Vikky Campion guest post. Ag visas will keep the spirit of Lockie with us

I remember Lockie Clarke on my front patio by how hard his hands were, and how soft his handshake – in comparison to soft hands that sometimes squeeze to hurt. He wasn’t trying to prove machismo with putty.

In the steep hills of Danglemah, the cattle were more than wild. Musterers came and stayed for days and could only harness a few. Valleys were too steep, the scrub too thick, the beasts beyond feral. Then entered a kid from Mooneba, near Kempsey, with an old-soul demeanour who learnt to muster when he learnt to ride, who trained his dogs to herd wild goats and tame mickey bulls who had never seen a man before.

It was in his blood, his sister Stacey says, he had an instinct of knowing what the wild things were going to go before they did.

He did the work of three men, and used the mustering to buy cattle, working his own stud.

He was in every sense, different to the Generation Z stereotype who won’t leave home – those who are happier on the dole playing video games than they would be working on a farm, those who think of physical labour as some kind of torture.

When I met him, he was a man of twice his age, rough hands, cool head, a man who wrestled horses, cattle and dogs all day, who had a farmstrong physique which couldn’t be built in a gym, who appreciated the beauty of a forested cirque, who could navigate rough country thorny with briars on horseback, barefoot, and who preferred that challenge of life.

People talk about R.M. Williams boots as a mark of the land but Lockie often mustered without shoes.

People talk about being used and abused on farms, but Lockie, who understood the way of the wild, was more educated in the world than so many students from the University of Sydney.

He was not someone who had been exploited by farm work but nourished into it, on his way to being king of his own grass castle, with just his intuition and skills he’d learnt in the gulf at just 17-years-old.

A boy who pulls more than 300kg of wild bovine testosterone doesn’t have to convince you they are tough.

He was his own man, his own business, his own future – and then he fell asleep on the drive to work in the dark.

I never knew how old he was until he died a few weeks ago, buried on the family place at Dungay Creek, aged just 21. For his mum, Donna, there is only an unfathomable sorrow of unrequited pain.

She got the cards and the casseroles but it doesn’t bring back that last piece of the family puzzle.

A nation made of Lockie’s would be a superpower. Frankly, we need more of them and that’s where Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has navigated a huge win in the new agricultural visa which will let us bring in people who want to work on Australian farms because so many won’t.

Fear stems from the unknown, and there is an element of the commentariat who make-believe farmers hark from a Brothers Grimm fairytale, crooked teeth, waiting to murder, rape or exploit their victims. Crikey even putting the fruit picking industry second to only sex work in how exploitative it allegedly is.

The new ag visa, tethered down as a result of the post-Brexit UK trade deal, which will slash 10,000 backpackers from Aussie farms, opens up our farmers to hire from South-East Asian nations for nine months of the year.

It’s a win for both the land and the Lockies in Vietnam and the Philippines.

But it was a cue for outrage from people who have never stepped onto a farm, citing nightmares of exploited backpackers on remote Australian lands.

Backbenchers such as George Christensen, who worked in overseas charities in the very countries that we will be taking workers from, are already moving to ensure that protections for farm workers, particularly those from povertystruck nations, with poorer English skills, are protected through a strict labour-hire registry with immediate lifetime bans for anyone who does the wrong thing.

We should also use this as the catalyst to improve protections for all farmworkers, so if they get injured, their super pays them out instead of leaving their family in the cold.

We cannot allow the bad apples, who have taken advantage of youthful tourists vulnerable in a foreign land, to define our farmers who overwhelmingly have not murdered, raped and exploited these kids.

Kids like Lockie.

Lockie’s mum Donna stares at a paddock of his bulls.

She doesn’t care where in the world the next musterer comes from, she doesn’t care what colour they are, or what language they speak, as long as their hands are hard and their heart is warm and the legacy of Lockie lives on.

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24 Responses to Vikky Campion guest post. Ag visas will keep the spirit of Lockie with us

  1. Cardimona says:

    Vale Lockie…
    A sad end to a young life.
    Roadies involving the young gave me the horrors eventually…

    Howeverr, it’s the government’s fault that Aussie Lockies are rare.
    They let FIFO gut the small towns – or abort them before they could be born – and took a lot of life out of the bush, leading to the exodus of youth to the cities.
    They then got everyone addicted to welfare and/or overpaid government work and/or govt-grant-funded work with short hours and sweet conditions.
    They took away the social milieu of the bush as well as the motive to work hard.
    Importing guest workers is a poor substitute for killing off the nanny-state and getting our own population to understand the underpinning realities of the free-market capitalism that is – for now – supporting the ScoMo socialist shitshow.

  2. OldOzzie says:

    Vikky,

    Perfectly stated

    But it was a cue for outrage from people who have never stepped onto a farm, citing nightmares of exploited backpackers on remote Australian lands.

    As someone who as a kid from a City single parent home, but was lucky enough to spend his childhood on outback stations of friends and relatives, and seen the reality of the harshness of Farming – Farm meat – string the lamb up by it’s front legs, cut it’s throat quickly, but with a bowl to catch the blood, then disembowel, skin, nothing wasted, with drought and flooding rains a harsh life.

    I have just finished watching the first 8 episodes of Jeremy Clarkson’s Farming on Amazon Prime and it perfectly highlights the spirit of Lockie through Kaleb Cooper

    Clarkson’s Farm, a new TV series on Amazon Prime Video, follows Jeremy Clarkson as he gets to grips with running and managing his own farm in Chipping Norton, in the Cotswolds (launching on Friday 11th June 2021). He’s joined by his farming sidekick, Kaleb Cooper, alongside other agricultural experts who are there to show him the ropes.

    But who is Kaleb Cooper? Not afraid to put Jeremy Clarkson in his place and share a bit of banter, Kaleb Cooper is Chipping Norton born-and-bred and it’s fair to say that farming runs through his veins.

    Country Living chatted to Jeremy and Kaleb ahead of the new series. Jeremy describes it as a “love letter to farming” about the nitty gritty of crops and land management, not just cute lambs and bottle-feeding animals.

    KALEB – WHAT DOES THE FARMING LIFE MEAN TO YOU?

    “The farming way of life… I can’t describe it to anyone. I love my life. I am very, very happy and I don’t understand why anyone would want to go to London and stay in London, but that’s completely up to them,” says Kaleb who, in the programme, shares a story of the one time he did go to London but stayed on the bus because he found it too busy.

    “Farming for me is not a job, it’s a way of life. I don’t get up in the morning and think ‘oh I’ve got to go to work, I’ve got to drive to the farm, I’ve got to get in the tractor and put that on there.’ I get up and go ‘right, what am I doing today?’ It’s how excited I get about doing a job. For example, if I know I’m going spraying in three days time I’m thinking ‘yes, in three days time I’m going tractoring!'”

  3. cuckoo says:

    Wonderful photo.

  4. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha says:

    Howeverr, it’s the government’s fault that Aussie Lockies are rare.

    The rot set in with the Whitlam Government – if you worked in agriculture, you must have come bottom of your class at school, or been too dim to “do arts” at university.

  5. theleftfootkick says:

    I travel a lot, long distance truck driving, not doing the time critical work any more, a retirement job running new trucks to there destination; in fact I am off to Perth again next Monday. As I pass through the many small towns along the way, pass by the distant farm homestead, I try and imagine what life must be like out there; there is no ‘ducking down the street or popping into the local shopping centre to pick up a few things’. Sometimes when staying overnight in a town, I will go to the local pub for a meal, it is interesting observing the locals. It is not difficult to strike up a conversation with them. There are not many office workers among them, they are mostly the outdoor type, old farmers in the 60’s and 70’s still working, battered by a rugged life on the farm. Some of them look half crippled, struggle to walk, their hands are gnarled, weather beaten sun spotted faces and arms. You wonder how do they keep at it? Where are the younger set, there are a few, you see that they are in the same vein, only generations behind. Sometimes they are with their family members all peas in the same pod, with the way they dress and converse with each other and their friends and so forth. I am always impressed how polite and well spoken they are, they radiate a positive outlook. Unlike the ubiquitous inner city woke generation, always angry, always ready with their pathetic demonstrating placard or banner, always demanding the impossible from the government. Always taking the conveniences and services amenities of a comfortable city lifestyle for granted, and screaming how horrible the world is to them.

  6. exsteelworker says:

    “A society that accepts some “lesser” humans – usually people of colour — are needed to do the jobs we will not.”
    That quote was from the “SMH” . Similar story to what Vikky Campion wrote above but Australia is racist because we exploit overseas workers of colour to do the work our pampered youth won’t. I know heaps of people that have never worked a day in their life in this country of strawberries and cream., and to rub salt into the honest hard working Aussies wounds, these bludgers get a full pension with benefits and probably a commission house to boot in retirement…..Why aren’t the long-term unemployed forced to work on the farm?.. The government should start a national service scheme and their training would be farm work. But try getting that passed to ALPBC/ GREENS, exploitation they’ll cry.

  7. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha says:

    Where are the younger set, there are a few, you see that they are in the same vein, only generations behind.

    Yielded to the clarion call “NO son of mine is ever going FARMING!

  8. C.L. says:

    Is that Lockie in the picture?
    Are they his daughters? His nieces?

    ?

    He was in every sense, different to the Generation Z stereotype who won’t leave home – those who are happier on the dole playing video games than they would be working on a farm, those who think of physical labour as some kind of torture.

    You can’t condemn “Brothers Grimm” stereotypes about farmers with crooked teeth and then do a drive-by on 17 year-olds in the city.

    But thank you for a fine valedictory for a very fine young man.

  9. OldOzzie says:

    exsteelworker says:
    June 19, 2021 at 9:15 am

    and to rub salt into the honest hard working Aussies wounds, these bludgers get a full pension with benefits and probably a commission house to boot in retirement

    Associates of the slain crime boss formed a guard of honour at his grieving mother’s high security housing commission townhouse on Friday morning.

    Two dozen male friends, most of them dressed in hoodies and tracksuit pants, gathered to pay their respects and stand protectively out the front of matriarch Maha Hamze’s home in Auburn, Sydney.

    His mother’s humble home was itself a scene of recent bloodshed – and is fitted with security technology more befitting a prime minister’s residence.

    The publicly-owned property is protected by at least six CCTV cameras including a private telegraph pole where three devices capture a 360 degree view of the street.

  10. OldOzzie says:

    Apologies Vikki – above meant for Open Forum – Brain/Hands need better coordination

  11. Primer says:

    There are lots of Lockies in NZ.

    I make an exception to the standard no crushing handshake rule with big fat loud lesbians posing in overalls and unused work boots who think they are the man. Correct psi is reached when face goes pale.

  12. Ed Case says:

    It’s a win for both the land and the Lockies in Vietnam and the Philippines.

    There aren’t any Lockies in Vietnam and The Philippines.
    It takes a long, long time to learn much about Horses and Cattle, someone who knows the game has got to be willing to teach you, and the money is going to be very ordinary, daylight to dark, maybe 2 days off a month.
    Plenty will come over on this proposed new Visa, but they’re not becoming Cattlemen.

  13. Tom says:

    Thanks, Vikki. A sad story beautifully told.

    I always wonder about go-getting youngsters who die through apparent carelessness or, more accurately, couldn’t-care-lessness.

  14. Filbert says:

    Salt of the earth that lad.
    God bless his soul.

  15. There aren’t any Lockies in Vietnam and The Philippines.
    It takes a long, long time to learn much about Horses and Cattle.

    Yet Rodeo is a sport in Philippines.
    Wonder how they achieve that without Horses and Cattle?

  16. Lawrie says:

    I am 76 and still run a few cows and dread the thought of moving to town. My wife has dementia and we have a 6 yo grandson for whom we are his defacto parents. I know plenty of people who have challenges in their lives but who face them with resolve and often little help from our caring governments. I compare them to the kids I see who are unable to work for a myriad of reasons, some self inflicted, but who benefit from taxpayer largess. Country living is very hard to beat but I have a friend who is 85 looking after a spouse who is 81 and never a complaint. They were raised in the city but in a different era when you either worked or starved, your choice.

  17. PB says:

    “Wonderful photo.’

    seconded.

  18. theleftfootkick says:

    Many many grandparents looking after and parenting their grandchildren, it is a major hidden tragedy. Most of it caused by drugs. And quite country towns are not immune to it either. And when we see big players in the drug trade get arrested and then let out on bail, it makes one wonder how high up the chain does the corruption go.

  19. Tel says:

    Business in Australia should be primarily hiring Australians. There’s only one thing more addictive than crack cocaine, and that’s cheap imported labour.

    Look, I have to say this … but the whole post is about some emotional yarn plugged together with yet another tiresome agrarian attempt at special pleading. I know that wages are high in Australia with a very high minimum wage, lots of terms and conditions, unions all over the place, and award regulations. I get all of that but still I expect business to be forced to hire Australians … and that’s no different city or country. If the business finds all the complex red tape then you know where to go to get that fixed … punishing Australia’s young people by pulling in unlimited international competitors is not the answer. Business (including farms) could grow a pair and actually campaign about what is making Australia uncompetitive instead of finding ways to doge around it.

    Take a look at the way unemployment went DOWN with the borders closed.

    https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/unemployment-rate

    That’s at a time when small business is going bankrupt, and still unemployment goes down. OK, I know that the “Job Keeper” scheme is a way to hide unemployment, so the stats are juiced, which they always are. Point is that Australians do actually work when given a chance.

  20. Dot says:

    Do you actually believe unemployment figures though. Look at the microeconomic level as well.

    With iron ore over 200 USD/tonne, jobs in mining are a sure thing. What about mendicant Victoria or Tasmania?

    I don’t think the two have strong correlation but if means anything, the average migrant has been sub par recently.

  21. Business in Australia should be primarily hiring Australians.

    Australians should meet business halfway & actually apply for a job.

  22. Hiring non-Australians is not limited to ‘business’ – the biggest users of temporary entry worker visas are & always were, the state governments.

  23. Tel says:

    With iron ore over 200 USD/tonne, jobs in mining are a sure thing. What about mendicant Victoria or Tasmania?

    Good price on lumber these days … Victoria and Tasmania have no excuses. If they choose to shut down their industries then I can’t help them … but opening up special pleading for the agricultural sector won’t help them either.

  24. The ‘ag-visa’ is an primarily for the orchardists & horticulturalists.

    They’re facing the same problem as their counterparts everywhere in the western world: (Who is going to pick the crop?)
    The work is hard & unpleasant, itinerant, inconsistent & unreliable, unattractively paid by national standards, yet pays well by world standards – in Australia doubly so.
    Yet domestic citizens are (for the reasons above) unwilling to do the work.

    USA solves this with Mexicans, Canada with carribbean or central/south Americans, Europe with Africans or East Europeans (sometimes south Europeans) & Australia bungles along with a hotch-potch of inept solutions, including utilising overseas youth on working holidays.

    The ag-visa will get crops picked, efficiently & on time, without the whingeing, & inefficiencies of backpackers who’re unaccustomed to (ugh) having to work.

    Without the ag-visa, many high value foods will cease to be grown in Australia. They’ll still be grown, just in Vietnam/Malaysia/etc.

    Will the Australian land be repurposed? Of course, with a lower $$ yield and with some foods either being no longer available or far more expensive & at times difficult to obtain.

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