ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
High on the cool slopes around Betoota, fruit growers are ready to harvest their spring varieties.
To do that, growers need a steady stream of exploitable foreign workers who are just happy enough to either be earning Australian dollars or backpackers who want to stay in the country for another year.
One such grower is Hardy Douglas, a veteran grower who is currently looking for pickers to harvest his blood oranges and avocados. The 71-year-old industry stalwart is lucky enough to have a full roster of pickers working for him this season, and many of them are hard-working and glad to be earning cash-in-hand.
A young man from Sicily recently arrived on his farm, and Hardy explained to The Advocate that he’s certainly a strange fish.
“Oh yeah, Marco’s great. He did 16 hours yesterday in the blazing sun without a break. These Italians, they know how to work,” he said.
“But, uh, yeah. Some of the things coming out of his mouth would make Rodney Rude’s toes curl right off. He makes Rodney look like Penny Wong! I was telling him yesterday that we had two French Canadian girls pick for us last season, and he rolled his eyes and went ‘Pfffffft bullshit’ and laughed to himself. I told him I was serious, and he asked me how they could possibly work as hard as him and for the same money. Then he spat on the ground and shook his head. That’s not all,”
“I told him the French bloke would be driving the tractor the other day, which is the plum job, and he outright refused to do it. He said Frenchmen were lazy and unreliable. He said he should drive the tractor and the French ‘peasant’ should be the one filling a bag. It’s not just the French, it’s pretty much anyone. English people, Irish. He hates Irish people something fierce. He hates Spanish people, thinks they’re fence-sitting cowards that needed Franco to straighten them out. He hates every race in the world and is unashamed by it,”
“But he hates Northern Italians the most. My neighbour has two blokes from Milan working for him, and he fucken hates them more than anything else. I heard they were at the pub the other night, and the two Milano blokes sat down at the table, and Marco got up and left. Apparently, the Milano blokes reckon Southern Italians are cave people. You know, that they’re essentially the South Australians of Italy. Uncultured and crude people,”
“Anyway, he works hard, and I don’t mind the cut of his jib on most things. He’s not allowed in the house, though. I don’t want him saying that shit in front of my family.”
More to come.