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Congratulations to past President of Property Rights Australia John Purcell in being awarded the Order of Australia on the Queen's Birthday honours list. What an honour in the Queen's Jubilee year.
The honour is well deserved with John still active in attending any rural meetings of interest or relevence.
Marlborough grazier John Purcell has also been recognised for his work in agripolitics, including the Cattlemen's Union, Cattle Council and Property Rights Australia.
"My motto is stand your ground," Mr Purcell said.
"Quite a few people have been taken to the cleaners - if they had of stood the ground they would have been in a better position today.
I was so excited to hear this news John truly deserves it. He has worked tirelessly for the industry for so many years. Congratulations.
Congradulations John a real plesure to see you get some recognition for all your good work for the community and industry over the years also I do feel honoured to have worked with you. Both Julia and I send you our congradulations and wish you, Mary and family well
I am very familiar with the great work John did for the cattle industry, even before PRA was formed. He served two three year terms as Chairman of the Cattlemen’s Union and during the second of those I worked closely with him on the CU Council. He was renowned for being able to manage a meeting of a thousand people and name each speaker as he or she rose to speak. He was ever courteous and thoughtful for those he worked with and would make a point of thanking people, especially those who did that extra bit.
This honour is well deserved!
Since the announcement of John Purcell’s award we have all read extensively of the formal positions that he held.
He was president of the Cattlemen’s Union and Property Rights Australia among other organisations.
John is happy for me to outline some of his more risk-taking ventures. He has fond memories of the support and camaraderie he received from other producers. The Cattlemen’s Union was no aristocratic organisation of people who were afraid to get their hands dirty although it was an organisation of gentlemen. I had the privilege of meeting many of them years later. Viewed in hindsight it was an organisation trying to get the point across in ways that were way outside their usual comfort zone.
On the weekend preceding 16th May, 1977 the Cattlemen’s Union, of which John was a founding member and Councillor, blockaded the Gracemere Saleyards near Rockhampton from Friday night to Monday morning. The plan was that no cattle would be sold at the regular Monday sale.
This action came after three years of cattle prices well below the cost of production. Producers often showed negative returns after a sale and there were always negative cash flows. This was at a time when processors were making a profit with some companies returning shareholder dividends of up to 22%.
The media were basically on side as the plight of cattlemen had been obvious for three years. John Purcell and Ian Park did radio interviews on commercial radio which were played every half hour so that everyone was aware of what was happening. Advertisements were also taken out in newspapers.
One of John's responsibilities was to get the police on side. After securing promises that there would only be 1 or 2 there were 36!
In the week leading up to the blockade John and Ron Bahnisch shared a room in Ian Park’s flat. Ron took his job of investigating the legal aspects of the blockade seriously.
John recalls that in the middle of the night he woke up to find Ron sitting on the toilet reading the bylaws of the Gracemere Saleyards and the Railway Act.
“If anyone blocks a railway line he shall be whipped not once, not twice, but thrice!”
Three hundred people including wives and children turned up at the blockade and stayed all weekend. It poured for the whole weekend but the protesters were a cheerful bunch and made their point without incident.
The blockade was timed to be just before a meeting where Ian Sinclair, Federal Minister for Primary Industries was to announce the formation of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation where the Cattlemen’s Union wanted representatives voted on by producers and quality market intelligence.
John Purcell is quoted as saying that “It was based on legislation that Sinclair was intending to introduce regarding the AMLC, but probably even more it was an outlet for people’s frustrations. It gave them an opportunity to say ‘We’ve had enough!’.”
Note:-As well as John’s recollection, reference has been made to “Cattlemen’s Union, The First Decade” by Penny Schmalkuche.
I would like to endorse Joanne’s tribute to John Purcell. John has selflessly represented cattlemens’ and landowners’ interests at the highest level for most of his working life.
He introduced PRA’s motto, STAND YOUR GROUND which sums up his position.
The successful blockade of the Gracemere Saleyards on 16th May, 1977, was for many conservative cattlemen the first time they were sufficiently provoked to take uncharacteristically radical action.
Being chairman of the Rockhampton Region of the CU, I had to lead the team that organised the blockade. John had the police on side and I remember Fred Tritton, then the Richmond Shire Chairman, arriving at the office. “What can I do?” he said.
Somebody said, “We should talk to the Meatworkers Union”.
Fred ripped off his tie and away he went – no briefing or debriefing, just instant action and commitment.
Ian Park said, “If you were students you would lie down on the rail tracks.” My reading of the ancient act kindly supplied buy our lawyers was that indeed you don’t mess with railways, full stop.
In the middle of May we actually had so much rain that flooded creeks prevented access to Gracemere. It was a case of divine intervention.
As Chairman of PRA, John organised many outstanding events demonstrating members’ outrage at the Veg Acts – 500 at a lunchtime march through the Brisbane CBD, 300 at a march and rally outside the country sitting at State Parliament in Rockhampton and a monster rally of 500 at Mt Perry showgrounds. John also organised a protest truck rally bisecting Charleville when Beattie was shamed into a commitment to the “Blueprint for the Bush.”
It was a classic good cop bad cop exercise with Agforce getting the kudos.
I believe that John, as much as anyone, fostered the uncompromising ethos characterised as the “bad cop” in first the UGA and CU and then PRA. Politicians in the business where perceptions and compromise reign supreme need fearless representation of constituent’s interests as a reality check. John has always provided that.
Very fitting that John get his acknowlegement.Ron-you and Lorna should be next.
Unfortunately livestock producers terms of trade are in a sad state of affairs and a small group of us have a plan for Mr Ludwig to initiate and get some fairness and say back in our hands.