Lang Hancock, Sunday Independent, May 11, 1975, p. 24.
I think you owe it to the nation to consider what will happen to it when the almost total powers you will be taking unto yourself under the new Mining Bill are passed on to an incoming Government.
The new Mining Bill confers such wide powers on the bureaucracy that it enables civil servants to by-pass the Act itself, as well as Parliament, and rule simply by regulation and proclamation.
Hitler avoided Parliament by burning it down; you, Sir Charles, propose just to ignore it and take the power into your own hands.
Power to confiscate, power to appoint Wardens, not from judiciary but from members of your staff without any legal training whatsoever; power to change the rules even after the ball has been bounced; power that could lead to a reign of bribery and corruption the like of which has never been seen in the Western world.
Now you, Sir Charles, would say that such power is safe in your hands (and many of your followers would agree). You will be equally emphatic that you will never use it.
Well, if you’re not going to use it, for God’s sake and for the sake of Australia, don’t implement it. Even if you don’t use it, somebody else surely will.
If you intend to abide by any of the statements you made, as published by the West Australian of April 30, 1975; if you ever wish to be believed by the WA public, you cannot, in all conscience, persist in putting such a Bill through Parliament.
In case you have forgotten your statements, we will quote the item here:
Incentive was being taken away from Australians because of Government intervention in private enterprise, Sir Charles said.
Speaking on the role of the States in promoting industry, he said the State Government should strive to bring back stability, security, confidence and encouragement to private business.
One of the main roles of a Government was to lead, guide and encourage private businesses then leave them to their own devices.
The Government should vouch for the credibility of companies, but he did not like Governments as negotiators.
To attract overseas capital, the Government must identify the State and establish its credibility, then leave commercial and industrial decisions to the companies involved.
One of the first essentials which must be attended to, is to see that a properly constituted Warden’s Court is appointed, presided over by a proper judge who is independent of Party politics and whose rulings are not subject to the “state of mind of the Minister” or any bureaucrat appointed by him.
In the proposed Bill there are at least 20 instances where discretionary powers would lead to power lobbies and could also lead to bribery.
Don’t tell me that when dealing with deposits of minerals worth hundreds of millions of dollars, that at some time, cases of bribery on a grand scale will be introduced to Western Australian life to a degree which will put Watergate and Vietnam to shame.
The only protection against this is to have the allocation of mining tenements (in whatever form they may be) heard in an open court, presided over by a proper judge as mentioned above, with full right of appeal to all the courts of the land, right up to the Privy Council.
This, at least, is a first step. Secondly, all the rules of the game must be laid down in the Act and not left to be handled by regulations which can be played around with and adjusted without the consent of Parliament but according to the wants of the highest “under the table” bidder.
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