Workers, union members, politicians and concerned locals alike flocked to McCains to take a stand against an influx of European fries in the Australian Market in a protest that looked like no other before it.
All COVID-19 safety measures were kept in place as members of the community stood 1.5 metres apart and watched on from their cars in protest of the import of cheap as chips fries from Europe.
“At the moment Europe has got an over abundance of fries,” said Michael Wickham, State Organiser of the Australian Workers and Manufacturers Union.
“Now their raw product is around $50 a tonne cheaper than it has ever been, and they’re making hay while the sun shines, but they haven’t been able to sell either.
“So what happens of course is they flood the market all over the world including Australia at below cost price to get rid of it.”
Michael says that the impact of this mass export affects Australia all over, but especially rural communities such as Smithton that are reliant on a secure market on agricultural properties and also in factories.
“The dumping of the fries severely impacts the viability of manufacturers in the region and it has potential to do severe, long lasting damage to the industry,” said Michael.
“It will have a bigger impact on those companies, employees, and farmers than what COVID-19 has had.”
In a speech at the protest Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said that it’s important the community rallies behind affected workers to protect industry in Circular Head.
“Over the last two or three years McCains and Simplot have been spending millions of dollars upgrading their equipment,” said Mayor Quilliam.
“We as a community need to be supporting these people and stopping these imports that are going to threaten what they are doing.”
Michael says that coronavirus has affected the local industry substantially as is and that a decreasing demand could result in the loss of local jobs.
“It’s gonna take a long time for the market to recover [from COVID-19] and going into next season the farmers are looking at putting a lot less tonnage in the ground than they have previously because there is so much stock in the freezers already.”
He is disappointed by the lack of action from the Federal Government.
“We are calling on the Federal government to stop it, which they have the power to do, and they have a right mind to do it,” said Michael.
“That’s what we want. We don’t need these imports.”
As Tasmania recovers from what has been a turbulent and uncertain two months, Michael says it’s more important now than ever to be supporting local industry and jobs.
“[The Federal Government] is on about rebuilding the country, getting jobs and creating work and jobs for people,” said Michael.
“The old build local, buy local and employ local has to kick back in.”
As a result of the protest on Friday Michael would like to see immediate action from corporate food chains.
“We are calling on Woolworths, Coles and Audi to come out and say that they have nothing to do with the import of these products, that’s the first thing,” he said.
“They need to come out and declare that they are not involved in bringing them into the country, they need to declare that up front.”