26, 2012

20 Responses to But Jonathan Holmes: Your Report Has Not Been Peer-Reviewed and It’s Wrong

  1. Doug Proctor March 27, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    In order to falsify the “never before” have a marine incursion, one only needs to identify prior, higher sea levels than today. The 1 to 2 m higher levels which will be found by raised beaches inland of any current low angle beach-lagoon area prove the point.

    Air photos of such places, maybe even Google Earth, will locate those.

    Once the “never” has been disproved, the current situation and report are back open to discussion.

  2. John Turner March 27, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    If the lower end of the Murray was not often predominately saltish with regular and substantial inflows of sea water why was the existing barrier built, if not to prevent that happening.
    I agree a fresh water off-take situated upstream of where the Murray enters the lake would allow irrigation around the lower lakes to continue. A permanent navigable entrance from the sea would make sense as provided at Swansea NSW, at the entrance to Lake Macquarie. Lake Macquarie functions successfully as a salt water lake with great sailing, other water sports and fishing. I enjoy living on its shoreline. Maybe everyone could be winners.

  3. Neville March 27, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    We know that SLs were at least 1.5 metres higher along the east coast of Australia only 4,000 years ago, so what happened to the lakes and Murray estaury then I wonder?
    Google Catalyst ABC Narabeen man or UNSW.

    Just a point of interest about this mitigation of AGW fraud. It seems that even the Greens have to admit it’s nonsense when challenged.
    But alas not the idiot AGE news rag, they’re still hooked on symbolism the moronic fools.


  4. Neville March 27, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Some interesting info from NASA about Bering sea ice at near record levels. In fact Bering sea etc is choking with ice.


  5. marc March 27, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Good morning Jennifer – are there or is there any evidence of pre-existing stands of the grey mangrove (Avicennia marina) in Lake Alexandrina or Lake Albert?

    In relation to Peter Ridd of JCU, what is his knowledge of or expertise in the lower reaches of the Murray?

  6. jennifer March 27, 2012 at 9:14 am #


    Bob Bourman has expertise specific to the Lower Murray. Peter Ridd has expertise specific to estuaries including wave dominated barrier estuaries.

    There are stands of grey mangrove around coastal South Australia. I am not aware of any evidence for pre-existing stands in the Lower Murray. If you accept the general model for barrier estuary development (e.g. see my ‘Plugging the Murray Mouth: The Interrupted Evolution of a Barrier Estuary’ report for reference to Geoscience report which is available online) then you would expect colonisation with mangroves as the estuary matures. As I explain in my report the evolution of the lower Murray estuary to a fully tidal system was interrupted by construction of the barrages. Read my report.

  7. Prof Rupert Holmes March 27, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Assessing this debate.

    The barrages are the salient (pardon the pun) visible evidence of man made influence.

    Do the barrages keep freshwater in? Yes.

    Do they keep salt water out? Yes.

    Obviously there must be an engineers report for the construction of the barrages, normally a project like this will provide reasoning for construction as well as type of construction. Reports are the fodder and excrement of government and especially land use documents.

    Thus the barrages themselves and original construction will lead inexorably to the necessary conclusions, with other evidence and historical personal annecdotal evidences previously in other threads already identified, the missing threads are acts or discussions in parliament, commissioned engineering reports, the original popular media have already provided clues, so it stands to reason a documentary engineering and construction paper trail must have existed, as well maintenance engineering documentation as well.

    Government debate exists because politicians have only one universal trait trying to achieve notoriety thru verbiage about important matters and the creation and maintenance of a water supply of a state capital city’s only dependable water source would attract attention seeking politicias and public servants of all hues and colors seeking fame.

    (Sherlock handles criminal matters, Mycroft handles Government matters, I myself am expert in environmental issues mainly my serious life’s work and mission in the identification and capture for preservation of mermaidius baremammarimius, an interesting fauna rumored to be half ampibian and half human, which brought me to this quiet pond of environmental debate and discourseoriginally, looking at a possible hybrid cousin species the dugong).

    Yours most respectfully,


    On wards Watson, Jessica Watson onwards to Flying fish cove the games afoot.

  8. jennifer March 27, 2012 at 10:12 am #


    There were many government reports. Many, many against the construction of the barrages detailing the damage they would do to the environment.

    A summary of a 1903 report can be found at http://www.lakesneedwater.org specifically here:


    And the following extract explains how shoaling at the Murray Mouth would become worse.

    “The construction of a weir or dam in the tidal compartment of a river has invariably been found to result in the shoaling not only of the portion of the river immediately above the dam, but also below it. In the case under consideration, however, the area of the lakes is so immense that shoaling above the barrage would not be appreciable for a very long period of time. Below the weirs the effect would be more quickly noticeable, especially as the sandhills which separate the river from the sea below the proposed site for the barrage in the Goolwa channel are drifting badly. During dry periods, when there would be little or no discharge over the weirs, the Murray, mouth would become so shoal as to be unnavigable; indeed, were it not for the long stretch of water in the Coorong which would enable the tide to propagate itself up a distance of many miles, the Murray mouth after the barrage is constructed might be expected to shoal up completely.”

  9. hunter March 27, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Are the pro-barage people actually claiming that prior to the barrages marine water was not able to flow up the river?
    How on-the-face-stupid could those proponents be?

  10. Professor Rupus Holmes March 27, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Yes indeed these documents exist but these were not the documents I discussed with pertainment to your thesis upheld and this continuing discourse with those intellectual novices (let alone environmental science novices) at Media Witch Hunts a subsidiary of Jonathon Moriarity and Associates, Evil for Hire incorporated or as we in serious science circles proscribe them, moronic hardly evolved from amoebic portozoids and newbonic twits at Auntie.

    I was talking about government engineering documents.

    For example If one designs builds a bridge one details how much and what type of traffic it carries, the depth to which footings in the earth base one must drive foundations and so on, it is all in the specifications.

    So it would seem that an engineering document on a Dam or pieces of dam engineering would specify the types of flows it it would be built to inhibit or mitigate or store. Possible factors to the design that impact primary purpose would be specified as risks in risk assessment, so if a dam or series of dams was built to store potable water than an encroachment by salt water would be considered a risk and be designed and engineered against and would be noted in engineering specs.

    So my suggestion my very dear Dr Marohasy, is obtain the engineering documentations relevant, creative and maintenance, approach a fellow at your institution of higher learning or other, to provide opinion on the raison d’ettere for the original construction and hence you have the ultimate proof.

    Did you not once set your baker street boy anglers loose on malfeasants in the matter of the case of fraudulent and deceptive blame for murder of the Murray Rive Codfish, this is hardly different.

    (not codpieces you unenlightened swill in community audience in this serious discussion of your betters, so stop giggling).

    Remaining faithfully, professionally and your respected ally

    Emeritus Professor Rupert Homer Bigglesworth Holmes, Chair of Studies and Maritime Visiting fellow in aqua biotic life forms evolutionary between land and sea.

    Nobel Laureate and blah blah blah blah.


    😉 as the youth say.

  11. spangled drongo March 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Jen, congrats on the clarity of your points on ABCs Counterpoint.

    How ironic is it that such obvious logic can only get a fair hearing on a show which “our” ABC use as a bum-covering exercise for their otherwise totalitarian lefty-green philosophy.

    “A real story there for an ABC journo who is prepared to look at the peer reviewed literature”

    Just not Media Watch [or anyone at the ABC other than CP].

  12. Earl Magwitch of Marlsden March 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm #


    Alias the “nutty professor” ..as if it was possible to tell any difference between the nutty and the not so nuts ones

    I love it…more please

  13. John Sayers March 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    OT (sorry Jen but people should hear this)

    James Delingpole confronts Richard Bacon on BBC Radio 5 Live.


    He starts at `1hr 15min

  14. Neville March 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    More barking mad nonsense from THEIR ABC.


  15. jennifer March 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm #


    Yep. Stupid. And one pillar of a $10 billion water reform policy.

  16. jennifer March 27, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Just filing this here:


    Counterpoint puts boot into Mediawatch
    BY: NICK LEYS From: The Australian March 27, 2012 7:46AM

    RADIO National’s Counterpoint program spoke with Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a noted climate change sceptic in this country who recently published a report on the mouth of the River Murray.

    Media Watch subsequently rounded on Marohasy, pointing out her various affiliations and declaring a conflict of interest. Host Michael Duffy said the MW show had led to criticisms it was being hypocritical and was attacking the right in a way it would never attack the left. That’s a new one.

    The conversation is notable as Duffy tells listeners “we did ask MW to confirm our recollection that it has never criticised non-disclosure regarding scientists who support the IPCC position on climate change.”

    Duffy said he was still waiting for a response.

  17. hunter March 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    I live near Galveston Bay, which receives a medium sized river, a small river and multiple bayou systems in it and is protected by a long barrier island, emptying out and communicating with the Gulf via two passes. I have been in the bay when it is as briney as the Gulf of Mexico, and I have been in it when it is nearly fresh. It depends on rain flows in the systems, tides and winds. If we built dikes (barrages) across the two passes, we would dramatically change things in the bay. It sounds like defenders of your barrages are simply hoping to brazen it out. The irony is that wildlife and habitat has evolved to deal with alternating and variable salt levels, and to turn any tidal zone area into pure salt or fresh would be highly disruptive. Plus, over time, nature will win. At some point there will be a storm event that will destroy your barrages anyway.

  18. Doug Proctor March 28, 2012 at 1:36 am #


    Along with my comments and Neville’s, that sea level was about 1.5m higher a few thousand years ago: I don’t know what the sea-land slope is in the Murray Basin, so how far a 1.5m rise would go inland is nothing I can comment on. The only way you would keep a freshwater basin would be for a very high bay-mouth bar as you described was built. Mangroves require a certain brackishness, also, so an expansion of mangroves is not necessarily an requirement of sea level rise, if changes in salinity are not suitable.

    A higher sea level tends to move inland, rather than protect a lower inland basin, overall. Transgressive sea, regressive land system. Baymouth bars are sensitive to local conditions. I’d be betting on a tidal system with a higher sea level, not a stronger freshwater system.

    Hey! What do the warmists say would happen with rising sea levels? A swamping of the basin or the strengthening of it? Must be discussed in their work.

  19. gavin March 28, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    At the thread head Doug introduces our older coastline 1.5 M above concept and Nev follows with his idea it was up still there about 4000 years ago.

    Regardless of the time scale and relevance to those lower MDB lakes today, this view has been my main base for a fragile SL with regard to AGW. It’s time you guys also recognized the risk to all things man made round present SL which we assume is stable enough for massive development as done in our most recent past.

    Dykes at the Murray mouth are the least of our worries and Jennifer must concede she has barked up the wrong tree.

    BTW the Lower Murray runs in a deep gutter for most of it’s length in SA

  20. Robert March 28, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Gav, as a conservationist, I’m in favour of doing everything possible to protect coastline. Of course, it’s hard to tell some of my Green friends that driving cars on beaches is NOT okay because they love nature and watch the ABC. Know anyone like that?

    Dykes at the Murray Mouth are not beyond discussion because a guy called Gavin is cheering for a rise in sea level. It’s a bit like saying we can’t discuss apples because there are problems with oranges. It’s exactly like that, actually.

    But I’m wasting my time, aren’t I? Our Green Betters have finally found one dam – just one! – that they actually like. I can only take comfort in the fact that nobody in my part of the world would consent to barrages on the Hastings or the Macleay. Hell, we can’t even dredge Lake Cathie for the summer tourists – which may be a good thing.

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