“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)





29 January 2009



There was a photograph here of Dr. David Paton, which I took from the University media releases website. The University has asked me to remove it on copyright grounds. I have asked the University to supply me another file photograph.

Later that same day: I have just recieved the following response from the University Media Officer, David Ellis:

"Thanks for your response. I'll definitely look for another pic for you, but I'm not sure we have that many of him, unfortunately."

So, while we wait for the mighty University of Adelaide to find a photograph of their most prominent environmental scientist and pre-eminent media player, I trust you'll be happy with this one: this bloke may act as if ALL the media works for his advantage, he may play some of the press with with a musicianship challenged only by the fiddler with a tommy-gun in his violin case, he may even be an dishonest greedy nut, which is of course highly unlikely, but he's obviously got a handfull of balls!

Why Give Land To These Flash Harries?
Need To Read Deeds Escapes Boffins


“The University is committed to putting at least 100 hectares of woodland habitat back onto this system” Dr. David Paton greenly advised Channel 9’s Kelly Clappis on A Current Affair on Tuesday night.

He forgot to say it was a farm, not a system: a beautiful farm which had been given to his University eight short years ago for vital viticulture research.

“And that's going to be the exemplar that shows what you can do on an individual farm” he finally said, “and then we're going to take what we do at Glenthorne and put it across a range of other properties along the Mount Lofty Ranges.”

What the desperate-looking Paton didn’t tell the television viewers of South Australia was that his example to other farmers is first to put 1000 houses on the land his University was given.

So, officially, we now know: bugger the vines. Every ten houses pays for one hectare of forest. Especially if you get the land for nuthin'.


Check out the vast reforestation of the Willunga escarpment and the Front Hills to Sellicks.

That was done by well-organised volunteers. Thirty kilometres of new bush. Two or three kilometres deep on very steep country. Organised by winemakers.

Paton failed to explain the Glenthorne land was given to the University, in perpetuity, for $1, on the grounds that they would NOT put houses on it, pick up $100 quick million, and put in a few flashy trees and a bit of scrub and promise to do more.

He also failed to say that the University had pledged eight years ago, in a solemn Deed with the government, that it was obliged to reforest much of this property anyway.

The University was given Glenthorne Farm by the South Australian Government, which bought it from the Commonwealth Scientific Research Organisation in 1998 through the prescient insistence of McLaren Vale winemaker Greg Trott.

Senator Robert Hill, now Australia's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, then Federal Minister for Environment, helped stitch the deal.

The CSIRO was determined the site should not be developed for housing. Its Division of Health and Human Nutrition was the main user of the property since 1947.

It was used for many trials, including those involving the effects of medical x-ray nuclear radiation and standard hospital isotopes on mammals, many of which are buried on the property in at least three known pits.

But there are also beasts from the British nuclear tests at Maralinga, and possibly Airstrip and Emu Field buried there.

Many of these tests involved the spread of discrete plutonium dispersed by conventional, non-nuclear explosions, and its effect on the general environment and mammals living within that spread.

I am aware of this because I was the government officer in charge of the storage of the tens of thousands of the stream and surface samples which were taken after these tests.

The research findings of such early British tests are still vitally referred to in the case of terrorists spreading plutonium with a non-nuclear explosion, or when a plutonium-armed nuclear weapon fails to properly explode.

“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” Paton recently told the ABC, seemingly ignorant of the fact that plutonium cannot be detected by a Geiger counter.

“Nobody’s found where they are. Nobody actually knows where they’re buried so it may just be rumour.”

If the professor had worked in anything to do with the nuclear business, he would know what rumour meant.

And maybe he does.

“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.”

So why is his University renting the farm to a farmer? How much recompense might this farmer be due? Why does Paton insist on a one thousand house subdivision?

Once cleansed of such cold war residues, which is a reasonable goal, presuming human honesty about the whereabouts of such shit, Trott wanted the land used for drought-resistant vineyards and wine research, reforesting, and human recreation.

I was Trott’s advisor, who introduced him to Senator Hill. We worked on this for years. We all thought the job was done; the land secured, according to the Deed. Uh-huh.

Now Trott’s dead, but we’re fighting the whole bloody battle all over again.

In 2001, the State Government gave Glenthorne Farm to the University of Adelaide for $1, subject to a solemn deed signed by Mary O’Kane, the University Chancellor, and Di Laidlaw, the Minister for Planning.

The University’s new 1000 houses proposal is arrogance of the highest degree.

Labor politicians sit back, wondering where the votes may eventually fall. But they won’t fall. They won’t be dropped. They’ll be very, very carefully cast, and the way it looks, independents and Greens could likely hold the balance of power.

Where else in the world could you have land purchased by the taxpayer for $7 million, sold to the university for $1 to be kept forever for vineyard research and open space, bushland, and recreational ground for southern residents, only to be subdivided by the lucky recipient for villa rash to raise a quick $100 million, from the same taxpayers, under the promise that the money will be used for reforesting the distant South Mount Lofty Ranges, where other, much wealthier taxpayers live, over the next 100 years?

And then there's two thirds of the property left? For further devilry?

Sanctioned by the smug rote silence of the Labor government?

It IS bullshit!

The Mount Lofty Ranges just happen to include 147 ha of beautiful open bushland bequeathed to the University by Peter Waite in 1914.

This is the site the University should be using for Ranges reforestation and research. It's immediately adjacent to its vast horticultural laboratories, greenhouses, walking trails and tour bus parks at the Waite Research Institute. And it's not on coastal flats. It's in the Ranges. Where Ranges bushes grow.

It is not lowland semi-arid maritime, like Glenthorne.

And, if you must sub-divide a bequeathment, these Ranges blocks are worth ten times the arid bleakness of Glenthorne! Twenty!

“In 2001, the State Government sold Glenthorne to the University of Adelaide subject to a Land Management Agreement with the State of South Australia” Paton told A Current Affair reporter Kelly Clappis, failing to say it cost the University $1.

“Over the years the University has considered a number of options for the property” he sagely advised, in arrogant ignorance of the commitments of the Deed.

“One proposal was to develop a vineyard on the site, however extensive analysis revealed this not to be a viable option”.

Paton, and his pompous offsider, Martyn Evans, consistently fail to table evidence of such consultation.

It has certainly failed to reach the extensive analysis status. The local winemakers, within whose boundary Glenthorne sits, were never consulted.

DRINKSTER believes the University has only just managed to send Evans to a meeting of the McLaren Vale Wine Grape and Tourism Association, which invited him to his first consultation.

Insiders say Evans’ testy manner left quite a bit to be desired, if only on an intellectual level.

This would match his annoyed hubris on his one and only meeting with me.

Fact is, the Paton and Evans want $100 million urgently for their troubled University, and this is the only way they can think of getting it.

“Today, with increasing government and community recognition of the potential impacts of climate change, the University of Adelaide has identified an exciting opportunity to establish the Woodland Recovery Initiative at Glenthorne”, Paton told Channel 9.

But, as I keep saying, had our great University been on top of the issues of climate change and viable viticulture, which is indeed its primary research responsibility, the Murray Valley, its great river, and our lucrative wine export business would be flourishing, not rotting with sulphuric acidulous mud where a healthy estuary once thrived, neither ripe with thousands of farmer bankruptcies and merciless encroaching salinity.

Dr. Paton, indeed, would have no reason to be wailing about the shocking condition of the Coorong and the Murray Mouth, which brings him and his University huge public access in the media.

In fact, if the university wanted say, $5 million a year, it could do no better than offer the wine industry informed, reliable advice on the drought-resistant new varieties it had trialled and proven, as planned, at Glenthorne.

This is where the cynic might suggest the research facilities of our great University have been usurped by the giant transnationals which depend upon constant over-supply of rote varieties, and a continual sickening downward spiral of quality and price, in order to beat third world producers to fill the discount bins of the Old World and the USA.

Paton and Evans both claim it was the Winemakers Federation Of Australia that signed the Deed (which it most patently did NOT - I have a copy of the Deed) and then advised that Glenthorne was unsuitable for viticultural research.

But at the same time, both men claim to have never seen the Deed, as it is “confidential”.

I wonder if they’re worried about the legal ramifications of their determined drive to subdivide?

The Deed quite clearly states “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 preserved, conserved and used for Agriculture, Horticulture, Oenology, Viticulture, Buffer Zones and as Community Recreation Area, and is available for Project Research Activities, University Research Activities, Education Activities and operating a Wine Making Facility”.

The University has done nothing like this. In eight years.

I suspect the University is in breech of its deed by pursuing the idea of a housing development on Glenthorne. The very notion of widely seeking public approval for housing development without ministerial approval, in writing, was clearly forseen and forbidden in the Deed, which expressly states that “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...

“... 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.”

Confronted with this, Paton told the ABC’s 891 morning announcers in December:

“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.”

The Glenthorne deal was hardly hurried. The University sat on it for two years before signing the Deed, on 24 May 2001. The authority of the University Council had been given on the 26 July 1999.

The edgy Martyn Evans, before two highly respected University academics and a state politician, told me "We've had QCs crawling all over this and we've not breached anything" at a lunch and tasting at the Wine Research Institute at the Wine Research Institute before Christmas.

Dull sandwiches were left unchewed: nobody poured a wine.

No ministerial signature has dribbled from a Labor biro; nor legal advice provided this curious member of the public about any possible breach of the Deed.

This what a harried Doc Paton told A Current Affair only yesterday:

“The University is very aware that the current Deed says there should be no housing on it, and that a reasonable portion be open space. Our concern is we have no other mechanism by which you can fund this program except by looking at that as an option.

“At present the University is simply exploring those as options.

“Over the years the University has considered a number of options for the property.

“One proposal was to develop a vineyard on the site, however extensive analysis revealed this not to be a viable option.

“Today, with increasing government and community recognition of the potential impacts of climate change, the University of Adelaide has identified an exciting opportunity to establish the Woodland Recovery Initiative at Glenthorne.”

Climate change? Surely this is the sort of thing Trott had in mind when he sought a permanent viticultural research station, and had the land passed to the University for $1.

It was obvious in 2000 that the Hills would need revegetating, but nobody at University mentioned this. Trott, of course, envisaged the compulsory revegetation of the creeklines and headlands and saw this written into the Deed.

Indeed, excuse the pun, Trott was instrumental in seeing the Willunga escarpment revegetated, and did all he could to see such enlightened effort continue, whilst being aware that few who did the work would appreciate the results until they were many years older.

But back at that point, the University could obviously see there was an urgent, desperate need to be researching viticulture techniques that resisted drought and required much less irrigation than commonly applied in those days.

Since then, without the University’s help, McLaren Vale has switched handsomely to recycled housing water, and continues to do so, and uses less. But new varieties? The whole wine business urgently needs help! The broke-arse transnationals aren’t gonna pay for research – they’re retreating from the drought-ridden Australia, quick.

Much easier to grow bottom shelf goonbag plonk in countries with no environmental regulations and workers you hardly have to pay.

In today’s ABC program, The World Today, Winemakers Federation of Australia CEO Stephen Strachan admitted:

“The vintage is very early this year. The fact is that if it's not climate change, it's climatically related because we've had very dry conditions that's advanced the … has advanced the crop.

“I think that it's quite inevitable that we are going to go through some restructure”, he blithely advised.

“I think that business size, economy of scale, all of those sorts of issues will come into play as we go through this next era for the industry. And I think that the rising cost of water will also be a big part of that equation.”

No kidding.

He’d be an expert to suggest that the wine business, and its primary teaching university, did not urgently need a property, near the vast laboratory resources of the University of Adelaide, on which dryland viticulture, new drought-resistant varieties, and low-irrigation biodynamic and organic grapegrowing techniques can be tested and trialled? Surely this was always the University’s research responsibility anyway?


Check the University of Adelaide’s latest churn of spin at hubris.com . Notice it doesn’t once mention the little matter of, um, cough ONE THOUSAND HOUSES.

The neighbourly polling the University did also failed to mention these, whilst its telephone pollsters would speak only to respondents under thirty.

We shall see which Labor politicians understand this, and we shall vote accordingly.

The member whose seat covers Glenthorne, Kris Hanna, is already a popular independent.

Hubris, see. You might be god, but then you’re dead.

1 comment:

Graham Due said...

Philip, Dryland viticulture? Researchers have no interest in this - except possibly to find the "drought tolerance gene" or to genetically modify vines to be drought tolerance (when the varieties already exist). I have been involved in several dryland startups - mostly successful for their operators. They have been inspected by Alf Cass with great interest. Alf moved to Ca when the wine establishemnt decided he was not good enough for them. The curious thing is that unirrigated vineyards, when properly sited, planted and operated are more often reliable than their irrigated counterparts. Yields are lower, varieties are restricted in complex ways by the exact nature of the soil, but I beleive the wines are better (as do many others). The biggest difficulty is the great degree of ignorance in the whole business. But ignorance never stopped me......