Waving a white flag in a crisis ADF abandons strawberries
THEY are trained in warfare, its lethal weapons and perilous tactics but the Australian Defence Force appears scared of the humble strawberry.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison was urging Australians to support the strawberry industry, decimated by sabotage, by cutting up the berries if they were worried about secreted pins, the ADF simply stopped buying strawberries.
It has come under fire from growers and a prominent former soldier, after its catering contractors halted purchases from struggling farmers for two weeks as a “risk assessment” was conducted.
The ADF, which buys about eight tonnes of the strawberries a year, only started buying them again this week, finally following the PM’s advice to cut them up.
“Based on product recall information, contractors initially paused strawberry orders and conducted a risk assessment,” an ADF spokesman told The Sunday Telegraph.
“Following that risk assessment, contractors expect to resume ordering strawberries this week. ADF catering staff have mitigated the risk by ensuring strawberries are cut before consumption.”
The temporary ban on purchases for the navy, army and air force has angered strawberry growers who have been forced to dump tonnes of produce as more than 200 cases of adulteration are investigated.
Police believe the majority of contaminations, which orig- inated in Queensland, are the work of copycats.
Queensland strawberry grower Tina McPherson, who sells most of her product to high-end NSW retailers, said part of her business has been “destroyed” by the crisis.
“It seems absurd that the ADF can diffuse a bomb but they can’t cut up a strawberry,” Mrs McPherson said.
“Our politicians are saying ‘cut them up don’t cut them out’ yet the ADF are doing a risk assessment on consumption. There is a certain irony in that.”
Former army sergeant Andrew Street, who served more than 70 missions in Iraq, was one of two Australian soldiers attached to a secret military unit that inspired the Hollywood movie The Hurt Locker.
“It’s a classic example of senior officers and the plague of ‘ force protection’ that has led to Aussie soldiers being considered to be wrapped in cotton wool,” he said.
“Can’t eat strawberries, can’t complete assault courses (jumping across sandpits and high walls now banned) and won’t deploy anything but special forces into war fighting roles when other countries send regular troops.”
Queensland Police said 100 detectives from the State Crime Command have followed up 600 lines of inquiry.
Grower Tina McPherson.