State Bakery

ONCE, THE NSW GOVERNMENT tried to run a State Bakery. As readers may know, the Party card of the NSW Labor Party, to which every member signs a pledge, are partially as follows:

...I will actively support the Constitution, Platform and Principles of the Australian Labor Party including the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in these fields...

They're compromised words, and the paragraph shows not only tinkering and negotiation (especially in a big Conference stink in 1922), and a sense of the Party's leitmotif, grand decadent tragedy, but a real ambiguity about what any of those things are. In 2020 you could point to each of the four realms to be socialised and say—well that's just what Facebook does, isn't it?—Which would lead you nowhere useful. But a little more than a hundred years ago the Labor experiment took the words deadly seriously and launched on an earnest and odd project to rig a market in the people's favour, and established the State Bakery, Stanmore.

State Bakery

The State Bakery, with equivalents in other areas (trawlers, forestry) was the State Government buying or establishing enterprises to compete and set market terms for the other private operators, and bears more in common with the ABC or public childcare than it does with any concept of wartime rationing or Government Bread. Still, in today's terms the attempt seems brave, even odd.

In late 1913 or early 1914 the property was purchased by the NSW Government and became the State Bakery, with Joseph Boss remaining as manager. The purchase price was £8,200 and additions to plant and vehicles brought the price to nearly £12,000. (Argus, 2 March 1916, p. 6) The State Bakery was a successful venture and in the 1915-1916 financial year made a net profit of £3,172. It joined a growing collection of state enterprises, including the State Abattoir, State Brickworks, State Timber Depot and (in 1915) State Trawlers. Though some of these enterprises had begun under conservative governments, the first NSW Labor administration of James McGowen in 1911 had accelerated this trend. The Labor Party’s aim was probably not the nationalisation of industry, but the use of State enterprises to regulate the market and prevent profiteering. A staple like bread was an obvious candidate for this kind of intervention.

The building remains, has been converted into units, and is commemorated in Cultural Heritage form, with a fancy ye olde sign over the door.

Google Images of Percival Road, Stanmore

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Chris O'Regan · 24 January 2020, 11:11 · #

When Anna Bligh sold off a few state enterprises about 10 years ago now (forests, some of Queensland Rail), she specifically pointed out that Queensland used to have state-owned butchers’ shops as an argument to be used in favour of privatisation – I thought that was an odd argument to make at the time.

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