Josef Chromy Tribute
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, today I speak about someone who needs no introduction. The son of a butcher, Josef Chromy's formative years from eight to 19 were under Nazi and Soviet rule. Czechoslovakia was quite an oppressed country where he saw no future and after completing his master butcher and smallgoods diploma in Prague, in 1950 he decided to escape. Joe says, 'It was against the law to be self-employed and I said this is not the place I want to stay; this is not my future. You had to be prepared that you may never see your parents, sisters and brothers again in your life, so it was a very difficult decision to make.'
Escape was not easy as Joe and his friends made their way through the dangerous border between Czechoslovakia and Austria, complete with minefields and patrolled by armed soldiers with guard dogs. Unfortunately, while trying to get to Vienna, Joe's two companions were captured and imprisoned.
Joe said it was always important to have a backup plan and none more so than during his escape on the train to Vienna. Speaking very little German, Joe feared he would be caught out by the train conductor so he put his ticket in his breast pocket where it could be seen, and pretended to be asleep. Unfortunately, the conductor woke him, and with no time to think about it, he pretended to be deaf and dumb. The conductor was convinced and the rest is history.
After escaping, Joe was able to choose between the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Joe decided to go to Australia as it was as far as possible from communism that he could get, and he saw it as a young country where there would be lots of opportunity. He turned 20 on 18 December, on the boat to Australia.
Initially sent to Bonegilla camp, he later moved to Railton where, eager to start his own business, he worked in the asbestos sheeting factory until he had enough money saved, £270, to start his own business with a smallgoods operation in the back of a butcher's shop. From those humble beginnings he built his business, Blue Ribbon, over some 35 years, to end up with smallgoods factories, lots of butcher shops and meatworks, exporting beef and other meats all around the world.
In 1993, Joe had a business that was turning over sales in excess of $80 million per annum and employing 530 full-time employees. With the proceeds from floating his business, Blue Ribbon, on the stock exchange, he decided to look at other opportunities. This began Joe's venture into wine, with the purchase of four vineyards in as many months, including Heemskerk, Rochecombe (now Bay of Fires), Jansz, and Buchanan wineries.
With a wonderful mind for solving problems, Joe established a huge dam and irrigation system covering 24 hectares, which ensured the Rochecombe vineyard was never again frost-affected, as frost was responsible for wiping out its crops three years in a row and causing it to go into receivership. Joe then established the Tamar Ridge vineyard from scratch at Kayena in the Tamar Valley, to become the largest player in the state.
After selling Tamar Ridge, within two months Joe was looking for other opportunities. He then started the now world-acclaimed Josef Chromy Wines at Relbia, a 61-hectare vineyard, winery, and cellar door operation. His wines were awarded numerous gold medals and a lot of trophies, including the trophy for the best chardonnay in the world by Decanter in their annual World Wine Awards in London.
Then there is Josef Chromy the developer. Who could forget how he turned a fallen down and dilapidated former Launceston General Hospital, riddled with asbestos, into a first-class, magnificent apartment building and hotel, The Charles, while still retaining many of the historic features of that building. Not to mention the former Penny Royal World, having closed in July 2006. As part of Josef Chromy's vision, this complex is set to become a world-renowned theme park, with an amazing development including a Disneyland-style dark ride following the true story of Tasmanian bushranger Matthew Brady, an adventure walkway, a rock climbing wall, a place for movie projections, and restaurants. The second and third phases hope to include a chairlift and tram service.
Apart from providing Launceston with quality development, Josef Chromy provides much-needed employment which injects funds into our local economy. Joe says, 'We needed something in Launceston for more tourism. I am not happy that a lot of good people study here and have to go elsewhere. We need people to stay here. A lot of people will be working here.'
I finish with the words of Josef Chromnyy, 'I came here with nothing but hope and ambition over 60 years ago. Tasmanians welcomed me, and with their help I have been rewarded'. Joe, Tasmania is blessed that you chose our state to make your home. We thank you and salute you for all you have done, and all you continue to do