This poem, by Dr Peter Burke from Nedlands (“I’ve never submitted anything for publication!”) was placed third in WA’s premier poetry competition, the 2018 Tom Collins National Poetry Prize, presented by the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA.

Peter won ahead of 280 entries from around Australia (half interstate poets with many widely published). Peter says the poetry style follows the bush poets of the 1890s, but driverless tractors and drones have been added to give things a modern twist.

Barney Embraces Technology impressed the chief judge, Prof Dennis Haskell, who commented: “This was the best of the humourous poems and it is funny throughout, helped by some wonderful rhymes, such as “leschaunaltia’ and ‘saltier’, and ‘practice’ and ‘cactus’. It’s hard to sustain humour across eleven long-lined quatrains but Banjo Paterson would have been proud of this one!”

Dr Peter Burke

As Peter said, “For an amateur bush poet, that’s a nice name to have in the same sentence as your own!”

Barney Embraces Technology  

Now it’s really very simple this, the rep had half-­‐explained

Just use this little tablet to map out your farm’s terrain

You mark in all your fence lines and the trees and dams – not sheep

And the GPS will drive this little tractor while you sleep


Well the seats in this new tractor were so comfortable to sit in

That Barney dozed while satellites controlled its field position

Following instructions from computers and transponders

The bright red tractor rolled across his little farm, and yonder


It harvested some wheat at first, but then a small collision

An unmarked tree which seemed to somewhat alter its position

It harvested some marron from the bottom of his dam

It harvested his neighbours ewe and traumatised its lamb


It harvested his neighbour’s lawn, and all his new hydrangeas

Then took off for a patch of blue, and quite surprised some strangers

Who noisily protested as it took the Leschenaultia

Then watched it roll off eastward, where the soil grew hot and saltier


When Barney woke you should have seen the look upon his face

He found a knob that said ‘return this rotten thing to base’

And home it went, but sad to say, a final catas-­‐trophe

It harvested his good-­‐old faithful English sheepdog, Toffee.


Well, they buried poor old Toffee, together with his favourite bone

And the bloke next door suggested he replace him, with a drone

You won’t regret it Barney, urged his techno-­‐savvy neighbour

You needn’t feed nor pay it, it’s the perfect form of labour


So the rep came round in shiny van, pink polo shirt and sunnies

And rounded up the Dorpers with his basic drone, “For Dummies”

You can’t go wrong, he reassured, I’ll leave it here for practice

But Barney found it could go wrong, in fact it could go cactus


A flashing light, a whirring noise, he watched the object fly away

Up and up and up it shot, then left, towards the highway

His flock of sheep observed it, half amused and half bewildered

As it swooped upon the neighbour’s wife and bloody nearly killed her


Barney called the drone to stay. He whistled its attention

But on it flew and disappeared, the Cunderdin direction

His mobile rang -­‐ the sales rep, his voice now dark and cranky

That thing was worth three thousand bucks! he cried into his hanky


I’m looking at my screen right now, the salesman told him, sobbing

It’s mustering some emus in a field near Koolyanobbing!

He said some more, some sharpish words, but all was lost on Barney

Who saw with perfect clarity, technology was barmy


Technology be damned, old Barney shouted down the line

Computers can’t be trusted and your drone’s a waste of time

You can take your damn transponder and insert it in a log

I’m walking into town to go and buy meself a dog

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