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Lang Hancock, “Is Western Australia ripe for UDI?,” The Times (London), March 1, 1973, p. 23.

This may be a year of destiny for Western Australia; not so much boom or bust but rather development or doldrums. Despite the fact that the new Commonwealth Government’s platform contained four practical proposals which, if implemented, could benefit Western Australia more than any other state in Australia, the people of this state voted differently to the rest of the Commonwealth and did not favour the incoming Government at the polls.

However, the electorate as a whole saw itself presented either with a policy of change, based on Labour’s platform of accelerated development, or with continuation of the previous Government’s stagnant approach.

Apart from its negative policy, considerable damage was also done by the previous Government in revaluing Australia’s currency without regard to its effect on Western Australia.

The new Labor Government under Mr Gough Whitlam now has a mandate to grant taxation incentives to industries aimed at development activities; to establish nuclear power stations; to provide low rates of interest for long term development loans; and to provide some infrastructure for major developments such as decentralised towns, harbours and roads.

If this programme were carried into effect, it would render practicable the Western Australian Government’s massive Pilbara development concept. It could bring into production at an early date at least three big iron mines in Pilbara, with reserves larger than those of Hammersley, Newman and Goldworthy.

It could provide finance for the building of a central rail system with a downhill gradient all the way, linking something like 90 per cent of the total known iron reserves in the Hammersley filed from a central point in that field to the shortest distance to the coast near the island of Depuch. There a port capable of servicing 250,000 ton vessels could be constructed.

What then might obstruct such a forward-looking programme? Much depends on who is actually going to run Australia. In Canberra, the main pressure groups consist of the bureaucracy, the trade unions, the manufacturing lobby and the farm lobby. Under the previous Government the tune was called mainly by the bureaucracy. In Mr Whitlam’s case, absence of experience, as a result of 23 years in the wilderness, has made him and his ministers peculiarly vulnerable to the public servants, whose “old guard” led the former Prime Minister into the tragedy of the first revaluation, and who are aiming to apply more of the same medicine.

Unless Mr Whitlam can assert his authority over the bureaucrats, I believe his regime is doomed to follow the colourless downward path of the Conservative Government. Already we have suffered two revaluations and the same influences in Canberra are now opposing any move to follow the recent United States devaluation.

The first two revaluations cost Western Australia dearly. For instance, in the case of iron ore, the two currency adjustments together too $A1.20 off a product worth only $A8. The last revaluation coincided more or less with a devaluation by Brazil so that the net difference in favour of Brazil became $A2.40 per ton, or, in round figures, the profit margin of our big producers such as Hammersley, Goldsworthy and Newman.

The total effect on Australia will be exaggerated by the fact that Brazil, our most dangerous rival in vital mineral exports, has once again stolen a march on us and devalued by a further 10 per cent. The defence that revaluation was necessary to dissipate Australia’s favourable balance of overseas funds is an inversion of fact — somewhat reminiscent of the lunatic who thought that the elephant’s tusks wre made from piano keys.

If there was any logic in the Government’s reasoning the same result could have been achieved by allowed Australians to spend the funds themselves.

If the Government now refuses to come into line with the recent United States devaluation, even the present giant producers could be rendered unprofitable.

This retarding effect on Western Australia’s economy has been followed by the banning of Mount Isa (a company with 50,000 Australian shareholders) from searching for oil.

The Commonwealth Government has made a grab at Western Australia’s north-west gas. They have prevented Mitsui from acquiring a minority interest in a New South Wales coal mine, although it is well known that no contracts for new mines will come out of Japan unless the Japanese have an equity stake.

The diplomatic moves in favour of China have stopped any prospect of an iron ore trade with Taiwan, which is said to be building a steel mill of sufficient capacity to consume enough iron to start off a new major project in Pilbara.

What, then, has been the cost to Western Australia to date of these Canberra capers?

They have put the kiss of death on the much-publicised “jumbo” steel mill project — a $A1,500m investment. They have rendered uneconomic half a dozen potential mines of enormous capacity in the Pilbara iron field, and sealed the fate of the $A250m Pacminex alumina refinery.

Added to this tale of woe came the latest announcement of the vetting and control, at the request of the mining industry itself, of all future overseas mineral contracts. I see this as further proof that Australia has long been bankrupt of mining, political and banking leadership.

The restriction on capital inflow, requiring a 25 per cent interest-free lodgement with the reserve bank, is something which no industry can face up to. Until Australians supply leadership in the fields mentioned above, investment money in Australia (of which there is plenty) will not flow into development projects, thus making the use of foreign capital necessary if we are to have industry established without our shores.

Admittedly, if common sense prevails, some of these moves may in due course be abandoned, but Mr Whitlam has to contend with such a broad spectrum of support in the Australian Labor Party that he faces an almost superhuman task. It is to placate the extremist elements that most of the news-making antics of the new Government have been performed.

In the economic field, where the main danger lies, I feel that it is the influence of the bureaucracy which is more to be feared. If Mr Whitlam cannot overcome it, then it will fan the flames of the far from dormant secession feeling in Western Australia.

Scratch any native-born West Australian in the privacy of his own parlour deeply enough and you will find a secessionist at heart. Let the Commonwealth Government scratch him as it has done with actions diametrically opposed to Western Australia’s interest, and I believe you will find an active secessionist. Make a Commonwealth grab on Western Australia’s north-west gas (irrespective of whether it is commercial or not) and you will find a militant secessionist.

Encouraged by their Government, Western Australians are convinced that they have the world’s largest gas field lying off their north-west shelf, coupled with the world’s largest supply of iron, backed up in other areas by one of the major nickel fields of the world, not to mention such other minerals as uranium, salt, manganese.

They further believe that they have been plundered by the eastern states’ manufacturing interests and used as a dumping-ground for something like $A800m of goods annually to the detriment of West Australian industry. They also feel that as far as monetary handouts from the Commonwealth are concerned Western Australia is very much on the end of the line.

If Western Australia were to secede (and Senator Murphy’s endeavours to divorce Australia from Privy Council ruling may make this easier) it could then erect a tariff wall against the eastern states of Australia. With the $A800m worth of exports then shut off, Western Australia could make a “most favoured nation” treaty with Japan to supply it with all its requirements at cheaper prices than the state now pays the eastern state manufacturers. It would be no hardship for Western Australians to ride in Japanese cars instead of the products of the eastern states’ foreign-owned General Motors and Ford companies.

Out of such a treaty would flow to Western Australia lucrative long-term contracts for its iron and all its major minerals, not to mention meat, wool and fruits, resulting in a trade balance less irksome to Australia’s best customer than exists at present. Western Australia could than also revert to par with the American dollar, in which all major mineral contracts have been written, thus giving an immediate 17 to 18 per cent bonus to all present producers.

Which way, then, will the situation develop? Will Mr Whitlam succeed in carrying out the forward looking policy of the Australia Labor Party election platform, thereby taking Australia into the gold era of a nuclear age?

Or will the 10 new government departments which his administration has formed add their weight to those already in existence and continue sawing sawdust in Canberra, while the rest of the country stagnates?

Or will we see the establishment of a new private enterprise frontier in a “free” Western Australia open for business with the rest of the world?

It would take a jumbo-size crystal ball to predict the answer, but I believe, given support from the more balanced members of his party, Gough Whitlam could rise to the occasion.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  2. Hancock's Australia
  3. Hancock on Government Help
  4. Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 1
  5. Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 2
  6. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  7. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  8. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  9. Jump on the Joh bandwagon
  10. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  11. Governments — like a red rag to a Rogue Bull
  12. Lang Hancock's Pilbara-Queensland Railway Proposal
  13. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  14. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  15. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  16. Small and Big Business Should Oppose Government, says Lang Hancock
  17. A Condensed Case for Secession
  18. Hancock gets tough over uranium mining
  19. Hancock's threat to secede and faith in Whitlam
  20. PM's sky-high promise to Lang
  21. Lang Hancock: "a catherine-wheel of novel suggestions"
  22. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  23. The spread of Canberra-ism
  24. Govt should sell the ABC, says Lang Hancock
  25. 1971 Monday Conference transcript featuring Lang Hancock
  26. Aborigines, Bjelke and the freedom of the press
  27. The code of Lang Hancock
  28. Why not starve the taxation monster?
  29. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  30. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  31. Right-wing plot
  32. "The best way to help the poor is not to become one of them." - Lang Hancock
  33. WA's NCP commits suicide
  34. "You can't live off a sacred site"
  35. Hancock: King of the Pilbara
  36. Bludgers need not apply
  37. New party formed "to slash controls"
  38. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  39. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  40. Government seen by new party as evil
  41. Ron Manners on Lang Hancock
  42. Does Canberra leave us any alternative to secession?
  43. Bury Hancock Week
  44. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  45. Lang Hancock on Australia Today
  46. Hancock and Wright
  47. Lang Hancock on Environmentalists
  48. Friends of free enterprise treated to financial tete-a-tete: Lang does the talking but Gina pulls the strings
  49. Lang Hancock, Stump Jumper
  50. Lang Hancock: giant of the western iron age
  51. The Treasury needs a hatchet man
  52. We Mine to Live
  53. Get the "econuts" off our backs
  54. 1971 Lang Hancock-Jonathan Aitken interview for Land of Fortune (short)
  55. Gina Rinehart, Secessionist
  56. 1982 NYT Lang Hancock profile
  57. Enter Rio Tinto
  58. Hamersley and Tom Price
  59. News in the West
  60. Positive review of Hancock speech
  61. Lang Hancock International Press Institute General Assembly speech, Canberra, 1978
  62. Australia's slide to socialism
  63. The Great Claim Robbery
  64. Why WA must go it alone
  65. Lang Hancock in 1976 on Public Picnics and Human Blights
  66. MILLIONAIRE PUTS MONEY BEHIND SECESSIONISTS
  67. Resource Management in Australia: Is it possible?
  68. The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock
  69. Crystal Balls Need Polishing
  70. Minerals - politicians' playthings?
  71. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  72. Boston Tea Party 1986 style, hosted by Lang Hancock and Bob Ansett
  73. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  74. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  75. Tactics change by Hancock
  76. Lang Hancock complains to Margaret Thatcher about Malcolm Fraser
  77. 'Phony crisis' seen as 'child of politics'
  78. Lang Hancock on nuclear energy
  79. Lang Hancock beats the left at their own game on civil liberties
  80. Lang Hancock's Favourite Books
  81. 1977 Lang Hancock Canberoo poem
  82. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  83. Hancock proposes a free-trade zone
  84. An Open Letter to Sir Charles Court
  85. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  86. Lang Hancock in 1984 solves Australian politics
  87. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  88. Lang Hancock asks what happened to Australia's rugged individualism?
  89. Precis of Ludwig Plan for North-West
  90. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  91. Lang Hancock's March 1983 attempt to enlist "former presidents of nations and heads of giant companies" to save Australia
  92. Lang Hancock asks us to think how easily environmentalists are manipulated for political purposes
  93. Invest in free enterprise
  94. Democracy is dead in Australia and Lang Hancock's education
  95. Lang Hancock Incites Civil Disobedience
  96. Hancock sounds call to battle Canberra
  97. Mining policy a threat
  98. Over Whitlam's head
  99. Lang Hancock suggests that newspapers don't give space to politicians unconditionally
  100. Lang Hancock on saving Australia from socialism
  101. Secede or sink
  102. Australia can learn from Thatcher
  103. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  104. How Lang Hancock would fix the economy
  105. Lang Hancock: victim of retrospective legislation
  106. Lang Hancock supports Joh for PM
  107. Hancock seeks miners' tax haven in the north
  108. The Ord River Dam
  109. Why Lang Hancock invested in Australia's film industry
  110. Lang Hancock's 1983 letters to The Australian: Lang's precedent for Steve Jobs, renaming the Lucky Country to the Constipated Country, and more
  111. Australia's biggest newspaper insider on manipulating the media
  112. 1980 Lang Hancock-Australian Penthouse Interview
  113. Canberra: bastion of bureaucracy
  114. Pilbara can be the Ruhr for South-East Asia
  115. 1982 Lang Hancock-John Harper Nelson Interview
  116. Australian elections are one of the greatest con games in history
  117. Our leaders are powerless
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