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Two-sided conversation

The Conversation, the Australian site for academic discourse, has carved out something of a name for itself as a site where only the climate orthodoxy can be aired. It is therefore refreshing to see it permit a dissenting opinion to see the light of day, and doubly so when its focus is an activist-academician like Tim Flannery.

The [drought] conditions were so bad that Tim Flannery, now Australia’s Chief Climate Commissioner, declared that cities such as Brisbane would never again have dam-filling rains. Rather bizarrely, in 2007 he stated that hotter soils meant that “even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and river systems”.

Fast forward to 2012 and we see widespread drenching rains, flooded towns and cities, and dams full to the brim and overtopping. Indeed, the rainfall that we had last year not only filled Brisbane City’s Wivenhoe Dam water supply storage, but also all of its flood mitigation capacity. The resultant releases of water required to prevent a truly catastrophic dam failure contributed to the inundation of large parts of metropolitan Brisbane.

How is it that Tim Flannery could have got it so spectacularly wrong? The most obvious factor could well be Flannery’s lack of background in a climate science. He is an academic, however his background is mammalogy – he studied the evolution of mammals.

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Reader Comments (48)

How is it that Tim Flannery could have got it so spectacularly wrong?

Maybe because his assumptions were spectacularly wrong.

Mar 6, 2012 at 7:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRalph Tittley

How curious, and geographically apt, that the situation is the exact reverse over here in the UK. Ten years ago, a conference was held at the Royal Society called "Flood Risk in a Changing Climate". All the experts were there, discussing the wtter winters and flooding that were, of course, a consequence of what was then known as Global Warming.

Fast forward to 20th February this year, and a special DEFRA (UK Agriculture Ministry) summit is held to discuss the implications of the drought that has been going for three years. There's talk of us farmers being asked to build reservoirs. That could take about ten years, by which time.....

Mar 6, 2012 at 7:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarmer Charlie

One swallow does not a summer make.

The Conversation has run dozens of CAGW pieces, including several by the delightful Stefan Lewandowsky, whose main line of academic business is along the lines that anyone who does not wholeheartedly support CAGW has a serious cognitive impairment.

Any site, let alone a supposedly academic one, that repeatedly runs this kind of pseudo-scientific rubbish has zero credibility IMO.

This piece is just a sop so that they can say - but look, we cover both sides of the issue!

Mar 6, 2012 at 7:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

"How is it that Tim Flannery could have got it so spectacularly wrong?"

He (and many others) are dabbling in Engineering and is not doing it using time-testing approaches used by professional (chartered) engineers.

Mar 6, 2012 at 7:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

I'm amazed Flannery hasn't replied yet demonstrating the rains are caused by AGW?

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Nice find, Farmer Charlie. Tim Osborn and Mike Hulme saying Winters are never going to be the same again, and that we'd better get used to rain all Winter... Now, what was that other article in the Independent around the same time predicting about Winter?

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

Six comments so far and not one of them has blamed left/green/commie conspiracy for the Brisbane floods. That's progress.

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:15 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Children just aren't going to know what rain is...

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Flannery, is a nutter of a special kind but we have them over here, Beddington and Nurse are not qualified to spiel on about climate this and warming that - but they both assumed 'expert status'. Mind you, though Flannery is a miserable marionette of the warmist cult, here in Britain we install green agitators to the chairs of institutions, like WWF [of AGW global advocacy and eco fascists] Frontman Bob Napier @ the Met Office - no wonder the AGW loonies thought they had it sewn up.

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

From The Sydney Morning Herald in 2008:

This drought may never break

IT MAY be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent, one of the nation’s most senior weather experts warned yesterday.

“Perhaps we should call it our new climate,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, David Jones....

“There is a debate in the climate community, after … close to 12 years of drought, whether this is something permanent. Certainly, in terms of temperature, that seems to be our reality, and that there is no turning back....”

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

It would seem that Flannery is now an embarassment, and is being disposed of. Yet he helped get so many people, including himself, into positions of power and influence over government policy that he should be given some kind of recognition. Useful Idiot comes to mind. Even the CO2 zealots can't wave aside the overlowing reservoirs in locations that Tremulous Timmy swore were doomed to drought. Another case of 'often wrong, never in doubt' that so characterises the CO2 Zealotry and associated political and financial and academic opportunism that have so disfigured these past 30 years.

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

In Australia aren't the cycles of drought and flood already understood? The opportunity to explain a cycle by example, explaining that one should be hopeful a current trend will break, was misused by the scientist "explainer" here. The person one should trust is shown to be a crude opportunist who has lost some good will. It must be worse when you see instead he was holding a current situation as permanent in the public eye, in the least scientific way, to make some political capital, and as it sure does sell well in the media and scares people the most.

There is a lot of debate about "winning wars" in climate, but I think there is always the inevitability of the crazy wild eyed fools blowing themselvbes up on the mines they have forgotten they have laid all over the place. In the good old days when climate alarmism became the trend there was so much fun being the brave hero scaring the fool public. I think there will be many more cycles like this breaking as time moves on and even the most simple layman can see the world isn't melting.

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement


Well, the creationists are now turning up to defend the faith in the comments. Also, everyone in Australia is watching the cricket (Sri Lanka vs Australia) so expect a deluge of creationism once the criminal yobs loose ;)


So lets take your line of reasoning a little further. How many deaths, that COULD have been avoided had "The Man" not been blinded by Mann Made Global Warming (tm) angst, could have been avoided? Two winters ago when all the councils were NOT preparing for a severe winter, how many people were killed on the roads because of insufficient grit? How many pensioners have been killed because they couldnt afford to turn their heaters on?

The creationists keep on banging on about the crimes against humanity that the likes of Bish and Tony Watts are carrying out for merely questioning their religion, perhaps its time manslaughter charges are brought against the Creationists eh?

Im just asking the question :)



Mar 6, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

I expect The Conversation is trying to create wiggle room for itself in order to backtrack into if Australia does have a period dominated by La Ninas. Australians are beginning to realise that natural forces still dominate down under.

Mar 6, 2012 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Down in the south-west we are supposed to be getting warmer, wetter winters and warmer, drier summers. And we are having to spend lots of money on that rapidly rising sea level that the medieval harbours (such as at Lyme Regis) don't seem to have noticed. The strange thing is that since we moved here, we've had a string of colder, wetter summers and a mixture of colder, drier winters with lots of snow and the odd winter with lots of rain. I just can't figure out all this climate change (or am I confusing weather with climate?) ;<)

Mar 6, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Rick Bradford quoted:

From The Sydney Morning Herald in 2008:

This drought may never break

IT MAY be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent, one of the nation’s most senior weather experts warned yesterday.

“Perhaps we should call it our new climate,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, David Jones....

“There is a debate in the climate community, after … close to 12 years of drought, whether this is something permanent. Certainly, in terms of temperature, that seems to be our reality, and that there is no turning back....”
Unlike the much mourned Monkee who departed the Earth last week, our David Jones is a full fledged member of the Team who featured in the Climategate 2 emails:

Like your Met Office, our Bureau of Meterology has fallen from being an impeccable and esteemed service for the public to an unashamed and admittedly biased CAGW cheer squad.

We haven't heard much from him since the floods started about a year ago, but rest assured, he is still being paid well and sent on important fact-finding missions around the world at taxpayers' expense.

Mar 6, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

P J Hartigan (John O'Brien), an Australian Bush Poet, had an awesome understanding of the human condition and set it down as poetry, using climate as his proxy for... well, for about everything.

Said Hanrahan, written over one hundred years ago, is worth reading as a reinforcement of the inclination for disaster so many of The Religion espouse. The title below is a hyperlink to the whole poem, of which I quote one verse:

Said Hanrahan

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil, with which astute remark
     He squatted down upon his heel and chewed a piece of bark.
And so around the chorus ran, "It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
     "We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, "Before the year is out."
"The crops are done; ye'll have your work to save one bag of grain;
     From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke they're singin' out for rain.

Mar 6, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

It's time for Dorothea Mackellar, writing in 1904, to once again add a little perspective to proceedings.

Verses 1 and 3 excised for brevity:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold -
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Mar 6, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

Tim Flannery, the most vocal advocate of desalination, is directly responsible for the massive waste of public money, as Australia is currently in the midst of a desalination plant building binge even as the dams flow over.

Every one of the big mainland cities has built or is building one of those white elephants. The total cost of all plants easily exceed ten billion dollars and it'll probably cost a billion a year to operate all of them. Only Perth had genuine need for one or possibly two or three.

Melbourne is building a mammoth $5.8 billion plant that's mired in controversy.

In Brisbane the desal plant got flooded last year; what else can be said?

In Sydney, the plant is still in its '2-year proving period' which means it'll keep pulling the water from the ocean, take the salt out and then pump it straight back to the ocean for approx $200 million a year.

Adelaide of course couldn't possibly be left behind the other cities in the mad race to 'secure water supplies in the changing climate' or whatever the chant was at the time; the cringe alone would kill them all. Gods know how many billions their white elephant will cost over the years.

All in all, we have a huge waste of public resources that could have been better spent to provide, say, better dental care, which governments are reluctant to fund.

The situation is so embarrassing it is hard to imagine Tim Flannery remaining as the Climate Commissioner for long. During the recent deluge Flannery was conveniently out of the country. He can't run and hide forever.

Mar 6, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

(60 minutes)
PROFESSOR TIM FLANNERY: Yes. When you look right across the continent, what has happened is that the winter rainfall zone that has been the heart and soul of the bread basket of Australia is declining. The amount of rainfall through winter is declining. On the east coast of Australia we have a parallel effect where we are getting these El Ninos back to back. We’re getting one drought after the other and eastern Australia is suffering from that. So put together, you have the continent from Perth through to Brisbane suffering severe water deficits.

Mar 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM | Registered Commenterrickbradford


Living in an area where the local council is AGW mad, for the last umpteen years we have been bombarded with council literature [usually the local free pravda] telling us how they are combating MM global warming in 'our area'. Global warming officers and climate change co-ordinators coming out of the woodwork and the attendant industry of recycling bod's etc etc, prepared for bad winters they were definitely not.
Stangely, nothing in the literature said anything about the solar influence going into hibernation, or La Nina, AO, NAO cold phases - cos it wasnae in the models [Met Off' + IPCC] "ye kna".

In 2010, the snow froze and refroze time and again, the impacted ice was perilous on the pavements, the council was running short of grit [only major arterial roads were able to be given attention] and the casualty wards were filled with patients who had suffered serious accidents on slippery untreated sidewalks - minor roads were untreated and consequently - they turned into ice rinks - hence lots of minor road accidents - but all over it was the same problem. Metropolitan councils have spent millions [billions?] on 'mitigating' the supposed effects of AGW but not much thought was given to the idea of 'cold winters'.
Why couldn't council workmen, who work in parks and gardens [and global warming officers for that matter] be out salting and griting? - Elf'n'Safety mate....................... + no GRIT - marvellous! A big hospital in the area was surrounded by devilishly dangerous pavements and car-parks and access to the main entry was impossible for people who are not so steady on their pins any more. I had to travel to my mothers [60 miles round trip] to clear her drive and local cul-de-sac of ice and accumulated snow - nary a council lad to be seen for weeks, the dustmen made it though - bless them.

Yep, that's progress for you and oh yes............ and how government propaganda and idiot policy works against the rate-payer - ie, everything you don't need - they do and everything you want them to - they don't [no money - ha ha].

It's not funny.

Mar 6, 2012 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.


Wonderful poetry which captures the essense of Australia.
Ashamed to say that I have never heard of Dorothea Mackellar.
Going now to google.

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Wasn't the flooding of Brisbane partly blamed on climate change scare-mongering due to a modified capture-release policy of retaining as much water as possible because it had been predicted Queensland would endure a permanent/prolonged AGW induced drought?

Still, wet or dry Australian scientists are still blaming climate change for every weather and climatic event.

It seems lessons are not still being learnt.

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Queensland Conservation Council:

Reduced rainfall due to Global warming will lead to decreased overall water availability… In part, the SEQ* water crisis has been caused by climate change

The water engineers at the main Brisbane dams (principally Wivenhoe) claim they went by the book, but as can be seen, the book was wrong, and so water was held too long in the dams.

Wivenhoe Dam releases a major contributor to Brisbane River flooding, says hydrologist Mark Babister

*South-East Queensland (which includes Brisbane)

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:18 AM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

According to a Bureau of Meterorology report last month, during 2010-2011, Australia had its wettest 2-year period on record, surpassing the rainfall levels in 1973-74.

Although it was the wettest period on record, apparently the amount of rain that fell did not make up for the below average rainfalls that took place during the extended drought that swept through the continent in the last decade.

Moreover, some parts of Australia, especially the southeast and southwest corners of Australia remained in drought conditions in 2010-11.

However the report is already dated because generally cloudy and rainy weather has continued in January-February this year and during the last week huge amounts of water (a year's fall in a single day!) has come down on the southeast corner of the continent that was still in drought conditions. Only the southwest corner of the continent remains in drought conditions. Maybe we should build a desalination plant there just in case it never rains again!

There is a lot of useful information and maps and graphs in the report and not a beep about global warming or climate change. It is all about El Nino and La Nina, you see?

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Registered CommentersHx

"Wasn't the flooding of Brisbane partly blamed on climate change scare-mongering due to a modified capture-release policy of retaining as much water as possible because it had been predicted Queensland would endure a permanent/prolonged AGW induced drought?"

No, Mac. The Wivenhoe Dam did not hold any more water than necessary during the floods. The dam reservoir was still more than half empty as a flood prevention measure. It is just that twice as much rain fell in the same area than it did during the 1974 flood.

Incidentally, the governing Labor Party resisted the opposition pressure to increase the water levels in the dam only months before the event precisely because they feared a repeat of the 1974. Had it been the Tories in the government in Queensland the Brisbane floods of the last year would have truly been a man-made catastrophe, and the Tories would have called it "act of god".

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Registered CommentersHx

On a slightly different tack, has anybody else noticed the utter bilge that passes for weather reporting here in the UK? My jaw was on the floor yesterday whilst watching a BBC weather forecast (10:30pm) bemoaning the awful, despicable and clearly malevolent weather that the east of England had been suffering for ooh, about 24 hours. And of course that 'good' weather will be shortly returning. It had been raining. Big deal, eh?

Except that this area is gripped in a chronic drought resulting from three years of well below-normal rainfall. Eastern England is our key food production area for grain, vegetable and fruit. Even with this burst of vital rain, production is under serious threat, since river levels are too low to support the irrigation that will be crucial for potato and vegetable production and groundwater is not being replaced. Furthermore, I learned last week from an Anglian Water contact that the possibility of standpipes for domestic consumers has not been ruled out.

Clearly the BBC's idiots are fixated on ceaslessly fearmongering about catastrophic AGW, but fail to recognise that that the only weather that ranks as 'good' in their wilfully ignorant metropolitan bubble would result in a Saharan landscape.

Angry. Again...

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

"his background is mammalogy ": you might almost think that they are hinting that he's a bit of a tit.

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Wasn't one of the original primary purposes of the Wivenhoe dam to mitigate flooding?

I am sure that original purpose became a secondary concern due to continued scare-mongering over AGW induced droughts in that part of Queensland.

Perhaps Australia needs two manuals for dams. One for El Nino and another for La Nina.

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

johanna - “Perhaps we should call it our new climate,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, David Jones...."

Prof Franks has also sent his article to Dr David Jones at the BoM and welcomes a response. I'm afraid he may be p.ssing in the wind if he has ever had anything to do with Steve McIntyre. After all, as Prof Phil Jones said

1. Think I've managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.

2. Had an email from David Jones of BMRC, Melbourne. He said they are ignoring anybody who has dealings with CA, as there are threads on it about Australian sites.

Gixxerboy/pesadia - yes a lovely poem. We all learnt it in Primary School many years ago. I don't know about today. It's probably considered politically incorrect.

Mar 6, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

Gixxerboy/pesadia - Clive James summed all this up brilliantly last March in an essay in Standpoint Magazine, "The Drumming of an Army" - see - worth reading again.

Also discussed at:

Mar 6, 2012 at 12:29 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

SHx wrote:
Incidentally, the governing Labor Party resisted the opposition pressure to increase the water levels in the dam only months before the event precisely because they feared a repeat of the 1974. Had it been the Tories in the government in Queensland the Brisbane floods of the last year would have truly been a man-made catastrophe, and the Tories would have called it "act of god".The construction of dams (and desal plants) is a legitimate topic for political discussion. But once the dams are built, shouldn't the politicians be kept as far away as possible?

Mar 6, 2012 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

sHx - I live in Brisbane and can't recall any pressure from opposition Tories to increase dam levels. Not that there are any Tories in the Queensland opposition, or Whigs for that matter. We don't even have a knight these days.

We are in the midst of a state election and this hasn't been mentioned. And as usual they are really throwing any shite they can lay their hands on at each other.

So a genuine link to what you say would be good. In which case I'll happily retract.

Mar 6, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB


Had to dig it out for you but I am happy to oblige since you asked so nicely. ;-)


Opposition questions water release from Wivenhoe
Melinda Howells and Chris O'Brien

Updated October 06, 2010 13:06:00

The Queensland Opposition has questioned why water is being released from Wivenhoe Dam in the state's south-east.

The dam level has reached 100 per cent of capacity and controlled releases began this week.

But Opposition spokesman Jeff Seeney told Parliament that the dam is not completely full.

"Is not this release of water from Wivenhoe Dam, when it is holding only 40 per cent its available storage capacity, a clear indication that the Government has learnt nothing from the water crisis and is still failing to plan for the next inevitable drought," he said.

But Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson says the extra capacity is needed to prevent a repeat of the 1974 floods.

"What the Member for Callide [Mr Seeney] - on behalf of the LNP [Liberal National Party] suggests, is that Wivenhoe Dam should not be used for flood mitigation purposes," he said.

"As a result of that, puts into jeopardy the very safety of people in Brisbane and surrounding areas?

"Mr Speaker, this is grossly irresponsible."
...[Emphasis added]

Note the question was asked only three months prior to the event.

The reason this hasn't been mentioned during the election campaign is because both parties seem to have an agreement to not try to score political points from the disaster, especially when an inquiry is afoot and the report is expected before the election.

You may want to note also that Anna Bligh was a very unpopular premier prior to the floods but emerged from the disaster with her approval ratings high in the 90s.

The Liberal/National coalition (or whatever it is the tories call themselves in Queensland nowadays) however sank even lower and they eventually had to adapt the other flood hero, the mayor of Brisbane, as their new leader.

Mar 6, 2012 at 1:08 PM | Registered CommentersHx

What was that quote about those who forget history?...

Australia - "A land of sweeping plains. Of ragged mountain ranges. Of drought and flooding rain." Dorothea Mackellar OBe (1885-1967)

Regarding the UK, historical average rainfall for much of the East is around 400mm - 450mm p.a. The cut off point for land classification regarding precipitation is 400mm p.a. Meaning much of the East is "officially" classed as "Arid"

I'm sure there was a quote from Martin Crawford (author "creating a forest garden" also founder of the Agroforestry research trust - also AGW advocate) advising prospective agro-foresters to avoid the East as a location because much of it is classed as Arid. I got the named quote second hand so the quote could be from someone else.

Mar 6, 2012 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

In a bit of Orwellian Newspeak, an Australian warmist is now claiming they never said global warming would cause permanent droughts, despite clear evidence they said exactly that.

Mar 6, 2012 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

sHx - thanks for the link. However I don't think a two minute question and answer session (without any follow-up) in Parliament amounts to "Had it been the Tories in the government in Queensland the Brisbane floods of the last year would have truly been a man-made catastrophe, and the Tories would have called it "act of god".

The flood enquiry you mention is not afoot, it has been completed and the gist is that the engineers in charge did not follow their own SOPs. However, the floods are being used for political advertisements during the current election campaign, at least Premier Anna Bligh's (a descendant of the Bounty good guy) role during it. And quite rightly, she was by any measure outstanding which is why the Lib/Nats don't mention it, not because of some unspoken agreement.

Lest you think I was trying to make some partisan political point, I was not. I don't believe in compulsory voting and haven't voted in 40 years and won't be voting in this election. I was sentenced to gaol for not voting in the early 70s, these days I just pin a $20 note to my standard letter and post it to the Electoral Commission a few days before. They used to get a bit agitated about it as I was paying a fine for a crime that I had not yet committed, but they've got over it and I don't hear from them anymore. I've never had a receipt. Maybe they put it towards their Christmas p.ssup. Good on 'em.

Mar 6, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

sHx as a follow up to the extended "drought" in SW Australia can I recommend this paper?
Pitman, A.J., Narisma, G.T., Pielke Sr., R.A. and Holbrook, N.J. 2004. Impact of land cover change on the climate of southwest Western Australia. Journal of Geophysical Research 109: 10

The conclusion was that "land use changes" specifically resulting from the removal of forest trees could explain the rainfall changes.

So it is anthroprogenic, but not in the way that many would have us believe.

Mar 6, 2012 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"However I don't think a two minute question and answer session (without any follow-up) in Parliament amounts to ..."


this wasn't just a single two-minute question. Jeff Seeney had long been hammering the Labor government for not reducing Wivenhoe's flood mitigation capacity. Check it out; google is your friend.

Here is another mouthful from Jeff Seeney in the Hansard records [money quotes in bold]:

Mr SEENEY (Callide—LNP) (12.20 pm): With the recent good rains Wivenhoe Dam is filling rapidly. Today it is approximately 92 per cent full. Wivenhoe Dam was built in the late 1970s. In response to the floods that devastated Brisbane in 1974 it was constructed to have not just a large water supply capacity that has become the basis of our water supply today but also a considerable amount of extra storage volume to act as a flood buffer to help to manage future flooding in Brisbane. As Wivenhoe Dam today approaches full storage level, it is important to note that the full storage level is under half the possible storage level available in the dam. The full storage level is 1.15 million megalitres while the actual total storage available in Wivenhoe Dam is 2.6 million megalitres. In effect there is another Wivenhoe Dam over and above the one that was originally designed for water storage. This ‘extra’ Wivenhoe Dam was designed and built in the late 1970s as a flood buffer for Brisbane.

I believe that it is time to review the comparative uses of the total storage available in Wivenhoe Dam. I believe that more of the total available storage space should be used for water storage so that there is less chance of a water crisis developing in the future. Obviously the dam needs to continue to be operated to maintain a flood buffer for Brisbane and any decision about storing extra water will have
an impact on the effectiveness of that dam’s flood buffer role, but this is a question of finding the right balance between the two roles that Wivenhoe Dam performs today. It is a question of reviewing the situation to determine whether the balance between those two roles that was struck in the early 1980s when the dam was completed is appropriate for the situation that exists today.

It is clear that much has changed since 1980. Brisbane and Queensland generally have experienced long periods of low rainfall resulting in a critical water crisis which saw the real possibility of the city running out of water entirely. Since that original decision was made in 1980, technology available to the dam managers has also advanced considerably. We are now able to forecast and predict the occurrence of rainfall events with much more accuracy and much more reliability than was ever thought possible 30 years ago. In addition, the automatic stream flow monitors and computer flow models allow for much better informed decision making in regard to managing any potential flood events. These advances alone make it possible to attain the same level of flood protection for Brisbane while using less of the available storage area in Wivenhoe Dam as a flood buffer. That frees up the additional volume for extra water storage that should be used to complement the available water for South-East Queensland and guard against another water crisis developing in the future.

A discussion paper prepared by Seqwater in 2005 found that an extra seven metres of water could be stored in the dam before there were any concerns about the long-term safety of the dam wall. A table in that report shows that just an extra two metres of storage in the dam—two metres out of the possible seven—would store an extra 228,000 megalitres of water and provide an extra no-fail yield of 31,000 megalitres per year to the water supply of South-East Queensland. That is roughly equivalent to what could reasonably be expected to be the annual total yield from the Tugun desalination plant. This proposal has the potential to significantly add to water supply reliability in South-East Queensland just by using an extra two metres of the seven metres that is available in Wivenhoe Dam for additional storage.

I believe it would be absurd to release water from Wivenhoe Dam at the current time. It would be absurd to allow any releases until this option is thoroughly investigated. I call on the minister today to ensure that no water is released from Wivenhoe Dam and that serious commitments are made to developing this proposal to increase the storage levels in Wivenhoe Dam. The water that is running into the dam at the moment may well be sorely needed in the future to avert another water crisis.

A quick look at the dam record shows that, under the current rules of operation, an amount of water equal to 30 per cent of the dam’s capacity was released in 1999 and then further smaller amounts
were released in 2001 and 2002. Even if some of that water had been retained it would have made a huge difference in 2005 and 2006, when the people of Brisbane were facing the worst of the water crisis.

It is time the minister got serious about this issue. The Labor government has seriously mismanaged the water issue for many years. It has brought the city of Brisbane to the brink of running out of water. It then spent billions of dollars in panic on projects that are hideously expensive and grossly inefficient to run. It now thankfully has the opportunity to start to get it right. We need to make the best of our existing infrastructure—infrastructure that was provided by previous conservative governments and that has been poorly managed by the current Labor government.

Note that this speech was made in March 2010, six months before the two-minute question and nine months before the floods.

Mr Seeney isn't just another Queensland MP. He was the leader of the National Party there and later the leader of Liberal National coalition. Jeff Seeney is still the official leader of the opposition because the unofficial leader, the former Brisbane mayor and Tory flood hero, Campbell Newman, is hoping to become an MP at this election.

Mar 6, 2012 at 3:31 PM | Registered CommentersHx

"The mistake that Tim Flannery, as well as the numerous expert commentators made, was that they confused climate variability for climate change. The future impact of climate change is very uncertain, but when one “wants to believe”, then it is all too easy to get sucked in and to get it spectacularly wrong."

This could well apply to the much vaunted 'consensus' of climate scientists and their IPCC acolytes.

Mar 6, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

Although Tim Flannery might not be a climate scientist, he should be able to read up on the subject. In July 2008 the Australian Government published a report "An assessment of the impact of climate change on the nature and frequency of exceptional climatic events"
In the Summary, under "Results" it says

Observed trends in exceptionally low rainfall years are highly dependent on the period of analysis due to large variability between decades.

I know that the summary is 673 words in total, but this result clearly indicates that the conclusion of a permanent shift to low rainfall is not robust. If the Chief Climate Commissioner could not understand this conclusion, he would have been in a very good position to ask.

Report is at

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Interesting background sHx.

In Australia both sides of politics have fallen victim to climate madness (as is the case in Britain).

The stampede to desalination plants was so extreme that in Victoria the plant may well end up costing taxpayers 25 Billion dollars even if it never produces water. The sting is in the guaranteed annual revenues whether the water is needed or not. Ironically, the plant would be open now (and probably in mothballs already) but for unforeseen delays due to wet weather.

Mar 6, 2012 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBraddles


I've always instinctively liked Clive James.

Now I know why.

Mar 6, 2012 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

sHx @ Mar 6, 2012 at 1:08 PM

"No, Mac. No, Mac. The Wivenhoe Dam did not hold any more water than necessary during the floods. The dam reservoir was still more than half empty as a flood prevention measure. It is just that twice as much rain fell in the same area than it did during the 1974 flood.. The dam reservoir was still more than half empty as a flood prevention measure. It is just that twice as much rain fell in the same area than it did during the 1974 flood."

The flooding was caused by poor utilisation of the dam. It's true, trivially true, that

"The Wivenhoe Dam did not hold any more water than necessary during the floods."

but "during" the floods is not the relevant period. The couple of months BEFORE Jan 11th is the relevant time. The dam operators were proud (or pretended to be(a Nixonian "toughing it out"?)) that they did "everything by the book". That might be true but it is irrelevant. When things are outside normal operating conditions then sometimes unusual or unique actions become necessary.

I'm a professional airline pilot by trade and have kept a plane load of people alive by doing things right outside the operating manual when weather caused a severe problem. Any fool can follow the book; it takes a brain to solve unique problems quickly in real time. The book can kill you, and did in Brisbane.

Wivenhoe Dam release caused Brisbane flood: report

Jennifer Marohasy is no dummy.">

Mar 6, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commenteracementhead

I am a Kiwi, but grew up to the sound of my Australian-born Dad reciting Dorothea MacKellar's epic poem, along with the works of Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson and others, which gave a very clear picture of the beautiful but harsh and unforgiving Australian landscape and the travails of 'new chums' adapting to it. My Dad's father had fled Yorkshire and the probability of slow starvation after the collapse of the lead-mining industry in the 19th century; he tried farming on a bush 'selection' in the Blue Mountains, but after a savage nine-year drought (known as the 'Jubilee drought') and the death of his wife at the end of it, was eventually forced to relocate with his children to New Zealand at the turn of the 20th century, where his brothers, his only sister and a number of relatives had settled.
My Dad, who worked on the land all of his life, apart from seeing active overseas service in both World Wars, was always convinced that weather is always cyclic and that his own father had made a major blunder attempting to farm in a non-temperate geographic zone.
I am appalled by the silliness of the current crop of politicians, Australian and world-wide, who are ignorant of the cyclic nature of weather in their home climates.
While I am no scientist, I had it drummed into me in my youth that ignorance of history condemns us to repeating the mistakes our forefathers made. The political acceptance of the CAGW silliness is another product of that ignorance.

Mar 7, 2012 at 1:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Thanks sHx, I will archive those comments from Mr Seeney. I must admit I do have some sympathy for his view.

For those bagging desalination plants. As far as I know we can't predcit the length of the el Nino cycles, had this last one gone on for a few more years then Brisbane would have been shipping water in. Considering Brisbane and SE Queensland are growing at a rapid rate, desal could well be needed in the next dry cycle.

And as for building new dams we all know what the response is from affected farmers, nimby blockies and greenies.

Mar 7, 2012 at 2:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterdlb

lapogus, pesadia and Alexander K

I'm pleased you liked that bit of Dorothea Mackellar. And even more pleased (thanks lapogus) to find Clive James is a sceptic. I've always thought him brilliant and loved his writing.

A piece in that Standpoint article stood out for me - the idea of a Folk memory, and its power. It was exactly this that marked a turning point for Winston Smith in 1984 - a bare remembrance of life before Big Brother's brainwashing, sparked by an escape to the country. Very apt.

Slightly O/T, over here in NZ we are getting the 3-part BBC docco series "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace", by Adam Curtis.

Wow. Just wow. How the second episode made it past the kommissars at the BBC is a mystery. Except.... everything - and I mean everything - was pointing towards a denouement on Climate Change. The links between hippy vanity and dreams of the commune; over-reliance on computer models as analogous to nature; the failure to pay attention to real-world observations; the exposing of the myth of ecosystems and earth as a spaceship that we have to take care of...etc etc.

It was all going so swimmingly and I knew what came next after the ecology obsession of the 70s and the idea that nature tended towards stability was exposed as flat, plan wrong. The 90s and the obsession with climate, right?

No. It suddenly skipped to the Orange revolutions of circa 2003-4 and the Arab uprisings.

WTF? And WTF lies on the cutting room floor?

If you haven't seen it, please do. Quite amazing, as much for what it does NOT cover as what it does.

Mar 7, 2012 at 7:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

How is it that Tim Flannery could have got it so spectacularly wrong?

Maybe because his assumptions were spectacularly wrong.
Mar 6, 2012 at 7:38 AM | Ralph Tittley

No Ralph, he just follows Hansens lead for the farcical !

Mar 7, 2012 at 7:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

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