In the sunburned land of Western Australia, I, Peter Pickering, found myself inadvertently becoming the embodiment of the infamous 'Tall Poppy Syndrome'. For those unfamiliar with this distinctly Australian cultural nuance, it's as if those who excel, who stand out from the crowd, need to be chopped down to size. A sharp contrast to the American spirit where success is often celebrated and extolled. But, as I was soon to learn, in Australia, standing tall sometimes means you're the first to get cut down.
There I was, at the pinnacle of my entrepreneurial journey, my ventures turning heads and raising eyebrows. But more than the public, my endeavours caught the vigilant eyes of the corrupt Police Dealer’s Squad, tipped off, no doubt, by envious business rivals. They believed I was crossing boundaries in my business conduct. Yet, I knew, without reservation, I was operating within the law's confines.
They took me to court….and lost
The government then jumped on the bandwagon, drafting a new Pawnbroker’s Act in Parliament to pin me down. But I wasn't one to back down, and I challenged their new Act, taking them on in court. Pickering -v- The Crown. And I won. Against the very government that sought to limit me. I saw it as rather a feather in my cap that I had beaten the sharp legal mind of our former Premier, Peter Dowding himself.
Perhaps, looking back, I did play the part of the tall poppy a tad too well. Tailored suits, fine dining, a luxury penthouse, and a Rolls-Royce Corniche. Yet, every dollar was hard-earned, and not a single individual had been cheated in my pursuits. In all my dealings everyone was a winner.
One court appearance still clings to my memories, more vivid than the rest. Exhausted by their unyielding pestering, and with a streak of defiance, I entered the courtroom attired not in the usual suit but in the guise of an Arab sheikh. Enveloped in flowing white robes, a red chequered keffiyeh (headdress) and black agal resting upon my head – it was my silent protest. The judge, for his part, offered no comment, though his expression spoke a clear language of disapproval.
My defiant fashion choice, however, made headlines the next day in Lee Tate’s gossip column of the West Australian newspaper. A notorious figure, that's what I had become. The same writer never missed an opportunity to paint me in an unfavourable light. A simple office move was twisted to sound like I was on the run. When he couldn’t reach me by phone the article read, “Mr Pickering, who could not be contacted…” But through it all, I stood tall, fighting every allegation, winning at each post.
Behind this public persona, however, was an honest businessman trying to navigate the world of finance and money lending. My methods might not have been conventional, and they certainly didn't find favour with the Police Dealer’s Squad or Government, but they were mine, and they were legal. My venture, my vision.
And so, that was my story. The tale of a man who dared to stand tall, to defy conventions, to challenge the very institutions that sought to suppress him. The tale of a true tall poppy. But, as with every poppy that grows tall, there's always the looming shadow of the scythe. In my case, the shadow came in the form of relentless scrutiny, public shaming, court appearances, and the ever-present Tall Poppy Syndrome.