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Lang Hancock, “We Mine to Live,” Quadrant, September, 1981, pp. 51-53. Update: this was largely written by Viv Forbes who gave Hancock permission to use it without attribution (so as not to offend his employer at the time). Forbes is also the anonymous friend Hancock quotes.

Australia has more natural wealth under the ground than North America. We could be greater than America if we followed the “free enterprise” system and developed it as America did in the early days. But, before we can develop we must have minimum government, good leadership, and of course we must have infrastructure, so that the vast wealth that is in the ground can be got out of the earth, exported and earn livings for all of us and for the nation. Fourteen million strike-ridden Australians cannot possibly consume everything that Australia can create: we manage to produce more than 1,000 million Government-controlled Chinese.

We have in our resource industry two distinct sectors — the private sector, which is controlled by government departments, and the public sector, which is controlled by no one.

The key to resource management in the 1980s will be the extent to which we can reverse this destructive state of affairs.

A friend of mine summarises Australia’s situation like this:

Our politicians seem to think that minerals are produced by taxes, levies, enquiries, commissions, regulations, export controls and senate standing committees.

At best these activities merely use up energy. Usually, however, they also deter exploration, defer development and restrict production. They also distract producers who are forced to spend valuable time and energy preparing submissions, appearing before tribunals, educating bureaucrats, and apologising to the media if they make profits.

Australia is fast approaching the situation where the number of energy departments and committees exceeds the number of oil explorers.

There are at least 10 State and Federal department promulgating contradictory and often inept energy policies. In addition there are four Federal energy standing committees continuously debating all aspects of energy, plus the Australian Science and Technology Advisory Council. As if all this was not enough, Deputy Prime Minister Anthony has appointed a new National Energy Advisory Committee consisting of 7 professors, 5 public servants, 2 laymen, 1 unionist, 1 energy consumer, 1 energy producer, and not one explorationist.

Should anyone be considering using foreign capital to build an oil refinery, the approval of at least ten more government departments is required.

It is a simple truth that individuals and families and nations prosper best where there are plenty of well-paid jobs created by the free interplay of supply and demand. Our own Australian Prime Minister agreed with us when he rejected the Labor Party’s demand for creation of more government jobs to ease unemployment; yet his government, and other governments of the same political colour in individual States, except Queensland, have a record of interference second to none in Australia.

It has been estimated by the Confederation of Australian Industry that in 1978-79 the cost of Federal and State regulation of industry was $A3,720 million — equivalent to $A900 a year for every Australian household, with the cost of Federal regulation alone $A1,384 million.

And it is not only the economic burden — it is the overall effect of government — the stultifying and the delaying, the frustration and the destruction of initiative and incentive — that do even more damage.

At this stage, I do want to say that I am NOT an anarchist. I believe in the essential role of government to keep the peace nationally, commercially and internationally. But I also believe that what governments do best is enforcing the commandments: Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not make false or misleading statements; Thou shalt not break contracts; Thou shalt not assault peaceful neighbours. They should leave it at that.

Have said that, let me now go on to state what I believe governments SHOULD NOT DO, summed up in what I call a Five Point Plan for Energy Chaos:

1) DISCOURAGE EXPLORATION

The following policies can be relied upon to decimate exploration activity:

  • Make frequent changes to tax laws, especially retrospective changes.
  • Harass foreign investors and inhibit promotion of new exploration companies.
  • Force the re-negotiation of mining agreements after exploration has been successful.
  • Impose super-profits tax on successful explorers.
  • Delay offshore exploration while royal commissions consider the safety of offshore drilling, the environment and so on.
  • Avoid open public tendering for allocating new exploration areas.
  • Make secret arbitrary decisions wherever possible.
  • Maintain confusion as to mineral rights in aboriginal areas.

2) STERILISE EXISTING ENERGY RESERVES

  • Apply a stifling network of taxes, rules and regulations covering every aspect of production and trade in energy products. They can usually be justified if they can be related even vaguely to “safety”, “health”, “national security” or “concern for the environment.”
  • Insist on numerous inconclusive environmental enquiries.
  • Prohibit the use of high sulphur fuels without considering the costs and benefits.
  • Force the introduction of unproven air pollution devices which increase fuel usage.
  • Limit open cut mining for cosmetic reasons, even if it is the safest and most efficient method.
  • Impose costly controls on underground mining that force the closure of some mines.
  • Increase mining royalties and impose export levies.
  • Impose windfall profits tax on oil producers to discourage the development of secondary reserves and reduce the life of marginal fields.

3) ENCOURAGE WASTEFUL USE OF ENERGY RESOURCES

  • Fix the domestic price of oil, gas or coal below the world price, to accelerate the use of domestic fuels and discourage exploration and development.
  • Use special tax concessions, power rationalisation schemes, export controls and petrol price equalisation schemes to encourage waste of fuel.

4) CRIPPLE PRODUCTION OF ENERGY

  • Delay construction of new refineries and processing plants with environmental enquiries, royal commissions and federal-state red tape.
  • Prohibit the import of foreign fuels.
  • Criticise and threaten large highly efficient producers.
  • Delay mining and prohibit processing of uranium.
  • Delay construction of nuclear power plants for years, or prohibit them outright.
  • All unreasonable union demands to delay and defer construction of conventional power stations.

5) IMPOSE A NATIONAL ENERGY PLAN

Appoint committees of bureaucrats and academics to investigate the course of the “energy crisis”. After years of hearings and millions of words, these committees will conclude that it was caused by grasping energy companies and greedy consumers, and will recommend a national energy planning authority. Electricity will be rationed, new taxes will be levied on producers and consumers, highway speed limits will be imposed and petrol coupons will be issued. All exploration will be done by the State Minerals and Energy Corporation which will license all current producers of energy. The new dark age will descend, and the black market in candles will boom.

Australia has plenty of prime examples of the Plan for Chaos at work. My Australian partner and I have had millions of dollars worth of iron ore assets confiscated from us by the State Liberal Government despite the fact we have spent a great deal of money on them and had obeyed the law in every respect. When our legal action to protect our rights looked as though it would be successful in the Supreme Court, the State Government then passed a retrospective Act which denied us the right to go to Court to protect our confiscated areas.

The closure of the Fraser Island mineral sands project by the Federal (Liberal) Government cost the Australian taxpayer millions, and is likely to cost even more; as well as having had a disastrous effect on investment. And why was the project closed? As nothing more than an abject, craven submission to a tiny handful of extreme environmentalists supported by the Communist Party.

If I may mention another personal instance — my own and my partners’ project of the Pacminex alumina refinery once ready to start was delayed for years due to an environmental study that was known at the time to be false and misleading and has since been totally discredited. Then after environmental approval was finally given, and the people formerly interested had given up, the Liberal government wrote to us to say that if we did not make a start on the project within three months our title to the areas would be confiscated.

Huge projects ready to go in Australia to supply minerals to other countries that need them are being hamstrung by a body calling itself the Foreign Investment Review Board, which appears determined to resurrect and refurbish what we had hoped was the safely buried corpse of a series of xenophobic foreign investment guidelines.

One current example of this involves a $350 million steaming coal project in Queensland. The foreign companies which supplied the necessary market for the project to commence, were given approval to receive equity. This approval was given under the Foreign Takeovers Act. But just prior to our recent election Mr Fraser announced what his advisors thoughts to be a vote-winning measure, that no project can start without fifty percent Australian equity. So to stop this project which had got approval under the existing Act, the Liberals applied foreign equity “guidelines”.

As I understand it, the American system does not allow the law of the country to be usurped by guidelines, virtually imposed on political whim.

Australia has just come through the antics of this Federal election where one party (unsuccessfully) tried to win office by buying votes with taxpayers’ money. The successful government parties did the same thing though on a much lesser scale at first. Then they obviously were frightened by the opinion polls and “upped the ante” in the last days of the campaign.

What the present “free enterprise” government has decided to do is to pay bigger handouts from moneys that could have helped lower the national deficit — a deficit resulting largely from excessive welfare, health and education payouts. No suggestion of cutting expenditure and taxes, encouraging growth and development and jobs — just more and more government expenditure.

I recall once speaking to a politician about some projects concerning the economic well-being of Australia. He told me frankly that ninety-nine percent of his time had to be devoted to winning his seat in Parliament; of the other one percent, some had to go to his family and hobbies. This left little time for matters concerning the economic well-being of the country!

One of the projects I have advocated is a trans-continental rail link across Australia. Not a vote-catching beer run from Adelaide to Darwin, but a link from east to west, across the north, to connect the mineral-rich Pilbara in Western Australia, which has many other minerals in addition to being the largest high-grade iron province in the world, with the Queensland coalfields, via the uranium province in the Northern Territory an the copper mines in Queensland, eventually linking up with Victoria and New South Wales, and forming a vast productive supply link with enormous benefits to Australia and the world.

The railway I envisage would shift 30 to 40 million tons a year, and could be built for only two-thirds of current dole payments. The country through which it would pass is virtual desert but with mineral potential. I have suggested that the government give mineral rights, where none exist already, for 50 miles on either side of the line to anyone who will put up money for the venture.

The “free enterprise” Federal Government is not willing to let the project go ahead, largely because it would cross some of the vast territory it has given to the Aborigines. There is still a Federal “NO” despite the courageous advocacy by the Queensland Premier, who seems to be the one leading political figure in Australia with foresight and courage enough to try to get thing moving.

It is an essential role of government to define, record, and protect mining property rights. Unless these definitions are clear and unambiguous, there will be disputes.

Every exploration or mining title should spell out clearly the rights and conditions of exploration and mining, which should not be subject to retrospective legislation nor to variation during the term of the title, except by mutual consent. Areas where mining is prohibited should be clearly identified and reviewed regularly. Existing title disputes should be settled by arbitration as quickly as possible.

There are a few other things government could do, such as introducing a ten-year moratorium on new regulations.

They could find useful jobs for the armies of highly educated experts who are now using taxpayers’ funds to produce solutions for which there are yet no problem.

They could introduce birth control to paperwork.

They could decide to cure centralisation by decentralisation.

They could act to curb the taxation industry — the largest extractive industry in the world.

They could decide to live within their incomes.

They could even decide that export controls, capital controls, and investment controls are of no assistance in the hard export markets of the eighties.

But all this, I fear, is wishful thinking, and we are now in the transfer economy where the road to riches is not through efficiency, profits, savings and investment but through political action.

Resource managers of the eighties must learn to cope with this new uncertainty — but at the same time must join in fighting it. The real heroes of the eighties will be those who work in the midst of the ideological battle, refusing to join the looters in all political parties, and speaking out against their spurious arguments.

It is no use just having good ideas and good intentions. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions — and you can’t keep going to hell forever without getting there. This is the real challenge of the eighties.

(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. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  22. The spread of Canberra-ism
  23. Govt should sell the ABC, says Lang Hancock
  24. 1971 Monday Conference transcript featuring Lang Hancock
  25. Aborigines, Bjelke and the freedom of the press
  26. The code of Lang Hancock
  27. Why not starve the taxation monster?
  28. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  29. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  30. Right-wing plot
  31. "The best way to help the poor is not to become one of them." - Lang Hancock
  32. WA's NCP commits suicide
  33. "You can't live off a sacred site"
  34. Hancock: King of the Pilbara
  35. Bludgers need not apply
  36. New party formed "to slash controls"
  37. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  38. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  39. Government seen by new party as evil
  40. Ron Manners on Lang Hancock
  41. Does Canberra leave us any alternative to secession?
  42. Bury Hancock Week
  43. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  44. Lang Hancock on Australia Today
  45. Hancock and Wright
  46. Lang Hancock on Environmentalists
  47. Friends of free enterprise treated to financial tete-a-tete: Lang does the talking but Gina pulls the strings
  48. Lang Hancock, Stump Jumper
  49. Lang Hancock: giant of the western iron age
  50. The Treasury needs a hatchet man
  51. We Mine to Live
  52. Get the "econuts" off our backs
  53. 1971 Lang Hancock-Jonathan Aitken interview for Land of Fortune (short)
  54. Gina Rinehart, Secessionist
  55. 1982 NYT Lang Hancock profile
  56. Enter Rio Tinto
  57. Hamersley and Tom Price
  58. News in the West
  59. Positive review of Hancock speech
  60. Lang Hancock International Press Institute General Assembly speech, Canberra, 1978
  61. Australia's slide to socialism
  62. The Great Claim Robbery
  63. Why WA must go it alone
  64. Lang Hancock in 1976 on Public Picnics and Human Blights
  65. MILLIONAIRE PUTS MONEY BEHIND SECESSIONISTS
  66. Resource Management in Australia: Is it possible?
  67. The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock
  68. Crystal Balls Need Polishing
  69. Minerals - politicians' playthings?
  70. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  71. Boston Tea Party 1986 style, hosted by Lang Hancock and Bob Ansett
  72. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  73. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  74. Tactics change by Hancock
  75. Lang Hancock complains to Margaret Thatcher about Malcolm Fraser
  76. 'Phony crisis' seen as 'child of politics'
  77. Lang Hancock on nuclear energy
  78. Lang Hancock beats the left at their own game on civil liberties
  79. Lang Hancock's Favourite Books
  80. 1977 Lang Hancock Canberoo poem
  81. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  82. Hancock proposes a free-trade zone
  83. An Open Letter to Sir Charles Court
  84. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  85. Lang Hancock in 1984 solves Australian politics
  86. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  87. Lang Hancock asks what happened to Australia's rugged individualism?
  88. Precis of Ludwig Plan for North-West
  89. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  90. Lang Hancock's March 1983 attempt to enlist "former presidents of nations and heads of giant companies" to save Australia
  91. Lang Hancock asks us to think how easily environmentalists are manipulated for political purposes
  92. Invest in free enterprise
  93. Democracy is dead in Australia and Lang Hancock's education
  94. Lang Hancock Incites Civil Disobedience
  95. Hancock sounds call to battle Canberra
  96. Mining policy a threat
  97. Over Whitlam's head
  98. Lang Hancock suggests that newspapers don't give space to politicians unconditionally
  99. Lang Hancock on saving Australia from socialism
  100. Secede or sink
  101. Australia can learn from Thatcher
  102. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  103. How Lang Hancock would fix the economy
  104. Lang Hancock: victim of retrospective legislation
  105. Lang Hancock supports Joh for PM
  106. Hancock seeks miners' tax haven in the north
  107. The Ord River Dam
  108. Why Lang Hancock invested in Australia's film industry
  109. Lang Hancock's 1983 letters to The Australian: Lang's precedent for Steve Jobs, renaming the Lucky Country to the Constipated Country, and more
  110. Australia's biggest newspaper insider on manipulating the media
  111. 1980 Lang Hancock-Australian Penthouse Interview
  112. Canberra: bastion of bureaucracy
  113. Pilbara can be the Ruhr for South-East Asia
  114. 1982 Lang Hancock-John Harper Nelson Interview
  115. Australian elections are one of the greatest con games in history
  116. Our leaders are powerless
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(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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