Dennis Minogue, “The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock,” The Age, February 25, 1974, p. 9.

Dennis Minogue interviews tycoon Lang Hancock in Perth.

Why is the secession idea being advanced now?

Because I think Australia is facing the most dangerous period in its history. It’s more than comparative with the bank nationalisation movement of 25 years ago. That, as you know, brought down the Chifley Government.

Now there is a movement not only to nationalise the banks, but to nationalise every industry in Australia, particularly the mining industry, which is the one that is a bit closer to me, but transport and everything else. Further to that, they can commandeer 10% of people’s savings from all the insurance companies; force them compulsorily to invest under the AIDC.

Now the AIDC — that Government instrumentality for nationalisation — record shows that 83% of their investments so far have been failures.

These bills have got past the Lower House without even so much as a flicker, particularly the Minerals and Energy Bill. Now the Minerals and Energy Bill renders null and void any titles that any company or individual might get from the State Government. They can confiscate, and override those titles: they can confiscate any mine or prospect of a mine from the prospecting stage right through, even if it is actively in production. It doesn’t matter how big or how small.

This is complete nationalisation on a resources basis. You put these series of bills together: it doesn’t leave much prospect for individuals who believe in some sort of free way of life, as opposed to Mao Tsetung and some of these sort of fellows with whom we seem to be rushing to an affinity.

A lot of this stuff — and added powers they’ve given to the Reserve Bank, whereas they can impose 33.3% on capital to come in and develop backward areas of Australia: they can revalue, or they have revalued, lowered the price of our exports, minerals, primary produce by 31% in Australian terms — all these things, you add them together and it’s clear something’s got to be desperately done.

We believe that there is a House of review to protect the States in the Senate. Most of these bills haven’t gone past the Senate, but they will. I believe that the people who are in the Senate at the moment will weaken, and the minute they do these bills will become law.

So we feel the best thing we can do immediately is to run some candidates and get a man of character into the Senate who would at last stand up and try to stop these things going through. But if they do go through then there is no hope left for Western Australia except to secede.

Now this becomes a matter of timing. You can’t do it overnight. The ideal time would be when Australia turns republican: in other words it would secede from us because we would like to remain a member of the British Commonwealth with full right of appeal to an outside arbitrator in the form of the Privy Council.

We think we must do something about this. Nobody else seems to be doing anything. The mining industry is quite harmless. I mean Connor’s quite right in calling the leaders hillbillies and mugs. If they weren’t, then they wouldn’t stand for what is being done to them. So it falls back on Western Australia, because we are the State that’s most affected because of the very enormous raw material wealth that is here.

Do you think there are sufficient constitutional guarantees to prevent nationalisation?

I don’t think there’ll be any guarantees worth a hoot. The Bank Nationalisation Bill may have been thrown out as such, but they gave the Reserve Bank such enormous powers that it has done almost as much harm.

They’ll go around the back door of nationalisation.

What will happen to Western Australia’s economy?

Well, the mines would have to close up because most things run by Governments don’t make too many profits, particularly in these sorts of outback ventures, which require a lot of risk capital, a lot of resource, a lot of ingenuity, and knowledge that Governments normally don’t have. Most of our economy would just go worse than it is at the moment.

Do you think the Government in Canberra will really go in on the mines?

Well, if not, why are they passing the legislation?

What sort of support do you have in Western Australia for the secessionist movement?

We’ve only just started. We wouldn’t have any support at the moment.

You are going to field candidates in the coming Senate election. How many?

My own view is that there should be two. A lot of the people talking with me in this thing feel that we should field a full team.

By support, I didn’t mean in the sense of mass demonstrations in the street, but support in the sense of a committee style group. Who is behind you?

Well, the first time this secession movement went on review by the TV people — they did their best to lampoon it, and kill it. Despite that their telephone ran hot, to my surprise. They couldn’t take all the calls that night, and had to keep the telephone open next day, and 60% were in favour of secession and they hadn’t even heard of it.

So I think there should be a good deal of popular support. But where the support should come from is the big insurance companies that are going to lose 10% of their savings and see them go down the drain: the banks whose equity is going to be nationalised.

I mean the nationalisation isn’t going to be just mines. They would have power to nationalise transport industries, electrical industries, things of this nature. But the banks would have a very great vested interest in supporting our candidates in the Senate. And of course the mining groups if they’ve got any sense at all.

So the idea of secession comes up only if attempts to influence Canberra fail?

As it will fail. You might delay it for a while, but it will fail. I would think that by 1977 the time will be ripe for secession or when Canberra decides to go republican.

Do you think, though, that there is a better chance of a change of the Canberra Government?

No, I think the Canberra Government will go its full span and even if you change the Government it doesn’t make any difference.

You think the Liberals would do the same thing?

Yes, of course they will. It’s like a ratchet: they won’t unwind any of the stuff that’s gone through. Most of the instruments that the present Government is using to put the boots into mining at the moment have all been put there by the previous Government.

To put it into precise terms, what is Western Australia losing right now that you think it should have?

Well: it’s losing security of tenure for a start. It’s losing the right to export its minerals or this north-west shelf gas.

We would lose the possibility of that being developed, and that is in a very vulnerable area up there because it’s all very well to say that Australia is going to have so much. Australia hasn’t got the force to say it’s going to have so much. There isn’t one of our neighbours that isn’t militarily stronger than Australia. So if we just leave it idle, and don’t do anything with it, we’re not going to hold it.

That’s one thing that’s against Western Australia. Then there are the threats to the mines, and to the wool industry: the marketing scheme is all government, government, government. One of the economic disadvantages Western Australia suffers is the fact that a hell of a large proportion of the foreign exchange is earned from Western Australia’s primary industries yet the eastern States spend 80% of it.

Looking at it more closely, we provide, I think, $1000 million a year of captive market for the eastern States, a very high price market, protected under a tariff wall.

We are a primary producing State. We’ve got no manufacturers here, so this tariff wall virtually raises the price of production for most of the implements we want by about 40%.

In return, the eastern States buy something like $65 million against the $1000 million. If Western Australia was free of the eastern States to look after its own economy, that $1000 million of yearly imports could be traded away to the nuclear powers and we could, by lowering our cost of production so much, by using that to get long-term take-and-pay contracts for all our produce — wheat, wool, our minerals, the same way as we do with our iron and bauxite at the moment — our economy would boom to such an extent that we would be producing so much more of the things the nuclear nations require more and more.

Defence is one question I wanted to get on to when we start talking about the viability of Western Australia as an independent nation …

We’re talking about an independent (nation) purely economically. We’re no more apart from the rest of Australia than New Zealand is. We’re not a nation without New Zealand. Anzac, you might be too young to remember what it’s all about — but Anzac is the beginning of the nation. The first four Davis Cup victories were won with New Zealand’s help. There is a sea of sand and thinking between us and Canberra far bigger than the sea that separates New Zealand and the eastern States.

The concept then would be that Western Australia would be an independent nation but emotionally tied …

That’s right. But we act as one in any external threat as far as danger is concerned, not that we could do much, as our defence is at the moment.

In your prepared advertisements for the Senate campaign you place heavy emphasis on defence. Could Western Australia pay for its own defence or would defence be on a treaty basis?

Neither Australia nor Western Australia can pay for its own defence.

If you had the whole of the Russian army in Australia you could not hold it against a nuclear-powered force with conventional arms. I do not visualise Western Australia, or Australia, having a defence force ever that means anything to it.

Would Western Australia be an economically viable entity?

Professor whatever his name has said that if Western Australia seceded the eastern States would be bankrupt in 11 days.

If we’re carrying Australia on our backs, surely to Christ we can get along on our own.

There is enough export income here to pay for everything you would need?

40% of Australia’s export income is provided by Western Australia: we’re only 7% of the population.

Moving into the political areas: Mr Snedden has strongly suggested Sir Charles Court stay well away from the secession movement, Mr Whitlam could be expected to take the same line with Mr Tonkin, could you expect any of the major parties to align with you in any way, and do you need them?

Personally, I would hate to see secession made a political issue in this forthcoming election [WA holds its State election on March 28]. I think it would kill the movement. A lot of people have asked me to support them as candidates and I do my level best to bury the thought in their minds.

But by 1977 I think people will have had such a gutful, and the thing I am talking about now is those bills in the Senate, that any party that wants to win the 1977 election will have to be secessionist.

And I don’t think you could keep Sir Charles Court of Premier Tonkin off the bandwagon. By 1977 we’ll get killed in the crush.

How long will it be before the people of Western Australia realise what this legislation in Canberra means to them?

I think it will take a long time. I don’t think Australians are politically conscious of much at all. I mean, this is the lucky country and they are all doing pretty well. It’s got to hit people in their pockets. I’m pretty certain we will get one candidate elected to the Senate, a bloke who’ll make enough noise to keep this thing alive. By 1977 it will be quite an issue and I think that people will be alerted to it. Last time, you’ll remember, there was a 70% vote in favour of it [the last big secession movement in Western Australia in the early 1930s], and there were crowds of 2000 to 3000 assembling to hear people speak on it. It got stymied in Whitehall, it didn’t get stymied anywhere else.

Do you believe you have the constitutional ability to secede?

It appears that we do have, because there was a very expert case presented by H. K. Watson last time and it has the admiration of the world in legal circles. I don’t think that there is any doubt that there is a fully documented legal case. I knew H. K. Watson pretty intimately and knowing the man, he wouldn’t waste his time on anything that wasn’t technically legally, soundly-based.

Would you consider standing yourself?

Oh, good heavens no, that isn’t my field.

If you are not the leader, who is?

I think it’s the general feeling that is in Western Australia. You scratch any native-born Western Australian and you’ll find a secessionist. He might not admit it openly, but talk to him in his drawing room or at a party when he’s got a few under his belt, it’ll come to the surface when you scratch him hard enough. It’s there. When you’ve got an emotional base like that, somebody’s going to shoot up as leader.

Presumably, at least in the beginning, you are going to have to bankroll this movement and that is expensive. What advantage is there to you in backing this movement?

Well, of course, everybody says it is a vested interest that I have. My income comes from royalties paid ultimately by the Japanese, not by Australians. It is not in any way related to profits. I get that income whether the company makes a profit or whether it doesn’t … So when it comes to vested interest, every man in the street’s vested interest is greater than mine.

Who else is with you in this movement, can you say?

Not at the moment. There’s a lot of people in this sort of thing. They stand up, and then they half stand up. What we’ll finally do is select a very small committee who will stand up under any sort of pressure, and these will be the real doers who will get something done.

Have you spoken with the mining companies, the insurance companies, and the banks?

I’ve spoken to some of the miners, and the moment you get in the door all you can hear is growls about the bloody Government. And when you say, “We’ll, what are you going to do about it?”

Silence — they haven’t got a bloody thing to do about it. They are completely bereft of any ideas of any kind. One crowd said: “Well we’ll put up $1 million to put the Liberals back.” Then you talk to them awhile and say what good is that going to do? — they haven’t got an argument.

What is the best thing that could happen to the secessionist movement, and what is the worst thing?

Well, the worst thing that could happen to Australia and to Western Australia would be for the secessionist movement to fail. The best thing that could happen would be for Western Australia to secede, to become prosperous and, in turn, to ally itself, become absolutely indispensable to some of the great nuclear powers of the world so that they, in turn, would have to come here, and defend Western Australia, and, in so doing, would defend Australia as well.

Do you think of secession as permanent, or is it a stick with which you can beat Canberra into the sort of submission you would want?

No, no, that was a failure last time. The last time people said, “Look at the wonderful things we’ve got out of it. We’ve got a Cabinet meeting being held in Western Australia for the first time, and we’ve put our neck in the noose for the Grants Commission.”

No, you’ve got to go right through with it, and you’ve got to drag the rest of Western Australia along with you. It’s all on the economics of it and Western Australia loses on that, and by having Western Australia lose, I think the rest of Australia loses as well.

A disproportionate part of the wealth is produced here. Anything that puts hobbles on the development of Western Australia affects Australia adversely.

One final point on the economics of secession … the huge income you say Western Australia generates, do you think this can be harvested to Western Australia’s benefit, and how great is the West’s economic disadvantage?

Hell’s bells, if you study the figures, the taxation that goes out of Western Australia far exceeds the amount of money coming in.

There’s a tremendous drain to Canberra from the north-west and they don’t contribute anything. They don’t contribute capital or knowledge or anything, but they do get in the road. They hinder a lot. There is nothing Canberra can give or does give that we would miss in the development of 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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(in order of appearance on
  1. Lang Hancock: giant of the western iron age
  2. The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock
  3. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
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