‘Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Those inspiring words are attributed to Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States (1923-1929).
It’s easy to give up. Particularly when you choose to take-on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But Bob F-J is no quitter. Following is yet another letter from Bob F-J to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation complaining about their Media Watch program of March 19. As Bob F-J explains in the following letter of complaint: Media Watch misled viewers by withholding critical facts. In particular, Media Watch failed to inform the Australian public about the majority view of scientists on the nature of the Murray River estuary and failed to inform the Australian public of the history of the Lower Murray and its estuary…
‘Audience and Consumer Affairs, GPO Box 9994, Sydney 2001
Dear Ms McLiesh,
Re: “What’s in a name” on Media Watch of March 19, 2012
I made a much broader subject complaint of May 8, and since have found that the ABC failed in its statutory duty in handling it. A&CA also failed to acknowledge the major issues in my original complaint and diverted to lesser points.
This new complaint focuses on the objective statutory issue. The particular breached clause in the ‘ABC Act 1983’ was:
8, Duties of the [ABC] Board:
8.1 (c) To ensure that the gathering and presentation by the Corporation of news and information is accurate and impartial according to the recognized standards of objective journalism…
This is reflected in the Editorial Policies thus;
2, Accuracy, Principles:
The ABC has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is accurate according to the recognised standards of objective journalism…
I submit that the ABC failed in this duty by way of the following examples:
A) Failed to inform the Australian public of the majority view of scientists on the nature of the Murray River’s estuary
Q1 Media Watch [email to Dr Marohasy]: 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?
A1 Jennifer Marohasy: 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. The following quote from a scientific paper published in the journal Marine Geology by Professors R.P. Bourman, A.P. Belperio, C.V. Murray-Wallace and N. Harvey, citing E. Barnett, seems to sum up the conclusion of these recognised experts:
“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 lakes into freshwater bodies with permanently raised water levels; freshwater discharge has been reduced by 75% and the tidal prism by 90% (Bourman and Barnett, 1995, Marine Geology 170:141-168)
Professor John Cann and co-workers have studied fossil foraminifera – tiny protozoa with shells of calcium carbonate preserved in the sediments of the Lower Lakes – concluding that the changes in the foraminiferal assemblages over the most recent 2,000 years indicate a general trend of increasing marine influence, up until the construction of the barrages that now block the natural ebb and flow between the Lower Lakes and Southern Ocean. ( Cann et al., Quarternary Research 53:378-391)
Professor Peter Gell writing in the recently published The Sage Handbook of Environmental Change has commented that the natural state of the Lower Lakes was tidal, that the lakes have been incorrectly listed as freshwater in the International Ramsar Convention, and that until their natural estuarine character is recognised it will be difficult to reverse the long-term decline in their ecological health. (See Chapter 27. Human Impacts on Lacustrine Ecosystems, page 595)
Geoscience Australia classifies the Lower Lakes as part of a wave dominated barrier estuary with positive annual hydrodynamics. (Ryan et al., Conceptual Models of Australia’s Estuaries and Coastal Waterways: Application for Coastal Resource Management, Geoscience Australia Record 2003/09. See appendix D.)
As stated in my complaint, these references identify eighteen (18) independent scientists in that field that agree that the lakes were estuarine prior to the installation of the barrages, and yet Mr Holmes made absolutely no mention of that. Instead he made bald statements and quotes giving an entirely different inference towards Dr Marohasy’s competence in the matter. For instance he quoted and opined:
“Fairfax Media’s The Stock Journal covered the story by posting an AEF media release: The new report [by Dr Marohasy]is supported by other peer-reviewed science papers and the historical record of the Lakes.
That’s an extraordinarily contentious claim.”
Yet, the consensus science and history is in overwhelming support. (although some other vested/political interests including a few controversial scientists….possibly with a vested interest….do contest it).
B) Failed to inform the Australian public of the history of the Lower Murray and its estuary
Dr Marohasy’s email response to Media Watch gave some brief history of the estuary prior to the barrages. The addendum included three maps and four newspaper articles. In my complaint item No.8 I wrote:
Both Dr Marohasy’s report and her reply to Media Watch advised brief histories recording estuarine conditions in the lakes prior to the barrages. It is baffling that there was zero mention of this in the show to support her and the AEF. Maybe the saline distribution maps and newspaper articles were too complicated for Media Watch staff to understand? Maybe just a couple of photos* below can help to clarify?
But again, there was absolutely no mention of the “inconvenient” history by Media Watch, and neither did it register with A&CA when emphasized with these photos!
Clearly Media Watch was in breach of Editorial Standard 3.1, that is, the program failed to:
3.1 Acknowledge and correct or clarify, in an appropriate manner as soon as reasonably practicable: a) significant material errors that are readily apparent or have been demonstrated; or b) information that is likely to significantly and materially mislead.
The Media Watch team erred and misled viewers by withholding critical facts in their possession! Consequently, the ABC should put corrections to air and in writing to Dr Marohasy, Prof Ridd and the AEF.
Also, although the editorial policies surprisingly do not include any considerations of ‘apology’, it would be proper to apologise to them just as was done in the case of Prof Ross Garnaut’s complaint against ‘The 7:30 Report’ over the programme “The Price of Gold”.
*Photos of porpoise and marine Mulloway from the estuary before the barrages were constructed stopping the tide and damming the estuary/converting a once vibrant estuary into an artificial freshwater reservoir.