Last week, sociologist and blogger Mark Bahnisch made the comment that “blogging reflects not just a broader decline in civility, but something about the very nature of political discourse – it’s not about getting to the truth but about swaying others through means fair and foul.”
But surely blogging can be about honest discussion and debate. Surely through postings and comment on the same, there is the opportunity for a wide range of views to be canvassed and discussion advanced.
Such discussion is desperately needed on Murray River issues.
Interestingly, John Quiggin, is paid to research the “sustainable management of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB)” and is probably also Australia’s highest paid blogger.
He earns a massive $230,000 a year! No typo there.
I began working on MDB in July 2003 and six months later in December 2003 published “Myth and the Murray: Measuring the Real State of the River Environment”.
Since this time there have been two House of Representatives Parliamentary Inquiries on MDB issues; the Living Murray Initiative has been kick-started; and the National Water Initiative ratified.
Quiggin’s University home page gives a list of his submissions, newspaper articles, conference and journal papers. Quiggin regularly contributes opinion pieces to the Financial Review on a range of topics except the MDB. Most of his comment on the MDB appears to have been in his web-blog.
On 21st April 2004 I was alerted to a blog posting in which Quiggin suggested that the Prime Minister should consign the interim report of the House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry “to the dustbin, where it belonged” essentially because the committee had clearly been hoodwinked by me and that as an employee of the Institute of Public Affairs I was a right-wing hack.
This was my first introduction to the world of blogs.
Quiggin has since removed this posting. On 30th April he replaced it with a posting of the same title on the basis that “having veered from the Murray to libertarianism… I thought I’d move it back to the top of the page.” Quiggin deleted the first couple of paragraphs of the original posting but does not mention this in his re-posting.
He also made a posting on 24th April 2004 to what he called summarize his objections to the claims put forward by me.
In all of this Quiggin completely misrepresents my work and my recommendations. Quiggin also misrepresents the work of my colleague Lee Benson. Quiggin’s post of 30th April claims Benson and Marohasy’s main argument is that “we should do nothing until all the uncertainties are resolved”.
I make no such claim. Rather my concern is that academics and ‘science managers’ continue to seriously misrepresent the available data and sensible proposals to address real environmental problems.
Benson’s work recommends immediate actions to improve the MDB environment – but not what the government bureaucrats were proposing at that time.
A media release of November 2003 states “Dr Benson’s report puts forward a number of different approaches to system management – approaches which he believes will lead to significant environmental benefits with much less risk of social or economic impact than the current approach focusing on increased environmental flows.”
Benson’s proposals, backed by the MDB’s largest irrigation company, were surely worthy of detailed scholarly discussion by someone being paid to study the same. Instead Quiggin dismissed Benson’s detailed 70-page report in a single sentence on his web-blog and without outlining an alternative proposal from which we might move forward.
Frank Devine concluded his article in the March 2005 issue of Quadrant quoting Tim Blair with the comment that “blogs will remain raiders on the periphery of the media unless they can demonstrate an ability to build things up as well as cut them down.”