For some reason, The Australian newspaper has been running story after story raising fears about long-standing plans to purify and recycle water back into Brisbane’s dams. It looked bizarre enough a week ago, but we’re now reaching the two week mark with no sign of a let up. The headlines have been a disgrace – from “Flush then drink in the sunshine state” two weeks ago, to today’s outrageous scare “cyanide to be recycled for drinking” – as though water has never needed to be treated prior to drinking.(the print edition today comes complete with a graphic of a glass of water labelled ‘what you could be drinking’ alongside a long list of waste products and chemicals which have long been allowed to be put into Brisbane’s sewers).
I haven’t seen such a single-minded, prolonged determination from The Australian to manufacture a major controversy since they used a minor issue as the spark for launching a two week long series of grossly distorted attacks against Griffith University’s Islamic Research Unit earlier this year.
The water recycling issue has been debated for many years in south-east Queensland, and there is little in this recent flurry of stories that hasn’t been raised many times in the past.
But there is quite a disconnect between the way The Australian is reporting this issue and what Brisbane’s local paper, The Courier-Mail, is saying.
Yesterday’s effort from The Australian was built around the opening statement that the National Health and Medical Research Council water quality advisory committee chairman, Professor Don Bursill, had “warned the Queensland Government it should not proceed with its $2.5 billion plan to recycle sewage and industrial waste for drinking water unless it is ‘absolutely necessary’.”
The story went on to say “I think that recycling waste water for potable purposes should be a choice of last resort,” and “there are opportunities for problems to occur and if it can be avoided, I think it should be.”
But in the Brisbane print edition of the Courier-Mail today, it states “the NHMRC yesterday said Prof Bursill had not been interviewed by the newspaper and had never warned the Queensland government.”