29 Jan 2006, Comments Off on A great big steaming pile

A great big steaming pile

Author: Helen



Last year, I posted a few times on the alpine cattle dispute, the ban on grazing in the Victorian high country, and the appropriation of “tradition” and iconic status by the grazier families to try and win an unwinnable debate. If you’re new to this story, here’s a very simple explanation.

They’re back… and they’re still framing the debate like veteran spin doctors. Their court of appeal is the hearts and minds of ordinary Australians, and they’re desperate to portray themselves as the innocent and threatened upholders of tradition.

Tradition is the buzzword they zap us with every time and, like the experienced animal handlers they are, they have journalists eating out of their hand.

Tradition is a funny thing. It’s a habit we are unwilling or unable to break. Cattle grazing in Victoria’s high country is a 170-year-old tradition that won’t be broken easily…

…For Lovick, some traditions should never be broken, because they tell the story of who we are…

The “170 year old tradition” (if the Balcony has any European or Asian readers, I’m sure they are rolling around clutching their sides at that one) is quite colourful, with occasional moments of equitational brilliance, but it’s over in that part of the Alps. And the brilliant bits are to do with feats of horsemanship, not with the cattle. Culturally speaking, no-one could give a stuff about the cows; it’s the horses and horsemen and women that we as a nation love, and it’s the horse and leisure industry that they should turn to now as they clip-clop into a new millenium. Oh, wait…

NSW banned alpine cattle grazing in the Kosciuszko National Park more than 30 years ago. The Victorian Government’s decision to do the same in the Alpine National Park hardly came as a surprise, and even before the decision, Lovick began diversifying.
For years, friends and visitors had come to his Merrijig property to assist in the yearly cattle muster to the high country and in the late 1960s it was suggested that he should charge people to participate. His horse trail riding business is now more profitable than his cattle.

In other words, he’s already done it (and so have other High Country horsemen). So why the well-organised tantrums by the Men from Snowy River? Because the High Country grazing was a fantastic little sideline – paid for by you and me, the taxpayer. Sweet. However, according to Mr Lovick, the cattle grazier is just a little battler whose livelihood will be lost or dreadfully curtailed.

The ban on cattle grazing will lead to changes in the high country. Many cattlemen, says Lovick, will struggle to survive with only access to the state forest. He has cut his herd by 220 head and sold 40 hectares of land. Life for the cattleman has also changed.
Lovick, who suffers from a serious back complaint, has bought an apartment in the QV development in Swanston Street and regularly visits Melbourne.
The mountain cattleman is a devoted supporter of the Melbourne Football Club and loves the city. He enjoys grabbing takeaway Vietnamese before heading to the footy.
The bad back precludes much of the stock work and he often catches up with the trail riders in his four-wheel-drive rather than on horseback…

Ex – squeeze me? Apartment in the QV development? Melbourne Football Club? Vietnamese takeaway? Four-wheel drive when on the droving trail? Just how “traditional” is this mountain man?

Do you appreciate the irony here? Single mums raising the next generation would come in for severe criticism from many of the graziers’ supporters, while you and I contribute to pay for cattle agistment for the owner of a QV apartment who’s pretending he’s some kind of historical relic. Give me a break.

But the Victorian Liberal opposition is completely lapping this shit up. A week after the AGE article was published, the cattlemen – and the cattle – were back in the Alps (note, they are still allowed into the State Forest adjacent to the national park area in dispute):

The cattlemen say they will stop at nothing, until the ban is lifted. Yesterday Environment minister and acting premier John Thwaites was joined in the Alpine National Park by environmental groups to begin a cleanup of what it claims is years of damage caused by cattle grazing. Today as part of week long protest at last year’s ban, around 10 cattlemen began driving a mob of cattle through the Park. Despite the threat of fines, Mountain Cattleman Charlie Lovick says he is not worried about breaking the law.

Stop at nothing? Isn’t that a bit desperate and seditious? Apparently not. One of the people on the ride was Liberal MP Graeme Stoney. He was supported enthusiastically by our solid-wood Leader of the Opposition, Robert Doyle. “Graeme Stoney is a man’s man!” he enthused. Doyle had obviously forgotten his own policy speech of 2002, where he announced “‘NO GO AREAS’ AT DEMONSTRATIONS AND PROTEST MEETINGS WILL BE DEFINED CLEARLY TO HELP POLICE DO THEIR JOB OF PROTECTING PEOPLE AND THEIR PROPERTY.” (Yes, the version I’ve linked to is all in caps; just one more strange thing about Doyle.) Clearly, this was not meant to apply to Liberal politicians and their supporters, who should be allowed to go anywhere and protest about anything they like.

About two weeks after that, Charlie Lovick’s bad back seemed to recover quite miraculously (ACA, where are you when we need you?)

AN 800kg Hereford bullock will lead 200 drovers along high country tracks in the latest protest against the Victorian Government’s ban on cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park.
Mansfield cattleman, John Lovick, will lead the fray, riding his pet Hereford – Johnny.

So, that’s one thing we can expect this year – lots more free entertainment from the whip-cracking, trick-riding, agistment fee-avoiding Crazy Graziers of the high country. Do you think they’ll come to town to protest against the end of a 105 – year tradition of arbitrated industrial relations? Will they heck.

Comments (0)

  • liam says:

    I love the perversity of Australian fixation on ‘traditions’.
    The best heritage-related anecdote I know of is that of the tour guide in the Rocks in Sydney pointing out hundred-and-fifty year-old buildings and expecting to amaze the tourists, and not being amused at the sarcastic pair who said they’d go back to Damascus and tell everyone they knew about Sydney’s links to the past.
    Put ’em out to pasture. The Tories, I mean.

  • cfsmtb says:

    Tried walking/riding through the high country in summer? We attempted some MTB singletracking on on Mt Stirling last year. Gave up within a hour due to the copious amount of horseshit & blowies. And numerous land managers believe mountain bike riders are akin to two wheeled logusts…

  • Helen says:

    Unfortunately, I haven’t been there in a while. My bushwalking group membership has gone by the wayside due to too much busy-ness and I need to do something about that. (Also, the high country walks tend to be two-day ones and i usually can only spare 1 day.)
    Pooh to the horse poo. I would actually really love to go on one of those trail rides that he does – but you need lots and lots of the folding stuff. And as you say it does create lots of poo…

  • Brownie says:

    that miserable bloody Lovick family are the ones who TRIED to kill an injured horse on The Man From Snowy River filmset, by hitting it with an axe. fukem.

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