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?
- 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
- Lang Hancock: "a catherine-wheel of novel suggestions"
- 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