More featuring Lang Hancock»

Robert Duffield, The Bulletin, September 12, 1978, pp. 24-26.

Not since the Labor Party of 1954 has an established political group torn itself apart so savagely as the National Country Party of WA has in the past few weeks.

The result after all this self-torture is that the party has cut off its president to spite its parliamentary face. And Lang Hancock now has a new political party to play with.

Its members will be the best and brightest of the former NCP ranks, and because they are bright they will not be “Hancock men.” But the word is that he will continue to finance them because they have had the courage to take an independent stand against the “Court men” in the cabinet: NCP leader Dick Old and his deputy, Peter Jones.

The events leading up to this situation are a book in anybody’s language, although the man most likely to write it is David Oxer, the consultant who has been in both the foreground and the background of NCP strategy since 1975, when the party’s confrontation course was set.

That was the year that Sir Charles Court refused to accept basic policies of his coalition partners on commodity marketing. That crisis meant the resignation meant the resignation of Ray McPharlin and his deputy Matt Stephens from the cabinet and the leadership, and the substitution of Old and Jones.

Old and Jones are as close to the Liberal line as any Liberal. And that’s what the fight has been about since Lang Hancock saw the chance to fuel-inject the NCP into a more independent, more metropolitan-oriented, more free-enterprise, and above all, a less Court-oriented party.

Apart from David Oxer’s previously-developed master strategy for a younger and more virile party, depending for some of its support on the near-city electorates, Hancock had going for him the strong spirit of independence which has always existed in the NCP of WA.

This spirit is best exemplified by Jim Fletcher, narrowly re-elected president of the conventional NCP early this month, but who has since resigned to be administrative leader of the new party. With him have gone Matt Stephens, Hendy Cowan and Edna Adams, leaving the NCP “loyalists” as a very pale band indeed.

The fact is, then, that there are now two country parties, although the new one, so long as it depends on Hancock’s aegis, is likely to choose a new name.

What Hancock had hoped to do was to woo the entire NCP into giving the “bureaucracy” of Sir Charles Court a lot of curry, albeit within the coalition. In the event, Sir Charles warned the rebels that they were no longer within the coalition.

It was not part of the new party’s strategy to sit on the cross-benches for the sake of sitting on the cross-benches. But that is its only realistic position, even though some of its members do not yet seem to accept it.

It is now very possible, however, that the new party could hold the balance of power following the expected retirement of Sir Charles, now 68, before or after next year’s election. At this election the new party hopes to pick up at least three more seats.

The story behind the story is that of a party which cannot make up its mind. “It is probably the most democratic party in Australia,” one sage observes, “but that is also its downfall. It decides everything by committee, but what this means is that one committee may overrule another, so that nobody really knows who’s really in charge.”

That is how it has been over the recent weeks of self-torture. At one point the NCP State council re-elected Jim Fletcher as president; at another Jim Fletcher resigned, because somewhere in the middle his position had become untenable.

There is no secret about what happened in the middle. Bert Crane, who virtually had the casting vote for or against the Fletcher-Cowan move to change the old Jones leadership of the NCP’s parliamentary party, cast it against change and then alleged that he had been offered a “bribe” of $50,000 to vote Fletcher’s way.At first Crane refused to say who had offered him the money, but under parliamentary privilege he said it was Fletcher. The money, Crane said, was for election expenses to help him hold the potentially swinging seat of Moore — one of the key seats in the Oxer strategy of holding NCP areas which have a big metropolitan factor in their make-up.

The Crane allegations did the trick. Now there was no way for the NCP to go except in different directions. Dick Old made a cosmetic plea for party unity, but at the same time Fletcher, Cowan, Stephens and the others were forming the new group.

The future of this group is in doubt. Matt Stephens is known as one of the brightest politicians in the parliament; Hendy Cowan as one of the MPs most committed to the country electorates. Some other electoral councils are rallying behind them and Jim Fletcher, but those of Dick Old and Peter Jones so far are remaining loyal to them.

What many people are asking is: is there room of two country parties in Western Australia?

(in order of appearance on
  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
  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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