Deals done in ivory towers

Recently several of us were out to dinner with people not involved in the wind farm issue.

But unprompted, a question arose from the second group. What is it with Sydney University and wind farms?

When asked what the questioner meant, the response was enlightening.

“I’ve noticed the university has a real bug about discrediting people who claim they’re getting sick. Surely they should be investigating it?”

And it’s a valid point.

Simon Chapman is the professor of public health at the university. He has conducted a relentless campaign to vilify people who claim living near turbines is affecting their health.0

Additionally, the university has allowed, perhaps promoted, a culture in which this attitude has flourished. See this.

In the book Killer Company (Harper Collins, 2009), investigative journalist Matt Peacock writes about the role Sydney University played in playing down the dangers of asbestos.

The asbestos industry in Australia is no longer a problem, Gersh Major said in 1977. Major was a physicist with the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Situated in the grounds of Sydney University, the school was actually part of the federal Department of Health specializing in occupational health, and had been receiving a research grant from James Hardie Asbestos …  (p25)

So James Hardie was funding research by a Department of Health school based at the university. And that school was producing studies that showed there was no harm in asbestos.

james_hardie_narrowweb__200x303In Peacock’s book, we learn Hardie chairman John Reid deliberately oversaw a strategy for more than 20 years that ignored the dangers of asbestos.

Reid embraced a “personal PR makeover, to be cast in the role of a “Medici-like philanthropist,” a patron of culture, the arts and medical research. (p143)

Peacock devotes a whole chapter to describing Reid’s investment in spinning his personal reputation as the standing of James Hardie putrefied.

Clearly, it worked.

By 2004 campaigner Bernie Banton had been diagnosed with asbestosis.

Judge James Curtis of the Dust Diseases Tribunal found that James Hardie had “actual knowledge” of the dangers to health posed by visible cloud of asbestos dust” since 1938.

Building workers stopped work to protest outside a Hardie investor meeting.

Hundreds of newspaper articles had been written. Banton, armed with his oxygen bottle and nasal cannula, was a familiar figure on the television news.

By 2009, Peacock’s book outlining “Australia’s biggest peacetime disaster” had been published to wide acclaim.photos_bernie_banton_3a

And the response of the University of Sydney? It made Reid an Honorary Fellow.

On the university’s website, it still says: “The lengthy association of prominent businessman and philanthropist John Reid with the University of Sydney and the Australian Graduate School of Management, has contributed much to the success of both institutions.”

The message is clear.

Bernie Banton said his campaign was never about the money. It was about justice.

But for the University of Sydney, its appalling recognition of John Reid was clearly about money. Its own website says as much.

Which brings us to the wind farm issue.

In a recent speech, Labor Senator Doug Cameron said the wind farm industry represented an $81 billion per year investment for the next 40 years.

And the University of Sydney clearly wants it share.

In a recent report with KPMG and featuring glowing pictures of wind turbines, the university’s China studies centre says Chinese companies are motivated only by profit in terms of their investments in Australia, not politics.turbine shot

“There’s no cause for alarm,” the report says.

In the last six years, it says, Chinese investment here added up to $45 billion.

It specifically names Chinese wind farm operator Goldwind and its 73 “start of the art” turbines planned for Gullen Range.

The report is an orgy of praise for Goldwind. And it carries the university’s logo on the front cover.

But in the Sydney Morning Herald 3/1/13, the paper’s China correspondent John Garnaut had a different take.

He said China’s involvement in Australia, and particular with universities, has a deeply political motivation, and Chinese authorities are very twitchy if questioned about it.

Garnaut referred to the country’s track record on Internet censorship and of kicking out foreign journalists who asked the wrong questions.

He wrote: “The incident echoes efforts by Chinese diplomats in July 2009 to prevent the Melbourne Film Festival screening a documentary about an exiled leader of China’s Uighur people, which triggered an international storm.”

The Australian recently reported the significant funding challenges facing Australian universities over the next 15 years.

No wonder Chapman and his crew are at the forefront of an aggressive and fawning pro-wind campaign. No wonder they are so keen to squash any opposition or questioning of wind farm efficiencies or complaints about health.

dollar-signIt’s a business case, pure and simple.

So questions remain.

Is Chapman supported by the university in his anti wind farm obsession? And more importantly, who is funding his research?

We know the university is aware of the many people across Australia who are genuinely suffering, and the scorn that is heaped upon them by its high-profile public health academic.

We know Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence has received extensive correspondence on the matter.

Until the university states publicly where it stands on this issue and Chapman’s escapades, its tacit silence of approval will have all the hallmarks of another James Hardie affair.


Perfect place for a Goldwind wind farm.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Oh, ahh, has anyone noticed 3 of the 8 reviewers of the NHMRC literature review (in progress) are Sydney Uni professors? A fourth works for a business which is contracted by the wind industry. The fifth receives grants for researching the health impacts of climate change. The sixth is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society which believes problems can be overcome by better community consultation to offset negative perceptions (see Senate Submission 801 here:
    Any expectation I had that the current literature review might bring some balance to the debate has evaporated.

  2. Wind Witch Doctor says:

    Doesnt it make you ask the question-“What did the NHMRC have to do with the asbestos situation back then?”

    Did they say “There is no evidence of a link between asbestos and illness reported in employees of Hardie’s.” Did they actually start getting it all so wrong even back then!?!

    Perhaps our friends Professors McCallum and Anderson of the NHMRC did a case study on Hardie’s and asbestos back in their formative years at the NHMRC, being a perfect example of the now common marriage between corporate agendas and research funding requirements….’How to guarantee the dollars and the appropriate outcome 101′ I would suggest was the subject….and Simon Chapman most definitely the author of the syllabus!

  3. Since 2008, Simon Chapman has been paid more than $1,897,375 in research grants. But rather than put his millions where his smart mouth is and TRY to ‘dis-prove’ the effects of the wind turbine syndrome he ridicules, this cash was splashed on Serial-blogger-Simon’s capacity to understand how to use the media to influence preferred health policy.
    It would appear that the incessant denial of any correlation between poor health and wind turbines, scathing public ridicule of complainants, NOCEBO and “communicated disease” were among his pricey, NHMRC-funded best efforts.
    Nice one. Simon Chapman was paid $1,897,375 to tell the world that it’s all in your head. Now that does make me sick.
    Check it out:

    2008 Capacity Building Grants for Population Health and Health Services Research
    571376 Professor Simon Chapman, University of Sydney, $1,897,375

    The Australian Health News Research Collaboration
    Lay Description:
    News media are highly influential in setting health agendas and shaping health policy. The program builds multidisciplinary research capacity between 3 universities, including participation by some of Australia’s leading health journalists, to examine the content and accuracy of news treatments of health issues, how key audiences understand and are influenced by news coverage, how journalists decide which issues to cover and how they approach this coverage. The program aims to improve media literacy and the potency of policy advocacy among health professionals and so improve the quality of health news reporting in Australia.

    Identifying trustworthy experts: how do policymakers find and assess public health researchers worth consulting or collaborating with?
    Haynes AS, Derrick GE, Redman S, Hall WD, Gillespie JA, Chapman S, Sturk H.
    SourceSydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia.

    From “our world” to the “real world”: Exploring the views and behaviour of policy-influential Australian public health researchers.
    Haynes AS, Derrick GE, Chapman S, Redman S, Hall WD, Gillespie J, Sturk H.
    SourceUniversity of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

  4. Grant Winberg says:

    The disregard by Government Department personnel, some select greed driven academics and consultants, and some select greed driven multinationals of the impact on non-consenting members of the affected communities (including the asbestos analogous air pressure/noise health impacts) is beyond belief.
    But there are some well qualified, community inspiring business and academic sages whose knowledge and opinion is respected by all.
    One such is Michael Dureau. CV link:-
    News media extract “…Professor Michael Dureau was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to engineering, to professional education and research…”
    In his submission to the 2010 Senate Community Affairs Committee Enquiry into The Social and Economic Effect of Rural Wind Farms, Mr John Carter wrote “…Professor Michael Dureau, CEO of the Warren Centre at Sydney University told me that ‘….No Australian wind farm with any land mass between it and the South Pole will ever be profitable…’…”.
    It is time that the financially dependent Professor Chapman and wind farm development proponents’ consultants, together with the government and academic institutions reviewed their responsibilities to the whole community, not just those sections of the community receiving and providing financial incentives (funded by the whole community).

  5. The culprit charges the innocent of the crime…

    Simon Chapman and other trolling associates have been attempting to link the Waubra Foundation to the coal industry, by attempting to link it to Peter Mitchell’s family investments in energy industries, including CSG. Little mention is made of the fact that Mitchell’s family also has invested in WIND energy.

    The obvious: Peter Mitchell is a business man who has gone out of his way to expose a shoddy rotten industry that is harming humans and the environment. I can only expect that this has put him off side with other associates and personal contacts

    The facts speak for themselves: the WF does not express itself as a cash rich organisation that holds annual conferences with abalone snacks for its fat cats. It relies on generous donations and a lot of volunteering.

    Contrast this to Simon Chapman and his highly organised wind industry friends. For example Chapman had his public spat over money. His supposed concern over environmental issues fade when the price isn’t right:


  1. […] Note: Gullen Range developer Goldwind has close ties to the University of Sydney. […]

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