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The Necessity for Multi-disciplinary Research: Ralph Jacobi's Institute of Freshwater Studies

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In spite of many proposals, Australia has no national freshwater research centre. Thus the passing in the Senate of Ralph Jacobi's private member's bill for an Institute of Freshwater Studies in 1982 was unusual. His driving force was the need to overcome State boundaries and for research to inform policy and management of water resources. It gained widespread support, and not just from the parliamentary Labor Party, but was strongly opposed by the Fraser government, State and federal water bureaucracies, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The election of 1983 prevented further discussion in parliament, but the proposal was part of the Labor Party platform taken to the election. An Interim Council set up to investigate whether or not such an institute should be established, but with narrow terms of reference very different from those in Jacobi's bill, sided with the large water bureaucracies and CSIRO, in spite of majority support for an institute. An institute was rejected and the government accepted the recommendation. Jacobi's proposal failed primarily because of a fear of independent advice by many in the bureaucracies, a potential loss of power and influence, and inter-governmental rivalries. The status quo remained; the bigger picture is still unseen.

Keywords: CSIRO; Institute of Freshwater Studies; Ralph Jacobi; freshwater research and management; water polic; water politics

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Fenner School of Environment and Society,Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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