Farms in default in Childers

“It is not enough that some succeed, others must fail”— Gore Vidal

The article in the newspaper clipping  shows the crisis in capitalism hits in towns big and small, in places that city papers rarely mention, towns that lie hidden, where government money is not spent . Online commentators on the local rag blurt out:—

“Businesses closing across town, public transport in disarray, the council refusing to fund major infrastructure repairs, discrimination against the less fortunate”

Agribusiness relies on high volume to overcome low margins. For example,  Barbera Farms may sell a box of tomatoes that cost $10 to produce to Woolies or Coles for only $11.Woolies and Coles do not pay the lowest price but nor do they paid the highest – but they are a guaranteed market. The option if Woolies does not buy the tomatoes is that Barbera Fams would have to sell at the markets.

Why is the cost of production so high?

It is not the workers – many of whom are low paid workers/backpackers from other countries  on 457 visas.

The picking machine are hugely expensive and, if for reason of weather or price these machines lay idle then the agribusiness bears the cost of the money it spent on what is a mobile factory. These machines have conveyor belts that draw the fruit up into the machine where they are sorted and packaged. They still need workers but it is very capital intensive as well. There are two main tomato growing areas in Qld around Childers and Bowen.

Other crops are grown there as well – crops like avocados, capsicums and zucchinis. To run these agribusinesses means big debts can be run up and there is always risk of failure – especially if Woolies/Coles lowers the price, or if there is bad climate eg. floods.

In this case the receiver Ernst and Young is selling the land upon which the fruit is grown in order to save the company. In the long term bad consequences flow from this – loss of food security is one.

In Queensland Bundaberg, Childers and Bowen have choice agricultural land. In the land is sold for capital gain the result may not bring better food production. The land may be turned to other uses or may even like fallow. Furthermore, Bundaberg and Childers in southern Queensland and Bowen in the state’s north areas were hit hard by floods earlier this year (2011). This el nina  event could be repeated again this summer and this may result in similar problems to the banana crops in 2011 (winter & summer). Under-supply resulting in price hikes — families can even feed their kids bananas.

Barbera Farms employs more than 800 staff  – this does not have a big immediate impact on local unemployment figures because the workforce moves on. But it does have a detrimental effect on the local economy because the workers do move on…

At least some do—

Thabeban mother-of-three Jocelyn Mountford, a supervisor in the tomato shed, said she also had a firm belief the farm would be up and running this week after it was closed. “I was happy and kind of surprised (when I heard I had my job back),” she said. —

Some workers have suffered injury and death in fires in sub-standard accommodation.

It is not the first time workers have gone under. The Childers Strike of 1911 was caused by crisis in the sugar industry

Meanwhile small farmers are sent to the wall as profit margins remain so tight. Barbera Farms Pty Ltd is a private company categorized under Vegetables and Melons and located in Calavos, QLD, Australia. The director of the company is Gaetano Barbera.

On the political front, Bob Katter’s populist remedies to pressure retail monopolies like Woolies and Coles strike a cord with farmers and townsfolk. But Bob is running for parliament which is becoming less irrelevant because the crisis is at the corporate and finance  level — an area far from control of government.

Race and Class
The Childers Sugar Strike in 1911 was a result of a change in Commonwealth laws preventing mills from employing South Sea Islanders.In turn the owners of the mills tried to force new workers on the poor pay and conditions they gave Islanders. White Australia policy discriminated against Islander and Asian worker alike – as Anne Monsour describes so well in her book “Not Quite White”

Chapters two, three and four of Not Quite White are primarily based on archival research and consider the impact of exclusionary legislation such as the Queensland Aliens Act, and the Immigration Restriction Act.

Ernie Lane in Dawn to Dusk described how the White Australia Policy came in thise description of a state conference of the ALP in :

“It was on this motion(the rule debarring “coloured aliens” from membership) that I first came into direct conflict with Theodore and, until he disappeared from the Labour movement, was in constant warfare with his reactionary policies and utterances. Theodore raved like a schoolboy at the bare thought of “prostituting” the Australian Labour Movement “by breaking down the White Australia Policy.” I listened in amazement to the puerile, stupid utterances that poured from Theodore’s lips in his bitter prejudice against coloured workers.” See Dawn to Dusk by Ernie Lane

And later —

“When the big sugar strike took place in 1909, Crampton was “borrowed” from the A.M.I.E.U. by the A.W.A. to take charge of the Mackay district, the centre of the fight, of the strike. This strike proved an historical one. Scabs were brought by steamer from the southern States, and a state of bitter warfare existed, resulting eventually in a victory for the union.”In the Firing Line Again

The crisis
This week protestors in New York choose to Occupy Wall Street, the home of the companies, because this is more relevant in the current crisis – and because government has become largely irrelevant, it is the monopolies that create the crisis in capitalism.

Ian Curr
October 2011


Comments from local papers
“Bundaberg is heading into the dark ages…Businesses closing across town, public transport in disarray, the council refusing to fund major infrastructure repairs, discrimination against the less fortunate… Bundaberg is already worlds behind other towns of its size” — by battling family from Bundaberg on 12/4/2011

“It’s only April 2011 and the Bundaberg Job market crumbles even further and so within the food production causing shortages in Super markets pushing prices up. I have said that all along in 2010 that 2011 will be the demolition year.
It is full on track so far and I reserve the rights to name 2012 the “Grieving Year” — by Predictor from Moore Park on 12/4/2011

Letter to the Courier mail regarding Childers SUGAR STRIKE OF 1911

Sir— In The Courier-Mail of September 21  appeared a statement by Mr. Lamont regarding the part played by the Tasmanians as strike breakers in the sugar strike of 1911.
I participated in the strike at Childers, where our camp was situated at the Lilly Lagoons.
I came in contact with men from most parts of the world, including Tasmania, who were loyal to the principles of unionism and remained so throughout the strike.
The police entered our camp and arrested 21 members, including Tasmanians. It is unfair to condemn a State or a large number of people because of a few misguided individuals. —I am, sir, &c, Moorobka. S. ARCHER.

And how’s this for right wing media – it is worse than Murdoch —




Truly matters have come to a pretty pass. In Queensland when the farmers, the men who have settled and opened up the country, and who are aiding in its development and prosperity, are     threatened and assaulted : and     coerced at the point of the revolver as happened in the Childers  district, according to the “Post ” telegrams yesterday! Verily,  also, it is something that speaks ill for trades unionism of the political type that the poor farmers   are being made the victims of this industrial revolution which aims at the ruin of the small settlers in order that the wealthy “corporations of mill-owners may be  made to agree to certain demands , made also so to speak: “at the revolver’s point”. If ever there was an ill-advised and discreditable, piece of strike engineering, it is that which included the almost wholly-ruined Mossman district in the area of revolution, and called out the hands from the holdings of the poor farmers in the Cairns and Port Douglas sugar fields.
What a triumph  for unionism !
What a splendid recommendation for the chief organiser in regard to his suitableness   and qualifications to fill the   place of the present Federal member for those districts, in whose shoes he has been imagining himself for some time past as   standing !

Backed up by a Federal Minister who, judging by his  first impromptu ill-advised utterances, proved himself ignorant   of the very rudiments of the sugar business, and incited and encouraged by his partisan declarations   and threats, the strikers in the Childers district have simply run amok.

It is a nice state of affairs, truly, when, circumstances make such actions and ‘ utterances on the part of a Minister of the Crown possible, it is a condition of things- probably, unique in the political history of Australia, and resembling very closely some of the most objectionable political methods of America. But what is the result ?

The farmers are not frightened by Mr. Hughes’ threats, nor by the revolvers of his friends, the strikers, into submission to the cast-iron demands of the A.W.A. “On the contrary, they are banded more solidly together and daily they are becoming   more determined that the flag of freedom under “Which they are fighting for their livelihood and their families will never be hauled   down at the bidding of an ‘irresponsible agitator who is seeking   his own political aggrandisement, or in consequence of the ludicrous threats and ‘ridiculous fulminations of one William Morris. ‘

Hughes who at one, time was I howled down and refused a hear ring by the coal miners of New South Wales, and (not clear), by his I utterances has branded himself as insufferably arrogant, and is egregiously ignorant of how many beans make five so far as the  sugar industry is concerned. The   strike is deplored, but it will never be brought any nearer to a   I settlement by threats and revolvers or by hooting and violence.

It will, on the contrary, have good   results so far as the farmers are   concerned. These men, who are the backbone of-the country; will be vilified and (obscured) into of the most powerful loyal-bodies, banded together for their mutual protection; political and industrial, in Australia, and when they speak in future it will be with no uncertain voice in defence of their rights, their liberties and their homesteads.

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One thought on “Farms in default in Childers

  1. Childers Sugar Strike says:

    The Childers Sugar Strike in 1911 was a major event that had big ramifications for the local community, economy and has impacted on the sugar industry ever since.

    The Isis community has developed a theatrical performance to celebrate the centenery of this event and relay the story of the 1911 Childers Sugar Strike.

    A play by Errol O’Neill, with music by Tony Carey and directed by David Horner, with many local performers – it will be a great performance.

    Performance details are as follows:
    Friday 14th October – 6:30pm for a 7pm start
    Saturday 15th October – 6:30pm for a 7pm start
    Sunday 16th October – 1:30pm for a 2pm start

    All tickets are $15, no concessions and it’s unreserved seating.

    Tickets are available at Childers Arts Space, upstairs in the Palace Memorial Building.
    E –
    Ph – 4130 4876

    Any questions please email

    Hope to see you there.
    Childers Strike

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