There was a good
story in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph in Sydney about some workers at the Hunter Valley vineyards of Macquarie Bank Chairman, David Clarke,
who found themselves employed one day and out the next.

the headline “Millionaire banker crushes his winemakers” the story detailed how
eight employees of Clarke’s Poole Rock Winery were dismissed in early June
without any notice. The staff consisted of full time and permanent
casuals and many
had worked between four and a half and seven and a half years tending the Clarke

Sounds like a normal WorkChoices industrial relations story,
especially in the cash-strapped wine industry, but it’s not. The lost
jobs have been contracted out to Australian Horticultural Management, a
new vineyard management company founded by Clarke’s Hunter River
neighbour, Brian McGuigan. McGuigan was quoted in the Tele as
saying he and Clarke had done a commercial deal over the Pooles Rock management contract.

the story doesn’t say is that Clarke and McGuigan are
intimately linked through McGuigan Simeon Wines, a
major Hunter Valley producer which is doing it tough due to the wine
glut. Clarke
is chairman of McGuigan Simeon, Brian McGuigan is one of
the founders and now a non-executive director.

McGuigan Simeon Wines shares have
lost hundreds of millions of dollars in value in the past year as it became
caught up in the wine glut that will see the company incur a loss for the year to June; a runaround of more than $20 million
from the profit in 2005. McGuigan Simeon and Brian McGuigan have also led the assault against grape growers,
especially in the Riverland area of South Australia,
reneging on contracts or offering a miserly $100 a tonne for grapes from the 2006 harvest compared to $350 paid
two or three years ago.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey