This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.
Watching the Tide Roll Away – Advocacy and the Obfuscation of Evidence
The Murray Darling Basin Plan represents the largest investment in an Australian environmental management issue and remains highly conflicted owing to the contested allocation of diminishing water resources. Central to the decision to re-allocate consumptive water to environmental purposes was the case made to keep the terminal lakes in a freshwater condition. This freshwater state was identified as the natural condition on the basis of selected anecdotal evidence and was enshrined in the listing of the site under the Ramsar Convention. Independent evidence from water quality indicators (diatoms) preserved in lake and lagoon sediment records however, attested to an estuarine, albeit variable condition prior to the commissioning of near-mouth barrages in 1940. Political pressure saw the interpretation for a naturally estuarine history published after peer review, revised and released under state government sanction without review or acknowledgement of the original research. This act of intellectual suppression was the outcome of scientists succumbing to the temptation of advocacy for environmental flows. In the end the clear contradictions between the published evidence and the advocated interpretation has diminished credibility in the science behind the Basin Plan and acted to fuel discontent in those affected by water re-allocations.
PC17048 Accepted 04 March 2018
© CSIRO 2018