“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)





27 March 2011


Not racist: Senator Amanda Vanstone in her heyday
Where's The Sheriff?
Adelaide's Dry Zones
Red, White And Black

written by PHILIP WHITE - 02 MAR 11 for INDAILY

Whether it’s legal or not, one of the prettiest sights this Earth has to offer begins to occur daily in Paris over the next few weeks. At lunchtime, the girls from the fashion district buy their baguettes at Fouchon, and steer their teetering Manolos and Loubos down the Richepanse from the Madeleine, across Saint-Honoré to the Jardin des Tuleries.

There in that city’s immaculate dappled spring light, they buy beers at a little barrow ice-cream stall, step off those impossible heels, remove their stockings, and throw a few giggly ends of boulles barefoot in the gravel.

If the lasses of Adelaide were the only ones to do anything like this in Victoria Square, there would be no dry zone in the heart of our city. Our dry zones were imposed, without any doubt, to remove aboriginal drinkers from one of their favoured meeting places.

Queen Victoria haunts her bleak dry square
. .
Dry zones began to be discussed after Senator Amanda Vanstone brought Auberon Waugh, the prickly wine columnist of London’s ancient Spectator magazine, to come and appreciate the beauties of South Australian wine.

It was late eighties, and Bron (below) went home smitten with our vino. He was certainly full of it. In a sense, his visit and consequent espousal of our booze was one key factor in our incredible wine export boom. But he also infamously mocked the aboriginal people for what he called their idyllic lives, lolling about in immaculate parks, blind-tasting the wondrous old fortified wines available here at impossibly cheap prices.

Bron never bothered to mention that many of these indigenous folks gathered there because many of them were in town to attend the nearby courts, or that the square had been their meeting place for a very long time. He overlooked the savage treadmill of the meeting of mates and brethren from afar who had to attend court, could not afford to stay in the Hilton, found themselves sinking a few conciliatory ports, got charged with one new offence or another, so had to come back for more court and just happened to get into some more port.

This is in contrast to the lawyers, and white petty criminals, who drink to celebrate their victories and losses in the Crown & Sceptre, the King’s Head, or one of the other pubs, cafés and bars profuse in that precinct for that purpose.

Chateau Reynella

Adelaide has a fairly rickety record when we consider our ethanol business. Our great wine families made their initial fortunes producing sweet powerful rotgut: the great factories where they made this stuff are marketed by government as our major tourist attractions, as if they were our Parthenon or St Peter’s. Most of our export boom wine has been the modern dry equivalent of those old fortifieds: cheap as chips grape-derived ethanol of little character aimed precisely at the bottom of the UK booze sector and the inhabitants of the bed of the Todd River in The Alice.

The business is worth billions.


South Australia achieved some sort of international stardom when the Premier of this Wine State was whacked and wounded by a white man wielding a rolled-up copy of the local wine magazine in the National Wine Centre. The carousing and karaoke of his deputy also attracted more than a little spotlight, and I’m sure none of us can forget his visage, battered from being king-hit after his involvement in rescuing a damsel in the dark on a long midnight ramble through our alleys of white man’s booze.

He’d already announced he’d been suffering from deep depression, poor fellow.

Chateau Tanunda

And now, of course, we have a government-sponsored mélange of festivals in the name of the arts, culture, motorsport and whatnot, so it’s official all-night party time for weeks on end.

The aforementioned Premier is Minister for the Arts, his Deputy is now the Minister for Motor Sport, and after the Minister responsible for Road Safety had to apologise publicly and quit for his 58 traffic offences and over $10,000 in fines, he ended up with the portfolios of Prisons, Gambling and Youth, amongst others.

The notion of state-sanctioned motor racing and the shenanigans surrounding that explosive brew of alcohol, deadly speed, and the official abandonment of the road laws is beaten only by the annual Schutzenfest, where we manage to combine the images of traditional drinking with the traditional shooting of firearms.

Seppelt family mausoleum at Seppeltsfield

So when Monsignor David Cappo, the Premier’s Social Inclusion Commissioner, called this week for an end to the dry zoning on the grounds that it fails to deal with the issues at the heart of public drinking and simply serves to “funnel aboriginal people into the justice system”, we should have forseen the wave of arrogant rage that hit Murdoch comments websites like Adelaide Now.

“We are not racists” goes the gist, “we just don’t like being accosted by black drunks.”

Around ninety per cent of these correspondents railed in support of the dry zone, with half of them requesting its extension. There was little real discussion of Cappo’s call that "council should … seek better ways to connect with and support vulnerable people in the city," or his suggestion that we "must engage with vulnerable people and support them …

“There should be integrated services working for them,” he insisted, “including housing, mental health, and drug and alcohol services."

Cappo (right), chairs a board of hard-core Labor bluestockings with close affiliations to much more famous ALP men.

There was little analysis, anywhere, of councillor David Plumridge’s demand that government get real and fund the alcohol abuse support services it promised ten years ago to soften the racist sound of its initial dry zone enforcement.

“Mike is Green of Clare” looked very lonely in that interminable list of rage. “As a family from the country, in town last weekend for The Fringe,” he wrote “... to suggest aboriginal folk are 'the face of public drinking' is ludicrous. So many drunken whities walking the streets drunk, pouring out of clubs and pubs, aggressive, legless, urinating in public, vomiting and discarding their rubbish.

“Dry zones?? They don't solve anything. They were set up to stop aboriginals gathering in 'our' public places whilst we hide behind closed doors and drink ourselves into oblivion. 'Responsible service of alcohol' - a feel good statement, nothing more. We (us whities) have no shame, yet we preach our virtues daily. How embarrassing!”

If we were the civilized and erudite state envisioned by people like Colonel William Light and Premier Don Dunstan (left) , anybody would surely be able to sashay up to a little barrow ice-cream stall in Victoria Square, buy a glass of cold Riesling, slip off their shoes and throw some friendly petanque beneath the shadow of the dope-smoking Queen Victoria.

The licensee would be responsible for serving those who were sufficiently well behaved to deserve this magnificent luxury, whatever our hue or intention, and life could go on.

Part of the redesign of that Square should include a permanent public fireplace so those who have met there for millenia can continue to do so, with respect and dignity. Make it a safe place where they can help each other, and console each other for the havoc white Australia has wrought on their culture by plying them with rotgut for 175 years.

And, dammit, they should be assisted by the sort of alcohol abuse services the government promised in 2001.

Some of them will need counselling for depression, and medical attention for wounds inflicted by marauding drunks, many of which will be white.

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