Primary Employers Tasmania chief executive Keith Rice retires

Wayne Smith, Keith Rice, Allan Cameron, Glynn Williams, Keeton Miles and Lyndley Shopping are all former presidents of Poppy Growers Tasmania or Primary Employers Tasmania. Picture: Tess Brunton

Wayne Smith, Keith Rice, Allan Cameron, Glynn Williams, Keeton Miles and Lyndley Shopping are all former presidents of Poppy Growers Tasmania or Primary Employers Tasmania. Picture: Tess Brunton

Keith Rice has a loose definition of retirement.

The former chief executive of Poppy Growers Tasmania (PGT) and Primary Employers Tasmania (PET) officially celebrated his retirement from PET on Saturday night.

However, he also announced his plans to return to PGT as chief executive.

More than 90 colleagues, friends and family joined him at the Grand Chancellor to celebrate the end of an era with PET.

PHOTOS: Keith Rice retires from Primary Employers Tasmania

Mr Rice started with PET 31 years ago. PET is a registered employer organisation representing the industrial relations interests of agricultural, horticultural and viticultural industries.

PET president Glynn Williams said, in his speech at Mr Rice’s retirement dinner, he never spoke about his significant achievements or sought to take personal credit

“He was thrown in at the deep end even before he officially commenced with the industrial association,” Mr Williams said.

It was a year after the Tasmanian Industrial Commission was formed in 1985, Mr Rice found himself in the centre of a major case to create separates rates of pay for shearing Angora and Cashmere goats.

If passed, he feared the changes could be implemented into the sheep industry.

There were 180 million sheep in Australia at the time.

“It had horrendous implications for the Australian wool industry,” Mr Rice said.

The commission decided to introduce the two rates, which the National Farmers’ Federation sought to appeal, but it was not allowed to hire a barrister.

Instead Mr Rice, who had started working for PET during the legal process, fought and won the appeal to have the matter reheard.

“But the commission was never re-approached about the matter.”

The case put Tasmania of the “industrial relations map” because the decision had nationwide implications.

It certainly was not the last time he was involved issues that affected the nation.

But one of his proudest moments was working on setting up Australia’s first formal traineeships in shearing and wool handling.

While learning on the job was a large component of the shearing, the program encouraged students to consider high education and to widen their skill base, he said.

Helping grassroots farmers navigate the process to become employers was a rewarding part of the job he would miss.

PET was established, owned and paid for by the farmers, who he said would still have a strong voice in the organisation.

“What would happen if a farmers stopped for a day? Australia would nearly come to a stop,” Mr Rice said.

He was also grateful for the “magnificent support” of the chairmen and boards involved in both organisations.

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