FLEEING communism, war and poverty, they worked Australian soil with ingenuity, paid for with risk and hard labour.
Here, they could provide for their families growing tobacco with autonomy from their former socialist serfdom – until dogooders decided they might also have a crack at stepping on their necks to remind them of home.
We, the bogans at the pub, couldn’t have our cheap North Queensland durries homegrown in sandy soil. It had to be grown overseas. Growers, left with nothing but bad backs and skin cancers after decades in the field, got the edict to “diversify”.
Between bunches of dry leaves at the last tobacco sale, tears flowed, none were convinced corn and mangoes would save them.
Diversification came in the guise of government-funded studies for areas of economic disadvantage.
There was $800,000 for Golden Circle, which later became a US subsidiary of Heinz, from the Queensland government to investigate the feasibility of a mango puree and sweet corn facility in 2000, and $347,728 by the federal government in 2003 on the promise the company would build a processing plant in North Queensland.
Suits in Canberra and Brisbane had the answers for them 1700km to 2500km away. Today no such plant exists. What came of the feasibility studies paid by the taxpayer to a now overseas-owned company? Zilch.
Studies are used to excuse inertia even if it means farmers have to rip up crops without water, manufacturers forced to close without affordable power, all ultimately leaving us vulnerable as a nation by reducing the fundamental attributes of our sovereignty.
Now we have councils doing feasibility studies as a matter to determine where to plant a tree. Not because they have to, but so when someone complains, they can say “we did a study” instead of “we made a decision”.
The shiny shovel photographs of politicians at announcements belie a web of lawyers and consultants, paid by taxpayers whether a project proceeds or not.
They are paid to find problems, so problems they find. It sustains them.
Name the project and you name the study to stop it but not the cost of the stop or the salaries of the stoppers.
Deep in Canberra, someone’s screaming in anxiety that we’ll kick over the engine and start pushing up dirt.
A defined cure to eliminate asbestos waste that has passed the strictest controls in the EU and the US suffered two feasibility studies in Australia, one that cost $5m and now another that costs $8m.
Inner urban forces which outwardly pledge support to Indigenous communities have halted repeated efforts to give them reliable water. The latest being the Northern Territory government commissioning a $1.3m feasibility study into dams off Adelaide River after a $2m study into the same dam – even commissioning the same consultancy to provide “technical expertise”.
This followed a 2.5 year $15m study by CSIRO on water storage options for the whole Top End.
In Collinsville, where solar farms have provided bare minimum jobs, $3.3m has been granted for a feasibility study for an Indigenous company to turn the old power station, which closed in 2013, into a $2bn new high-energy, low-emission power plant – which the Greens and Labor have been fighting in the Senate and will no doubt use to kill the project.
If Labor were authentic about wanting projects delivered, they should open amendments to streamline the EPB&C Act, introduced under their tenure.
Now the term “diversify” has been replaced with “transition”.
And instead of tobacco, it’s mining.
We have seen this story before.
Not much grows on old tobacco farms now. The drying sheds are being torn down and sold as lumber.