“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





11 December 2008


-->Another Leo Davis photograph of the beautiful Glenthorne Farm, complete with sheep. Given to the University for viticulture research, the farm is now under threat of housing development...

PHILIP WHITE was invited to discuss Glenthorne Farm with the University's star environmental scientist, Dr. David Paton, on ABC radio. Apart from being a textbook example of how NOT to release an highly contentious poll, it indicates how dangerous it is for the University's communications managers to insist on wheeling their most popular and revered scientists out to make these announcements and defend them. The trouble with great scientists is they tend to tell the truth, and the trouble with wheeling them out like this is they must feel their great reputations wobbling as they speak....

Releasing The Radioactive Sheep

Matthew Abraham: Coming up in a moment: Glenthorne Farm. We’ll talk to the Adelaide University Professor who has big plans for the site.

David Bevan:
Glenthorne Farm is one of the last remaining large open spaces in the southern suburbs. If you’ve ever driven up around O’Halloran Hill along South Road and you look to your right as you’re heading south, you look to your right, there’s a big open space there.

Well it was given to the Adelaide University on trust, but the University says ‘well look, let us sell off a portion of it”, and “it’s a relatively small portion, for housing, and with that money, we can then do great things to preserve woodlands right across the Adelaide Hills.

They put out a survey to ask what people in the area consider, and Dr. David Paton, associate professor from Adelaide University, can tell us the results. Good morning David.

Dr. David Paton: Good morning David.

DB: David, what is the result of the survey? How many people did you survey, and what are they telling you?

DP: Well initially we put out 10,000 surveys –these are pamphlets which talked about the large-scale initiatives and also what we proposed to do with Glenthorne and we got good response. We got some 800 of these printed surveys returned; we also had a company, we had Harrisons ran a random phone service for people say within the vicinity of Glenthorne and they surveyed 400 people and both of those came back with something like 69% of those people supported the woodland recovery initiative, and that’s a very strong support for that program, there was also an um ...

DB: Can we, just quickly, before you do that, can we break that down, because it sounds like we’re mixing in there a questionnaire that went out as a leaflet –

DP: That’s right –

DB: ... and the two of them in there –

DP: ... the two almost gave an identical result, which was a surprise to everybody, so –

DB: And okay say 69%. And what is that consisting of?

DP: ... and that was probly something in the vicinity, well 31% were, did not believe that woodland recovery in this issue was not a sensible thing to be doing at present despite that being the only solution for species loss within the Mt. Lofty region.

DB: Right –

DP: ... which amounts to that.

DB: Yeah. And 69% support or –

DP: ... 69% had a very very strong support or some support –

DB: What was the breakdown on that?

DP: Ah, I think is was probly something in the vicinity of 45-24, something in that vicinity.

MA: ... and and how many didn’t care less?

DP: .. ahh, that’d be 31%.

DB: Okay. Now is that support for woodland recovery or is that –

DP: That’s the support for the woodland recovery initiative initially, that’s a big one, and now we come to -

DB: What about the question of housing? How do you support us selling off part of Glenthorne Farm?

DP: Okay. 64% were in support or neutral to the proposal that the University put forward to use some of the land to generate the income to do the large-scale program –

DB: And what was the breakdown of that?

DP: Oh probly something in the vicinity of 44-45% in support of the the farm being used in that way and 20% or so that were were neutral.

MA: And so that the neutrals can go either way. You could also lock them in with the opposed. So you could say you could say that more than 50% were opposed.

DP: You you may say that. The key here to bear in mind is that that the project that the University’s about is that it’s not just something that’s good for the state and this is just the local community within a close vicinity to Glenthorne, so a broader survey is almost certainly going to push those numbers elsewhere if you wish to go to a broader survey –

DB: David, you’ve you’ve spent your life trying to get figures, statistics, to reflect reality and and nobody would question your credentials on that as a biologist ... w, w, do you agree that if you take a cold hard look at the survey in terms of support for housing, you’ve got less than 50% of people actually saying they support selling off part of Glenthorne Farm for housing –

DP: You can also use the other one which is something in the vicinity of 35% or so that were not in favour of ah housing being put onto the property. Now you’ve got to put that in mind with 31% of the people not interested in the woodland recovery issue so the people who were probably against that and I don’t have the figures here in front of me are those who don’t believe that we should be concerned about wildlife losses within the State.

MA: Mmm. Mmm. Er, David we’re going to continue this conversation in a moment ah with Philip White right after the news so you may choose to stay with us; there may be a response that’s needed.


MA: Just before the news we were talking with Dr. David Paton um from Adelaide University. Now he wants, the Adelaide University want to effectively be released from a er a deed that governs Glen Thorne Farm, the large area of open space at the top of Taps there near the old drive-in and ah they want to sell some of it for housing and use that money to develop woodlands um throughout the Adelaide Hills.

Philip White is the wine writer with The Independent Weekly. He has, um, quite an intimate knowledge of the Glenthorne Farm deed. Philip White good morning ... do you?

Philip White: I was fascinated by –

MA: Oh, sorry, sorry Philip, I just just er, we, good morning to you and what are you fascinated by?

PW: I’m fascinated by the audacity of the University here, and I, I think that is gonna be more of a Victoria Park than a Cheltenham.

Um, the University deed that it signed actually prohibits it undertaking to seek development of the land without Ministerial approval. Now the Government has refused to sign such a thing so far ... ah, I can’t see this government taking the risk of er, of letting this housing go ahead –

MA: So are you saying that just by doing what it is doing at the moment, and that is consulting the community about selling the land, it is breeching its deed?

PW: Yeah, I’m not a lawyer but 4.2.2 of the deed says that it prohibits the University to undertake or permit development or seek to undertake development of the land for uses other than those specified da da da da without the writing – er, without approval by the Minister in writing. And that hasn’t occurred.

AB: Now you’ve sent us a copy of that deed, and that is indeed what is says. Um have you got a response from the Minister? Has he actually said –

PW: The local Member, Leon Bignall, in McLaren Vale, er has said, has said that no such signature has been provided.

DB: So will there be some sort of legal challenge, Philip White? Because you’re talking legalese here aren’t you?

PW: Yeah, but I don’t know. If that’s – I’m just amazed at the audacity of it. And, but I think that, well, you know, there’s some light at the end of this tunnel. I don’t see the government affording another Cheltenham.

And just a fortnight ago we had Minister Holloway, the planning guy, saying there would be no more development of housing in McLaren Vale or the Barossa. Now Glenthorne is inside the Geographical Indicator boundary of McLaren Vale. The boundary was actually drawn around Glenthorne with the University’s knowledge - to include that in the McLaren Vale appellation for viticulture.

DB: Mmm. Okay. So where does this go next? Will you and the people that you are a part of Philip, who are opposing this development, will you be getting together soon; will you be considering some sort of court action, or are you just going to keep up a political campaign?

PW: Well I think you can feel, a, a brewing brew-ha-ha with the McLaren Vale winemakers who certainly have never been consulted with this, over this.

The University sort of indicated that the wine industry pulled out of the deed because of er, various reasons, one of which – this is a good story – ask Dr. Paton about the radioactive sheep.


MA: Well, er, he’s listening. You’d better tell us David Paton –

DB: Suppressed laughter; giggling.

MA: Are there, are there sheep glowin’ in them thar hills? Radioactive sheep?

DB: giggling: Dr. David Paton:

DP: There is some, some rumour I think that er some of the sheep I think from Maralinga were buried on the property, um, there’s been some surveys done looking for um you know, high spikes in radioactivity er radioactive material coming off the property at present. Nobody’s found where they are. Nobody’s actually knows where they’re buried so it may just be rumour.

But there are concerns, um, let’s say, out there, about these things and the University, if it was going to go ahead with doing anything, um you know, we’d argue that that why is the thing being used as a farm if there’s radioactive material interred.

MA: Well why would you be using it as a housing estate if there was –

DP: Exactly.

MA: Sheep that would possibly have, plutonium? Er plutonium waste?

DP: I have, I have no idea what the actual material is and as I say nobody actually seems to know where they are if they were actually were buried on the on the property where they actually are so other than doing surveys that’s all we can do at this stage but at present the surveys have been done so um levels below um or level two that’s normal backgrounds you’d expect for these sorts of areas so obviously it’s fine at this stage -

DB: So David Paton is it correct to say Adelaide University has gone looking for radioactive sheep but hasn’t found any?

DP: Eh-heh. We’ve had other other organisations which are looking at looking at using the site for say the desalination pipeline, they’ve done broad surveys across the er the er property to determine whether or not there’s a risk for them to put the pipeline across so, er I don’t think they’d be thinking about doing that if they weren’t comfortable that there was no risk.

MA: Course, er, plutonium would not show up in background radiation, would it? It has a very long half-life – about 1,600 years – but, ah, a plutonium particle cannot penetrate for instance a piece of cigarette paper; the thickness of a cigarette paper, but if if, it, it gets into your body in any way it will give you cancer. It will.

DP: Look I can’t actually talk about the actual processes - the other people have been doing that - but if there’s a farm going that’s being used as a commercial farm, which it currently is being used for, then you’d argue that that’s a risk as well.

MA: Yeah.

DB: Mmm. What about the other point that Philip White has raised a number of times and that is that under the deed the university shouldn’t even be sounding people out regarding a development, without first getting Ministerial approval?

DP: Oh look that er, that’s in a that’s in a deed document to which I’m not privy to and the details for, um, I think something I mean which is meant to be kept confidential, or at least I thought it was meant to be kept confidential – so I haven’t seen it – look if there are those issues then fine, perhaps the University has stepped over the line here, but I think that the issue here is, the key issue, that, the if the community changes its mind about how it wants to see an area used, then um we need to take that on board, and not be sitting back on something that was decided, under duress, back in 1998 or so when there was er hurried arrangements between the Federal and State governments and the University to, um find a solution for Glenthorne.

MA: Brenda from Hackham has called. Um, hullo, Brenda.

BfH: Good morning. I’m absolutely furious about the University’s suggestions for Glenthorne Farm. Glenthorne Farm is the lungs of the south. Why should we have more housing down here to beautify the woodlands in the Adelaide Hills, where they’ve got their trees already? The houses that would go on there would be the same as the houses down at Seaford on small blocks that don’t even have enough room to grow a decent solid tree! I think that if this goes ahead the words “In Trust” should be deleted because they have no more value.

DB: Ah, Brenda from Hackham, thankyou. And look thankyou Dr. David Paton for coming on and also to Philip White, wine writer for the Independent Weekly. David Paton is associate professor at the Adelaide University.

...and here it is:




essential ingredients


B. For many years the CSIRO has used the land for purposes of agriculture and as an agricultural research facility.

D. The CSIRO has only agreed to sell the Land on the proviso that the Land will be preserved and conserved for agriculture and other related activities and will not be used for urban development.

E. The University, as the person nominated by the State, has agreed to purchase the Land from the CSIRO , to preserve and conserve the Land for other related activities and not use, develop or permit the Land to be used or developed for urban development.


4.1 The University covenants with the Minister that it will, subject to obtaining all necessary statutory approvals, do all reasonably necessary things to ensure that the Land is

4.1.1 preserved, conserved and used for Agriculture, Horticulture, Oenology, Viticulture, Buffer Zones and as Community Recreation Area, and

4.1.2 is available for Project Research Activities, University Research Activities, Education Activities and operating a Wine Making Facility.

4.2 The University covenants with the Minister that it will not at any time hereafter:

4.2.1 use or permit the Land to be used other than as provided for in subclause 4.1 unless such other use is approved in writing by a Minister acting as agent of the Crown,

4.2.2 undertake or permit Development or seek to undertake Development of the Land for uses other than those specified in subclause 4.1 unless such other use or Development (excluding Urban Development which will not be approved) is approved in writing by a Minister acting as agent of the Crown.

4.4 The University covenants with the Minister that it will not at any time hereafter sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of the whole or any portion of the Land unless it shall first procure from the purchaser or transferee a binding undertaking either to be bound by this Deed or to enter into a Deed with the Minister on the same terms as are contained in this Deed.


The University covenants not to assign its obligations under this Deed without the prior written consent of the Minister.

THE COMMON SEAL OF THE MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT was affixed and signed by Di Laidlaw, Minister, in the presence of Tim Quinn, witness, on 22 May 2001.

THE SEAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE was signed by Susan Graebner, Officer who affixed the seal, and witnessed and signed by Mary O’Kane, Custodian of the Seal, on 24 May 2001.

BY authority of the Council given on the 26 July 1999.

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