Dear Brett Whiteley,
After your last community tea at Stowport you said I had been uncharacteristically quiet. As you might have noticed that day, having anything worthwhile to contribute takes a lot of thought and research and there was simply no point in adding my voice to the outcry against selling secretly compliant halal foods at the major supermarkets, and the potholes on Greta Road. So there is no hope and I felt some sympathy for you.
I used to go to a convenient Halal butcher in Sydney – I was suspicious at first but outside the signage and nefarious-looking help it was identical to everyone else.
The $2/kg chicken was the same bloated, slimey and soft, 6 week grown, hormone and antibiotic- forced excuse for chicken, probably crawling with the VRSE organisms that are putting our health system back into the dark ages as everywhere and if the chicken’s last moments made all that OK with Allah it had to be fine with me too.
Actually the coming budget had been on my mind and now I can give you an inside look at the outcome for us locals in the farming sector. How do those laws of unintended consequences hang over our collective heads?
See ‘The Picker’s Tax Hike’ at georgesmileyblog.BlogSpot.com (reproduced below…):
The Picker’s Tax Hike
If you have been following the great Australian Budgetary Emergency its great to know the cavalry have arrived, better late than never. Rorting double-dipping new moms and part-pensioners will get it in the neck and now those back-packing international fruit picking tourists can pick up their share of the tab too. They come here and supply their labour when and where it is needed, cheaply and under minimal living conditions, then they spend all that money or send it to destitute families overseas and bugger off. So how can you sink your fangs into that? With the tax-free threshold they would be unlikely contributors so the simple solution is to abolish it for anyone on a working holiday. Here I will declare a personal interest in two categories: firstly I am an uncertain part – pensioner; having had it cancelled almost every second fortnight due to non-compliance with reporting requirements. That’s to say the understaffed public servants charged with doing the sums on my wife’s income can’t manage it in the appointed time so it gets automatically cut off. Anyone who deals with Centrelink has to have some empathy with Franz Kafka. Its as if you know the guy personally; long dead though he be. And I have done casual agricultural work in Australia from the top end to Tasmania when I was young, single, looking for fun and didn’t need much money.
We lived in the Okanagan Valley for a couple years when I was a boy. It is British Columbia’s major fruit-growing area, and we used to wander about the dry pine and sage brush- covered hills, armed with primitive weapons. The irrigated orchards were on the flatter country surrounding the lake. Once I was cutting across a neighbour’s property and came on a picker’s cabin hidden among the apple trees. It was a hovel, just like now, about 5 meters square with a dirt floor, rough bunk-bed frame and a rusty stove. But what most impressed my ten-year-old mind was the décor.
The walls were covered with small pictures of beautiful girls, mostly in black and white; carefully cut from the (free) Eaton’s catalogue along the lines of their perfect figures. All the girls offered delighted, come-hither smiles in spite of their cropped legs and arms as they posed to show off their massive inventory of old-lady type undies and unnecessary foundation garments. I must have had a social conscience at the time because I wondered how the hell could so much deprivation exist right under our bourgeois noses – Playboy type magazines and Vargas girl calendars did exist. My dad had been a newsboy in LA during the depression and they had that kind of thing back then too.
Well up in the hills was the ruins of a fabled hermit’s hut. He lived along the railway line in a little shack made of salvaged material and how he had survived through the years was not well known. But he had certainly picked fruit in season, perhaps side by side with the catalogue cutter. Further up the track was a steel railway trestle that crossed the creek at a dizzying height – about a hundred metres up, and if you plucked up your courage and walked out there, not daring to come too close to the edge but looking between the ties, you would see the tiny stream of water; far away and winding through huge boulders on its way to the lake. This is where the hermit had suicided, throwing himself over and been dashed on the stones shortly before we came. My friend next door claimed to have seen it happen but I didn’t believe it – his version supposed the hermit to have had second thoughts, successfully breaking his fall by grabbing the bottom girder six or seven metres below the rails and he had hung there by his fingertips, struggling for a while to climb back up before he lost his grip and fell. The funny thing was that his shack and small yard had then been completely torn up by treasure hunters. Obviously anyone who had so disliked and avoided humanity and its institutions; lived so poor and died so desperate must have buried a substantial horde of money. But if anyone found it they weren’t saying.
In the seventies I took the ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, bought an old Holden for a hundred dollars and drove slowly down the east coast to Huonville where I worked for a while on apples for Clements and Marshall. They let me stay in a little unpainted unheated one man shed behind the factory and when I left I drove north; back up through Queenstown, during which I had picked up a couple hitch-hikers. One was a brain-damaged local whose life had been transformed in a car accident. Of course he wanted to drive but I wouldn’t let him. We limped along; stopping regularly to add engine oil and water and it was doubtful sometimes whether I was even going to make it back. Through Hellyer Gorge and finally back down on the coast I turned onto the main road and pulled over to check the engine again, stopping about 50 yards behind a police cruiser, parked close behind a previous motorist. While I was perusing under the bonnet the first car drove away and this plump little cop waddled over and said “You were speeding back there”.
He proceeded to write me a speeding ticket. Flabbergasted I began to protest and he said “If you give me any lip I’ll take this heap off the road!” I knew he could do that; hardly anything worked. So that’s how it goes, the squeezables get squeezed, by hook or by crook – as Mr Hockey says; “We want everyone to pay their fair share.”
It would cost me about a third of my Tasmanian wages, almost exactly the treasurer’s 32.5% from day one on the job. I took stock – the weather had been crummy, the accommodation was crap, my workmates in the south were drunken ignorant little turds and according to their hilarious scuttlebutt would soon join the ranks of embattled family men struggling their whole lives on the same process lines to feed their families. Vowing never to return I left the heap on consignment at the same car yard in Devonport where it all began and scarpered to the mainland; my market logic predating not-yet-a-twinkle- in the- eye- of Steve Jobs’ Apple Computers and so many other good corporate citizens hunkered down on foreign soil like Singapore or the Irish Republic.
So the cavalry may have arrived but too late – the Indians have already scattered. Or will scatter. Those with means will have a revenue-neutral holiday on the beach in Bali instead. The poor from Asia or the islands will stay home or go to Saudi Arabia to be screwed over by an even more evil and indolent people.
“It’s a good budget. Last year’s budget was a good budget for last year; this is a good budget for this year.” In the meantime last year’s plans for a balanced budget within the decade have blown out beyond my lifetime into the never-never. Joe Hockey’s eyes were dull and his voice was flat and devoid of any conviction. It felt like the last words of eternal allegiance a condemned lord might have made before the block for his family’s sake. So go his own leadership aspirations. Because the forward estimates are crap again even as last year’s forward estimates were crap. The end of the commodity boom took these know-nothings by surprise. And similarly Joe Hockey’s glorious dawn of a broader- based economy (go out and spend, spend all ye small business people and consumers, drive our ridiculous debt to GDP ratio even deeper into the hole along with your personal liabilities) will also be impossible to wash off the blankets.
That the Shanghai share market index has doubled in the last twelve months thanks to easy credit and margin lending to first-time investors, our share market is vulnerable along with the US market also; which seems to have reached once again a ‘permanently high plateau’ as famously announced by economist Irving Fisher in 1929, and with interest rates still at zero from last time leaving the Keynesian central bankers snookered with no downward wriggle room outside of more money printing and the US, Euro and everybody elses’ bond markets at impossible highs such that when not if yields are forced up by a couple % to normal levels all the major financial institutions in the world, leveraged to buggery as they are, will be underwater when their assets are marked to market, ‘is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.’
Does our entitled leadership actually know anything at all about the macro and microscopic facts of life? Have any of them ever gone beyond fitting straight lines to crooked charts or actually got their hands dirty, even in their youths – beyond enjoying free higher education, schmoozing at Young Liberal fundraisers or risking the accidental begetting of bastards in the manner of weak but deeply – committed (oops; deleted for reasons of decency) everywhere? Someone once said ‘the future is another country’. Or maybe that was the past. I used to think it was this one.
GEORGE is a creative dude … here’s his art blog …
AND … he’s written extensively on all things forestry, Here’s …
So why did we need to open up tens of thousands of hectares of primary forest? Simply because the sustainability of our ‘working forests’ is just one more lie. Even on a Forestry Tasmania 80 year rotation the only thing that comes out of that is eucalypt pulpwood and some small blackwoods and second rate euc. sawlogs IF they are grown on high fertility/lower altitude ground which is unlikely because all that country has been cleared and is being used for agriculture. Speaking as a craftsman and fine timber specialist I wouldn’t give two bob for any of it except maybe exceptional silver wattle which is a poor man’s blackwood. Its a light, fast- growing leguminous pioneer species that will do for interior decorative use like cabinetry or panelling.
So I have been salvaging, milling and retailing fine timbers here for years. Ever since I was growing up in rural British Columbia I had a lot to do with the forest industry …
PARTS 2 and 3 are here …