THE ability to perceive anomaly – something that deviates from what is considered standard – is important for the progress of science and also good public policy.
Until the recent widespread flooding in Australia, water planning in the Murray Darling Basin was based on the assumption that the region would experience continuing drought because of climate change. The underlying science was considered the best available because it was endorsed by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology and it confidently predicted a major decline in rainfall for decades.
This assumption has since proven wrong. Indeed during 2010 rainfall was 163 percent of the long term average.
The latest flooding was predicted by Stewart Franks, a hydrologist at the University of Newcastle. Professor Franks, in a series of papers published in peer-reviewed journals since 2003, has confirmed and provided explanation, for what many farmers have known intuitively that the Murray Darling Basin generally exists in one of two states – flood or drought.
While recent flooding, and the rainfall totals for the Murray Darling for 2010, dramatically demonstrate the anomaly between government water policy and reality, Tony Windsor, the independent for New England who holds the balance of power in the federal parliament, remains in denial. Indeed despite the flooding he claims there is no need to rethink reform within the Murray Darling Basin.
In an article published by The Australian yesterday Mr Windsor went as far as to suggest that the Murray River is still dying.
So the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Australian Greens and now even the Independent member for the rural seat of New England are willfully ignoring evidence that contradicts their beliefs. This is a bad omen for public policy in Australia.