Broadcast: November 8, 1971.
ROBERT MOORE: Lang Hancock, prospector and mining entrepreneur. Mr. Hancock is a partner in the Western Australian firm, Hanwright. He’s also a vigorous advocate of private enterprise and of the development of our North.
Tonight on MONDAY CONFERENCE: opening up Australia.
What we now know as Australia’s mining boom began back in 1952 when a sudden rain storm forced Lang Hancock to fly his light plane at a very low altitude across the Hamersley Ranges in the North West of Western Australia. What Mr. Hancock saw when he looked down was iron.
Since then iron has made millions of dollars for Mr. Hancock and hundreds of millions of dollars for Australia.
Minerals are now our biggest export earner. Our biggest trading partner, Japan, takes ninety per cent of our iron ore exports. We’re the biggest supplies to Japan’s industries.
Australia’s income from iron ore last year was about 400 million dollars.
As for Lang Hancock himself, some people have been kind enough to say that he pays more income tax than anyone else in the country. He’s certainly the richest and most famous prospector in our history. And, in anyone’s terms, he’s one of our greatest individualists.
To question Mr. Hancock:
Brian White, Head of News Programmes, 2GB, Macquarie Broadcasting Service; and Peter Ellery, Mining Editor of the forthcoming Finance Week.
Mr. Hancock, I’ve said that we’ve done a lot with out minerals in the last few years, but in your view, could we have done better than we’ve done?
LANG HANCOCK: Yes I think we could have done better had we realised at the beginning the potential of them and the fact that when we first tried to get Hamersley Iron going for instance it was a seller’s market. But the delay that was inherent in these arrangements, and because of the delay we lost opportunities that we would have now — we lost those opportunities which we should have had.
MOORE: Could I break down our minerals policy into two headings. First of all the which in which — our policy on getting the stuff out of the ground, and secondly our policy and the way in which we sell it to other countries.
First of all on the way in which we go about getting it out of the ground. Where have we gone wrong on that?
HANCOCK: I don’t think on the production side we’ve gone wrong. I think that we’ve gone wrong in the degree in which the Government has interfered with the processes of obtaining mining titles and things of that nature. The thing I think to be remembered is that Governments, technical men, don’t find mines. All the great mines in Australia have been found by individual, knockabout prospectors. Mt. Isa, Kalgoorlie, Broken Hill … history’s the same right throughout. And I think it’s a fact that we should have, we must turn round and change our laws so as to protect the man who makes the discoveries and give continuity of rights. The right to mine should be inherent right from the prospecting stage right through to the production stage and I think this is a thing that has slowed it down. Now a lot of this was taken for granted and we took the Government on trust and we got some of these things going, but lately, there’s been a change in this policy and this I think is what’s causing the halt and will cause considerable trouble and stagnation which is a thing that concerns us all.
MOORE: We’ll come back to that in a minute. If I could just touch on the other one and then we’ll come back to both of them in more detail. On the other side, what about the conditions and contracts and so on under which we are selling our iron ore abroad? Are you happy with that?
HANCOCK: Yes. You must remember I think we’ve not got a monopoly of iron ore — countries all throughout the world have got it — and that I don’t think we’ve done too badly in this respect. At the moment of course there’s a recession which everybody’s complaining about in iron ore, but I think the thing to be remembered is that there’s a steady growth overall. At the beginning of the century the world used some twenty-six million tons of iron ore. Today it uses seven-hundred millions and of the graph continues going upward, in twelve or fifteen years time it will use fourteen hundred-million … it doubles every twelve or fifteen years. So in that concept I don’t think we should be too worried about the fact that there’s a bit of a recession and the Japs have gone back, we’re dependent on Japan and all these sorts of things. I think we should look forward, at least to the acceleration that’s gone on in the past.
MOORE: At this rate of consumption of iron ore, should we be worried about the stocks running out?
HANCOCK: Never. If you turn … the stocks are so great up there that if you for instance make some sort of comparison and think that it took ten years to build the Suez Canal — if you took that quantity of dirt each year out of the Westralian deposits in the form of iron ore you could go on for longer than man will inhabit the earth. You could at least go on for a million years.
BRIAN WHITE: When you said at the outset we could have done better, you obviously feel that the reason why we aren’t doing better with what we’ve got is because of Government action of one kind or another, or is it Government inaction that bothers you?
HANCOCK: No, no. I don’t want any Government action. This is about the last thing that you want. It’s Government interference I think. See when this first …
WHITE: What kind of interference though? What’s the sort of thing that upsets your operation?
HANCOCK: Well you have to go back to the business and think how the thing started. It’s generally regarded that Australia only had thirty-five years life of iron ore, so as to encourage people to look for more, they threw the state open where there was said to be no iron ore of any kind, and said now if you can find anything in there you can have it, so to speak. They called advertisements and asked people to apply for temporary reserves for iron.
WHITE: That’s like an exploration licence, isn’t it?
HANCOCK: Yes. This is an exploration licence. Well then, on the understanding that if you went out, found some, spent your money on it, proved it up to be viable, you could then have the right to come to the Government get the right to mine, under an agreement. Well there was — in the first case there was about two years delay negotiating with the Government to try to get this right to mine, which I believe should be inherent, and save all this delay. Now in the course of that delay it became known to the Japanese that we just didn’t have a few hundred tons of iron ore — that we had thousands and millions of tons of iron ore. From their point of view it was virtually in their own backyard you might say. To their way of thinking it couldn’t go anywhere else and they could pick it up in their own good time and at their own price. So in that respect I …
MOORE: When you speak of the right to mine, are you saying that the Government should have no stake whatsoever in the minerals that come out of the country?
HANCOCK: In Communist countries and in socialist countries and in most dictatorships and in Australia, the minerals absolutely in law belong to the Crown. They are the property of the State. But they’re useless, under these circumstances, because they stay in the ground. If you want to get them worked, if you want people to put hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money and not the taxpayers’ money into them, you then have to turn round and give the people that are going to put all this risk money up, the right to mine. So there’s got to be a transition at some time from useless cocoon of state ownership in the ground to the active, useful ownership of the people who are putting up the money and that know how to work them. There’s got to be a better change.
MOORE: Yes, but does it necessarily have to be one extreme or the other? That’s what I’m trying to get at.
HANCOCK: What do you want? Some sort of semi-socialist ownership of them in conjunction with private people risking their money? Is this what you’re …
MOORE: Well that’s a possibility, or something like that. It just seems to me that one could argue that perhaps in the early stages of exploration in Australia what was needed was the right — an open go. The bloke who finds it, has it. But that’s been done — people like yourself …
HANCOCK: Only partly.
MOORE: But you’ve done the trick now. Everyone know it’s there. You’ve got your reward, or some reward so far, so you’ve done all right out of it. Now is the time for the community in general to get its bit as well.
HANCOCK: Well you take what I’ve found up there and put that to one side. There’s still ninety per cent of the possible ore-bearing country in Western Australia in Government hands. They can go and do what they like with that. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t go in and go and find some for themselves, and do what they like with it. I’m not concerned with that. I’m only concerned with the ore that’s discovered by the individual, so as to make him go out and look for these sort of things. Go out in the desert, go out in the back country, live on the smell of an oil rag, and go and find these riches. If this … if this man hasn’t got a right to have first choice, or at least first right to dispose of his find, whether he disposes of it for a loaf of bread, a bottle of whiskey or millions of dollars, that’s his right. But they have this inducement to make him go out and do it.
PETER ELLERY: On this question of what you do with it when you discover it, Mr. Hancock, you first make your iron ore discoveries well over a decade ago. You’re only now at the stage where you’re trying to start up an iron ore mine. Why is this? What’s been the reason for the delay? Is it only Government inaction?
HANCOCK: Well first of all you’ve got to make a complete transition and when I was telling people in Australia and overseas that I knew where the world’s largest iron ore deposit was, they said run away, don’t be silly. So all you could do was say well look, let’s pay a royalty. If there’s nothing there, it doesn’t cost you anything. So for the first time we were able to … first negotiations, we were able to get support from Rio Tinto, virtually sight unseen, because we had no titles, and that was on the basis of a royalty. Later on we were able to make some further negotiations with some further discoveries and we got twenty-five per cent equity, Australian participation. Next time round, we got fifty per cent, and so with Texas Gulf Sulphur, in Rhodes Ridge. All the time we were hoping to start off a mine with a hundred per cent Australian participation, but we were reckoning without the Westralian Government, so this is where the thing came in. But all these things take time. You’ve got to change the world’s outlook from a country that had none to a country that had more than a sufficiency of it. And it came from a scarcity to a glut, and these things do take time. You can’t just get them sown into peoples minds in five seconds flat.
WHITE: When you say you reckoned without the West Australian Government, in what way did they interfere with your getting the money to start the mining?
HANCOCK: Well have called for advertisements, having spent our … made our discovering and having spent our money, they said thanks. At least they didn’t say thanks, they just said grab, we’ll confiscate this, and we’ll parcel it out amongst what we call the pioneer groups, the big four, under an areas of influence policy. So to protect ourselves from wholesale confiscation, we negotiated with partners, international partners, who were too powerful to be steamrolled like two individuals can be steamrolled, and in the case of Rhodes Ridge, we took in Texas Gulf Sulphur for a fifty per cent interest. In the case of McCamey’s Monster, another giant discovery, we’ve taken in Mount Isa Mines and we’ve taken in the Goldsworthy group. Now in any confiscation that’s gone on, they haven’t touched any deposits in which we have multi-national groups as partners with us. Now the only confiscation … and the current one is this Angela Group you might have heard something about … we’ve got no partners in that, we’re just Australians. We did hope to make this an Australian company. Well that’s been confiscated from us, and this is where we’re arguing at the present moment.
MOORE: On this point, isn’t it reasonable for a Government or anyone else to say well now look Hancock and Wright have done very well out of this — they’ve done something for the state, too, there’s no question, no-one denies your original adventuring and so on in this — but that’s enough. From now on … we’ve got to think … where’s the limit. I mean, you don’t see any limit at all in this? You’re feeling is that you have the right to as much as you can discover, with no limit?
HANCOCK: Yes, with no limit, but I’m not worried about that. I mean I’ve said all right, give us what we’ve discovered now and we’ll do more with it than the Government will do with it. But there’s still 90 per cent left. They can do what they like with that. At the same time I don’t think they should exclude you or me or anybody else from going in there, and if you find anything on your own, you should have right to turn around and attract capital to it if you can and develop it. I don’t think you or anybody should be excluded.
MOORE: But what about the right to reasonable compensation? That is to say the Government says well you found it, you’re going to get ten per cent, twenty per cent, whatever the figure — fifty per cent — equity in it, or royalties.
HANCOCK: We’ve never asked for that. We’ve only asked for two and a half per cent.
MOORE: Oh. No, no, what I meant … I didn’t mean that kind of … per ton as it were.
HANCOCK: To me that’s the same thing as saying to you after you’ve put up your quid and you’ve won the Irish Sweepstakes, the Government says to you right, we’ll have the winnings, here’s your quid back for your ticket.
ELLERY: What’s the end result between what you’re trying to do with, say, the Angela iron ore deposits and with what the Government is trying to do? Which of these two plans will eventually bring the greatest amount of good for the public of Australia?
HANCOCK: That I think depends on whether you believe there should be Australian participation or it should be wholly foreign owned. The difference between what we are aiming to do with the Angelas, or what we’ve aimed to do with the other ones, is to bring in foreign participation but with a certain amount reserved for Australian participation, and we’ll use the foreigners to carry the thing right through and carry the Australians right through. What the Government is doing with the Angelas, the Australians have been excluded and she’s a hundred percent American owned.
ELLERY: Who’s this? Armco?
HANCOCK: This is Armco.
ELLERY: And Armco’s going to use this iron ore to compete with the Japanese who are Australia’s biggest customers for iron ore. Is that it?
HANCOCK: Yes they aim to export from the Angelas at the rate of twenty-five million tons a year on a money-making, pure export basis, from these things. Well they’ll do more with it than we will but there won’t be any Australians in it.
ELLERY: But aren’t they going to make steel in Australia?
HANCOCK: Not from the Angela group. They’ve got plenty of ore at their call to make steel in Australia if they intended to do so as Jervis Bay … and I mean this is the Jervis Bay thing that’s been prominent. They’ve got plenty of steel by their rights in Koodaiderie which is another big ore body that we discovered and traded with Hamersley Iron.
WHITE: What I can’t understand in this business that you have the endless sort of trouble you seem to have with the West Australian Government, whether it’s a Liberal or a Labor one, is why do you think the Government’s are motivated the way they are? Why do you think they behave the way they do towards you?
HANCOCK: I think it’s mostly misunderstanding. I mean they’re a little tiny Government in a Cinderella state suddenly pitchforked into dealing with a thing of international standing. I mean, iron ore is an international mineral. It isn’t just an Australian mineral. They’ve suddenly had this lot pushed on their plate without being prepared for it. They’ve been over-ambitious and think well this is a big thing, we’ll really get into this, and without any training or skills on the international scale in engineering or mining or financial, international banking or anything of this nature, this whole thing, complex problem, has been thrown on their plate. Instead of getting to one side and letting the people who put up the money and understand the business and have been successful in all other parts of the world hop in, do it quickly, churn the wheels over, and everybody benefits by it, they say no, we’re going to handle this. I think this is where some of the difficulties come, it’s largely from misunderstanding.
ELLERY: Your critics in the West Australian Government say you’re very difficult to deal with, you and your partner. Do you agree with this?
HANCOCK: Yes, I certainly would agree with it. You’d be difficult too if somebody came along and tried to take something from you, I think. At least, I hope you’d be difficult.
MOORE: In the long run, what do you see as the future of these deposits? Will we go on being — a phrase you don’t like I think — a quarry of the world, or would you like to see these deposits used for the industrialisation of Australia?
HANCOCK: Well I don’t think it matters being the quarry of the world, but I think that in time we will get full industrialisation out of them. Let me go back on that. I think that if we are the quarry of the world, in all these minerals, the big industrial nations of the world have been getting less and less self sufficient. They tell me that American in the last thirty-five years has used more of the world’s raw minerals than the whole of the world since time began has used. Well now every country wants to emulate America. They say in thirty years time Japan will be bigger industrially than America, Russia. Where’s it all going to come from? It can come from what we call the have-not nations, such as Australia. Well as you know, Australia’s defenceless; we’re twelve million people, we’re geographically an Asian country, but we’re populated by Europeans. We can’t defend ourselves. But if we make ourselves indispensable by being quarries to the nuclear powers; to America say, or Japan, or someone in Europe so to speak, and they’re dependent for their very existence — I mean that’s their industrial existence — on us, I would say they’d be the first to come here and fight for us. They won’t come and fight because we speak the same language, I don’t believe that.
MOORE: But if we’re so indispensable, they might be the first to come here and fight us, to take it over.
HANCOCK: Well they can get it by buying it from us. I don’t think they’re going to bother to come and do that. I don’t think so, anyhow.
ELLERY: But is it enough just to be a quarry?
HANCOCK: Well the very fact that they are quarrying, it will pay them in time to do more and more, and we will join in as Australians learn more and more of these techniques, and we’ll gradually build up from this, from straight out quarrying to pelletization and glomeration, steel eventually. It will all come in time. But I don’t think it’ll come by some dictatorial government saying you’ve got to make steel, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. I think it’ll come as a normal commercial process and that’ll come on the most economical way and we’ll all benefit greater that way.
WHITE: When it does come where do you see it being sold? For example, if you had a steel industry set up on the West Australian coast, who’s going to buy that steel?
HANCOCK: Well first of all there’ll be a couple of million shortage available to the Australian public for a start. Initially I’d feel that if a small mill was put up in the Pilbara it would supply grinding media the mills that are — to all the mines that are up there. To make pellets you’ve got to grind the thing down to three hundred mesh, finer than flour. There’s a requirement for grinding media in Bougainville with the copper, there’s a requirement for grinding media in Indonesia, and near Asia and up there, and also I think it pays to remember that from the Pilbara, if you measure the distance around to Sydney by sea, and then use that distance as an arc on a map of the world, that arc would encompass something like two thirds of the world’s population, and outside of Japan there’s only three steel mills in it.
ELLERY: Wouldn’t this put us in direct conflict, if you set up a steel mill on the West Australian coast, with our Japanese customers who are now our biggest customers for iron ore?
HANCOCK: It would set us up in direct … yes, it certainly would, but America’s in conflict with them, and they trade with America and so on. I don’t think we should be frightened to compete with people just because they’re customers of us in another direction.
WHITE: Our biggest customer in the steel business, if we were to get into it presumably would be somewhere like mainland China?
HANCOCK: I think it’d be closer to our shores than that. MaInland China’s well in the Japanese influence but I think that those nearer — India and parts that are closer to Australia — Indonesia and our own consumption as we grow too. I don’t think we’d get as far as China, myself.
WHITE: Do you think it matters who we trade with?
HANCOCK: No. No I don’t think so. I mean the world is getting more and more of a unit, more interdependent. We’ve got to trade with Japan, we’re dependent on Japan, they’re dependent on us, certainly. But it’s dangerous to become too dependent on them, just as they find it dangerous to become too dependent on us. I think we want to try and spread our trade as widely as we possibly can.
MOORE: How much influence in fact do you think the Japanese buys of our iron ore will have on whether or not we have a developing steel industry in Australia? Do you think they’re likely to put pressure — in practical terms — on us not to go ahead with this?
HANCOCK: No I don’t think they will do that. I think you will find that in the Australian steel mills you’ll have Japanese partners; just as I don’t think the Japanese will sort of buy much more iron ore on the open market. I think what they will aim for and insist on while they’ve got a buyers’ market is a share in the equity of the iron ore deposits. Well now this could be a good thing. They want a captive source of supply and we want a captive market. In other words if they got a share in your iron mine they’re not going to buy from Brazil or India or somewhere else. They’re going to buy from their own mine. Now I don’t mean that they’re going to have a controlling interest in it, any more than we would have a controlling interest in a steel mill in Japan. But I think a sort of close-knit arrangement like this is a thing that’s coming in the future. I don’t think they’ll just buy on the open market.
MOORE: Do you think that we will have soon a rival steel maker to B.H.P. in Australia?
HANCOCK: Well I wouldn’t say that it’s soon but I think it’s desperately necessary for Australia’s benefit to have rival steel firms. I think whether it’s a rival steel firm, a rival television station, a rival newspaper — I think monopolies are bad.
ELLERY: Well in that context this Armco steel mill proposal could be a good thing, even though it is taking some of your iron ore.
HANCOCK: Well there’s two proposals. The one that we had initially with Armco was for a small mill in Pilbara. The one that’s been popularised largely in the press is the one in Jervis Bay; for which it’s generally considered they want our iron ore. I’m saying that they don’t want our iron ore for this purpose because they have other iron ore, but nevertheless if somebody will set up a ten million ton a year steel mill in Australia I’d be the first person to say hooray because you’ve got ten million ton a year market for our iron ore. I mean you couldn’t do better. A local market for ten million tons a year. I’ve written to the Premier of New South Wales, I’ve written to our local politicians and said whatever happens we won’t close the door on anybody that’s prepared to set up a steel mill in Australia, whether it’s Armco or anybody else. I mean the door’s open as far as we’re concerned, because this is something that would be wonderful if you could get it.
WHITE: Can we come back to this question of Government — the arguments that you have with them. What is it that drives you? Some men who have an income, and yours is reputed to be thirty thousand dollars a day — some men who’ve got an income of that nature would be quite content to sit back and perhaps leave things as they are, but you seem to be on a charger in the cause of free enterprise. Why is it?
HANCOCK: Well obviously, it isn’t — anybody who’s read the things that I have written, it isn’t to make friends, I think that can be ruled out pretty well. I don’t know that it’s just to accumulate piles and piles of money because if that’s so, I’ve made a bit of a mess of it, because I’ve tipped all the money back in the ground. So it must be something else. I don’t know what it is. I suppose it’s — what drives a fellow to go out into the bush and look for things? What drives a fellow to go and do this, that or the other? I don’t know. That’s a question for you to answer, I think. You tell me why I do it.
WHITE: I don’t know either. That’s why I was asking you.
MOORE: But you have a sort of passionate contempt for Governments and bureaucrats don’t you?
HANCOCK: Well I think I’ve seen so much of them, and … well first of all, let’s take the area where I come from. My father was there, my grandfather was there, I’ve been there all my life, and you get a knowledge of the geography, the location, the easy ways to get in and out of the place and so on and so forth; then you come up against some sort of a Government department that’s made some arrangement with somebody in Honolulu or New York, that’s never seen the place, and they pick up some ideas about it, which are totally impractical; well naturally you’re going to disagree with it because you know it’s basically wrong — even elementarily wrong. So there’s friction straight off the reel.
MOORE: But you’ve said the kind of thing — that Governments don’t produce anything, don’t make anything, which in a way is obviously true, but even with all your money and with all your taxes, you couldn’t afford to buy an aircraft carrier, say, to protect the shores of Western Australia, which is protecting your investment. I mean you … the protection of Western Australia in a sense means more to you than it does to any other Western Australian. You’ve got more to lose, personally. Well now isn’t the Government doing something to help you, above all Western Australians, by providing defence services, schools, roads, and whatever?
HANCOCK: Oh I’ve never quibbled about defence. I think the Government ought to turn around and buy the total F1-11 weapons system. I don’t just mean an aeroplane. I believe that Australia should make itself fairly prickly. It’s quite obvious that you can’t fight the big nations or anything else, but any of the smaller nations that have desires — I mean I think you should … make ourselves fairly prickly anyhow.
MOORE: But before we get onto that, which we will in a moment … to come back to whether or not Governments do in fact do anything. Do you concede that they do anything that matters or …?
HANCOCK: I regards them as sawing sawdust. You know, just getting in the road and things of that nature. I believe that the Government should define rights, absolutely define them, but I don’t think the Government should have the right to take something from you and give it to me, or to give it to any of its friends, so to speak. I think they should define rights, rigidly; I think they should be the referees, but I don’t think they should meddle in production, something that’s totally …
MOORE: Do they have any obligation to protect the weak and the socially disadvantaged or whatever we call it, or not?
HANCOCK: Yes I think so, but they seem to go the opposite way. Look at all this inflation. I mean I think the thing that they should conserve and protect is the Australian dollar, so that people that have worked all their lives, when they get to the end of their life they’ve got certain obligations that they must do, rather than turn around and bother about something they don’t understand at all, that’s production and development.
MOORE: Do Governments spend too much money on social services and things like that?
HANCOCK: I’m not an expert on that, but generally, Governments do spend too much money. I think they could be far more efficient in their spending of the public’s money.
WHITE: You don’t think they spend too much on pensions or medical health or anything like that?
HANCOCK: There’s a lot of underprivileged people in this world whom I think that the Government, everybody should do as much as possible for.
WHITE: Where do you think Governments should draw their income from?
HANCOCK: Well now this is a touchy question. I don’t think they should draw it out of production to the extent that they do. I think they should encourage production so as to create more wealth for the community, I don’t think that they should tax things which will add to the community’s wealth. I think they should get on side with people who do produce that wealth and encourage it with all sorts of incentives to produce more and more so that the standard of living gets higher and higher for all Australians.
ELLERY: Do you think lower taxation would raise living standards?
HANCOCK: I’m sure of it. I mean look at the impoverished British nation. They wiped out one thousand four hundred million, didn’t they, off taxes from productive avenues to encourage production.
MOORE: In developing your holdings, you mentioned earlier on, you obviously caught up with foreign investors, particularly in the early stages. Do you see any limits to the advantages of foreign investment? Did you have in mind any ground rules?
HANCOCK: I don’t think you can do this by rigid dictatorship and saying Australians you’ve got to put your money in. I just don’t think they will put their money in, so I think it’s better to leave it alone. But what I think is that if you can get the foreigners to take all the risk, as they have done now — see in these things, the Government know nothing about them, the foreigners come in here at the moment and initially they’ve taken all the risk, they’ve put up all the capital, and the Australian Government sits back, contributes nothing, takes no risk, and gets forty-seven and a half per cent of the profits. So …
MOORE: Mr. Hancock, on this point. Couldn’t a cynic argue that if these big international firms put their money in, they’re pretty hard-headed, by golly there can’t be such a risk after all. Maybe you are overstating the risk element in all this?
HANCOCK: Well you try and convince that to these chaps that have lost all their money on the stock exchange that every mine’s a Hamersley Mine … I think that … there is a risk, a tremendous risk.
MOORE: I’m saying these hard-headed international businessmen know a good thing when they see it, and yours was a good thing.
HANCOCK: Right, okay. Now there’s another one of these, and we can’t mention names on here, but it’s so good a risk that the foreigners had ninety-two and half per cent of it. And now they’ve sold it off down to fifteen per cent, and the poor unfortunate Australians are contributing to it, so they’re not all bonanzas, by any manner of means; but in time, if you’ve got enough foreign investment coming in and you’ve got enough of these things rolling, and producing enough wealth, I think Australia in time will be an exporter of capital, just the same way as Britain was and just the same way as America was, and the pendulum will turn. It will turn from a very wealthy country and we’ll spread our wings all over the world, just as they are spreading their wings here.
WHITE: Mr. Hancock, within twelve months from now there’s to be a federal election. How important do you see the outcome of that election to what’s happening in Western Australia?
HANCOCK: I don’t think it makes any difference. You’ve heard of the Gortlam policy, haven’t you? I don’t think it makes much difference either way.
WHITE: Yes, except that we don’t have Mr. Gorton any longer. He seems to be about the one politician that you seem to have been able to get on with, to any great degree.
HANCOCK: Well that’s only because I think out of all the Cabinet ministers, state or federal, he’s the only one that’s bothered to come up and have a look at what this is all about. So I believe … I mean anybody that’ll sort of get off his backside from Prime Minister level and come over and go out in the bush as he did is streets ahead of everybody else in that respect, anyhow. I don’t know all the ins and outs of Canberra or anything else, but at least he is Australian to the core, and he did come over and spends days there being bounced about by me, firstly in my aeroplane and secondly on the ground, and he saw with his own eyes what Australia had, so that’s … and he’s the only one who’s done it. None of the State Ministers have done it.
ELLERY: In effect you can’t see any advantage between a free enterprise Liberal Government and a socialist Labor Government?
HANCOCK: I believe in the principles of the Liberal Party, I don’t believe in the practices, because they’re socialist. Look what they’ve done over there. You’ll remember that one of our Ministers said that they believed that the railways, these ones that are being built by private money, they should be Government-owned, Government-controlled and placed where the Government thinks they ought to go. Then having got the famous Pilbara plan of confiscation rolling, whereby they confiscate our discoveries and split them up amongst the big four, if this works, they’re then going to move down to the nickel fields, they’re then going to socialise those to the extent of taking them off the little boys and splitting them up amongst the big three or the big four, and then railways down there, and the power’s going to be nationalised and so on and so forth. Well this to me is a socialist’s dream. Now the fact that it comes from the Liberal Party is something I can’t explain.
WHITE: So it doesn’t really matter you think? It’s six of one or half a dozen of the other, whether we’ve got a Liberal or a Labor regime?
HANCOCK: At the moment, anyhow, until things sort themselves out.
ELLERY: Why should this be so, if these two Parties profess to have completely opposite philosophies?
HANCOCK: Oh I think Peter your knowledge of politicians is probably more intense than — better than mine. I can’t explain why. You would think they would be in rival camps and they’d have rival philosophies and they would stick to them, but this doesn’t seem to be the … perhaps the Australian public want it this way, I don’t know.
MOORE: If the crunch came in a federal election and you had to put up your money … and by the way, would you put up your money in a political campaign? Could you see the circumstances where you would financially support a political party in Australia?
HANCOCK: At the moment, no.
MOORE: Not necessarily the Liberal or Labor Party either. I mean it may be another party. The D.L.P. say, we haven’t talked about. Is there anything …?
HANCOCK: I think the D.L.P. are idealists and realists so perhaps they may be the coming party. I don’t know …
MOORE: Do you in fact support the D.L.P. financially?
HANCOCK: No I don’t support … I’m not a politician or a fellow that tries to pull strings through political parties or anything of that nature. No I don’t believe that’s my role at all.
ELLERY: In the last state election in Western Australia, wasn’t there a tendency for your Sunday newspaper, The Independent, to support the Labor Party? I thought I read this between the lines.
HANCOCK: Well as you know I know just enough about a newspaper to know that I don’t know how to run one. We have confidence in our managing editor and we don’t interfere too much in it, so if you read something between the lines well, you’re an astute political observer, you would probably be right.
MOORE: Mr. Hancock I think you’re one of the few people in Australia to have taken on the conservationists. In an article you wrote you spoke of the policy of “unbridled conservation”; it’s usually put the other way round. How would you bridle the conservation movement?
HANCOCK: I think that it’s just a case of let them run, and in time, because they will unfortunately stop that much industry they’ll bring the country to its knees. People … I mean they’re getting upset now because of the hundred-thousand unemployed. What happens where there’s millions of unemployed? I think that in time that conservation … the pendulum will swing and it’ll be a dirty word, just as mining is a dirty word now. You’ve got to remember now that in Australia, less than one fifth of one per cent of Australia’s land surface is under mining, and this fifth of one per cent, with the fade out in wool and primary produce, is going t0 support the whole of Australia. Well now if the conservationists are allowed to run without interference, well they’ll close up all the mines; whose going to pay everybody’s wages? So I think all you can do is just wait till the fad passes.
ELLERY: Dismissing the extremes of the conservationists’ argument, do you see any need for controls of air pollution, water pollution and so on? Do you have any sympathy for the basic problem?
HANCOCK: Yes in a very complex city such as Tokyo or somewhere that way, I think it’s quite necessary. But I get back to the point if you’re going to be a conservationist, why don’t you conserve the Australian currency and look after the people all the way through, and look after our industries to enable people’s standard of living to rise?
MOORE: So that if conservation gets in the way of economic growth, then so much the worse for conservation?
HANCOCK: Yes I would favour the … I think things have got to be practical. I just don’t think you can turn around and stop industry and stop people’s livelihoods and turn them out of work by the million. I don’t think that’s right.
WHITE: Is this another area where you fear Government intervention of a kind that you don’t think’s warranted?
HANCOCK: Oh no I’m not actively fighting conservationists. I just think that in time that it’ll run its course and there’ll be so many people out of work that they’ll take charge of it.
MOORE: When you from your position now look at the Australian economy, how would you assess its general health? A lot of other people are diagnosing it, aren’t they, day in and day out?
HANCOCK: Oh I think it’s a pity the way that it’s gone. I believe that this is another thing that comes straight back to Government. There’s two forms of inflation to my way of thinking and to everybody’s way of thinking; there’s the demand inflation, which is simply too much money chasing too few goods, and that’s quite a simple one; on the other side you’ve got this cost-push inflation. Now this begins with the Government because they are the ones who raise the costs, they increase indirect taxation, they raise sales tax, they raise tariffs and so on and so forth, and whilst we’re in a position whereby all our products are sold in an absolute setting, we can’t dictate to the world just what we’re going to get for our products, that’s fixed; so the only thing we can do is start at the other end, we start at the cost end. Now if you can get a downward spiral going on costs and the rest of the world’s got a vicious upward spiral going, it’s only a matter of time before synthetics price themselves out of the market and then wool would be able to follow it up and come back to a position where it could make a profit again, so this is the thing that I think wants tackling by Governments very, very firmly. I think it starts with them and they’re the people who should set it. I don’t think it’s any good turning round and starting a spiral like we’ve got. They increase costs and then the unions turn round — and they’ve got to, they’ve got no alternative other than to increase pressures for wages, and this dog chasing its tail goes on forever. I believe the Government’s got to break that thing and it’s got to start the spiral going downward.
MOORE: Would you like to see the Government reduce taxation, say?
HANCOCK: Yes I’d like to see it reduce all forms of taxation, but to do it quickly, the thing they can immediately allow the cost structure of Australia would be wipe out sales tax for instance. It would cut the costs of articles down overnight, twenty-four hours. I’d like to see them reduce tariffs. I mean the handout in tariffs works out to something like about two thousand-million a year I think virtually in subsidy to manufacturers; the handout to primary producers is about a tenth of that, and so on and so forth. I believe if you could get the costs of these things down, they’d make their own profits and these big handouts wouldn’t be necessary.
WHITE: Do you think production would rise enough to cater for all this, because you’re cutting out an enormous section of Government income?
HANCOCK: Well I believe that enormous sections of Government income should be cut out, because Governments — they take money from production and give it to Government; Governments don’t produce anything, it’s only inflationary money. They’ve hoodwinked the whole of the Australian population for years and years that the way to cure inflation is to tax people more, is to take more money out of production. This to me is a fallacy. It’s a very comfortable one.
MOORE: Mr. Hancock, we’re almost out of time. Just one last point. Are you seriously worried about the supposed downturn in Japan’s economic growth in the next year or so?
HANCOCK: No. Not at all. I think it’s only temporary. I do believe that within thirty years, Japan will be producing more than the United States and that we’ll grow with it if we’re sensible.
MOORE: Mr. Hancock, thank you very much for talking with us on MONDAY CONFERENCE. Thank you Brian White; thank you Peter Ellery.
- Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
- Hancock's Australia
- Hancock on Government Help
- Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 1
- Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 2
- Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
- Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
- Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
- Jump on the Joh bandwagon
- John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
- Governments — like a red rag to a Rogue Bull
- Lang Hancock's Pilbara-Queensland Railway Proposal
- Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
- Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
- New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
- Small and Big Business Should Oppose Government, says Lang Hancock
- A Condensed Case for Secession
- Hancock gets tough over uranium mining
- Hancock's threat to secede and faith in Whitlam
- PM's sky-high promise to Lang
- Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
- The spread of Canberra-ism
- Govt should sell the ABC, says Lang Hancock
- 1971 Monday Conference transcript featuring Lang Hancock
- Aborigines, Bjelke and the freedom of the press
- The code of Lang Hancock
- Why not starve the taxation monster?
- Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
- Party Promises to Abolish Tax
- Right-wing plot
- "The best way to help the poor is not to become one of them." - Lang Hancock
- WA's NCP commits suicide
- "You can't live off a sacred site"
- Hancock: King of the Pilbara
- Bludgers need not apply
- New party formed "to slash controls"
- Workers Party Reunion Intro
- Workers Party is born as foe of government
- Government seen by new party as evil
- Ron Manners on Lang Hancock
- Does Canberra leave us any alternative to secession?
- Bury Hancock Week
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Lang Hancock on Australia Today
- Hancock and Wright
- Lang Hancock on Environmentalists
- Friends of free enterprise treated to financial tete-a-tete: Lang does the talking but Gina pulls the strings
- Lang Hancock, Stump Jumper
- Lang Hancock: giant of the western iron age
- The Treasury needs a hatchet man
- We Mine to Live
- Get the "econuts" off our backs
- 1971 Lang Hancock-Jonathan Aitken interview for Land of Fortune (short)
- Gina Rinehart, Secessionist
- 1982 NYT Lang Hancock profile
- Enter Rio Tinto
- Hamersley and Tom Price
- News in the West
- Positive review of Hancock speech
- Lang Hancock International Press Institute General Assembly speech, Canberra, 1978
- Australia's slide to socialism
- The Great Claim Robbery
- Why WA must go it alone
- Lang Hancock in 1976 on Public Picnics and Human Blights
- MILLIONAIRE PUTS MONEY BEHIND SECESSIONISTS
- Resource Management in Australia: Is it possible?
- The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock
- Crystal Balls Need Polishing
- Minerals - politicians' playthings?
- John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
- Boston Tea Party 1986 style, hosted by Lang Hancock and Bob Ansett
- Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
- Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
- Tactics change by Hancock
- Lang Hancock complains to Margaret Thatcher about Malcolm Fraser
- 'Phony crisis' seen as 'child of politics'
- Lang Hancock on nuclear energy
- Lang Hancock beats the left at their own game on civil liberties
- Lang Hancock's Favourite Books
- 1977 Lang Hancock Canberoo poem
- Hancock's playing very hard to get
- Hancock proposes a free-trade zone
- An Open Letter to Sir Charles Court
- John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
- Lang Hancock in 1984 solves Australian politics
- Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
- Lang Hancock asks what happened to Australia's rugged individualism?
- Precis of Ludwig Plan for North-West
- Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
- Lang Hancock's March 1983 attempt to enlist "former presidents of nations and heads of giant companies" to save Australia
- Lang Hancock asks us to think how easily environmentalists are manipulated for political purposes
- Invest in free enterprise
- Democracy is dead in Australia and Lang Hancock's education
- Lang Hancock Incites Civil Disobedience
- Hancock sounds call to battle Canberra
- Mining policy a threat
- Over Whitlam's head
- Lang Hancock suggests that newspapers don't give space to politicians unconditionally
- Lang Hancock on saving Australia from socialism
- Secede or sink
- Australia can learn from Thatcher
- John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
- How Lang Hancock would fix the economy
- Lang Hancock: victim of retrospective legislation
- Lang Hancock supports Joh for PM
- Hancock seeks miners' tax haven in the north
- The Ord River Dam
- Why Lang Hancock invested in Australia's film industry
- Lang Hancock's 1983 letters to The Australian: Lang's precedent for Steve Jobs, renaming the Lucky Country to the Constipated Country, and more
- Australia's biggest newspaper insider on manipulating the media
- 1980 Lang Hancock-Australian Penthouse Interview
- Canberra: bastion of bureaucracy
- Pilbara can be the Ruhr for South-East Asia
- 1982 Lang Hancock-John Harper Nelson Interview
- Australian elections are one of the greatest con games in history
- Our leaders are powerless
- 1976 Monday Conference transcript featuring Bert Kelly
- 1976 Monday Conference transcript featuring Hayek
- John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
- 1971 Monday Conference transcript featuring Lang Hancock
- 1975 Monday Conference transcript featuring Milton Friedman
- John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
- Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan