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Or, as economist F.A. Hayek called this human failing, “the fatal conceit.”

Perhaps I should call this short story ‘The Relativity of Two Knighthoods’.

Growing up in a country town in Western Australia gives one a true egalitarian spirit, where the quality of a person’s character gave them the ‘ranking,’ rather than today where we see the annual ‘Rich List’ ranking people by dollars. Let me give you a brief example of this, by mentioning two ‘accidents’ that brought me into contact with HRH Prince Philip and his Commonwealth Study Conference.

The first ‘accident’ was during my term as President of the Jaycees (Junior Chamber) in Kalgoorlie and I attended the annual conference in Melbourne, 1966, where I spent time with the National President, Phillip Lynch.  Phillip’s day-job, at that time, was Managing Director of management consultants, Manpower (Australia) Pty Ltd.  I recall that he was a very effective public speaker and I engaged with him by asking, “What has been the main influence in your life to bring you to your current success?” His instant answer was, “I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Duke of Edinburgh Study Conference in 1962 and Ron, I strongly urge you to become part of this application process so you can expose yourself to, what I consider to be Prince Philip’s winning formula.”

Naturally, I thought no more of this until confronted with the second ‘accident’ about two years later, back in Kalgoorlie, when I arrived early at the Palace Hotel to collect a visiting engineer and take him to some consulting jobs around Kalgoorlie. I was slightly early and caught him mid-breakfast with another hotel guest. John Moore was my ‘visitor’, and he graciously invited me to sit down and join the conversation while he finished his breakfast.

I asked the other, unrelated guest, what brought him to Kalgoorlie, and he said he was recruiting around Western Australia to find suitable applicants for the upcoming 1968 Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conference.  He reported that he had spent several hours with the Mayor of Kalgoorlie.  The Mayor, of advanced age, had simply said, “At my age, I simply don’t know any young people so I’m absolutely no use to you whatsoever.”  The visitor was expressing regret that he was returning to Perth without being able to locate a suitable young person but then he looked at me and guessed my age (31 y.o.) and then casually said, “You look to be about the right age so let me give you one of these brochures that has an interview application form attached.”

At this stage I don’t think it registered with me that this was exactly the same opportunity that Phillip Lynch had outlined, two years before, and it was only later when emptying out my pockets that it suddenly clicked and I thought, “Ron, you had better fill this form in quickly”, stimulated by my memory of the significance it played in Phillip Lynch’s life. I was successful in surviving the five interviews process and was selected. Upon reflection I agree with Phillip Lynch’s comments that this was a life-changing experience. There is more to that story and that is where the ‘ranking by character’ comes in.

During a follow-up reunion of the Commonwealth Study Conference, in Melbourne, in 1972, (Prince Philip was a great believer in organizing as  many reunions as possible).  I was able to report to Phillip Lynch (Lynch a Federal MP) that his original comment to me had stimulated my successful application and I thanked him for planting the ‘original seeds’. Upon looking around the room, at that stage, I saw another significant figure in my life, Arvi (later Sir Arvi) Parbo.

I said to Phillip, “Now there is one person you should know; come over and I will introduce you to Arvi Parbo. To which Phillip replied, “No, better you bring Arvi over to meet me, as that is the correct protocol.” That was Phillip’s idea of ‘ranking in scale of importance’. Phillip the Politician ranking himself higher than Arvi Parbo who, one might say, went on to become the most influential Australian business figure of the second half the last century. I did not proceed further with that introduction and promptly continued to mingle.

That was my last direct conversation with Phillip Lynch, later to become Sir Phillip Lynch KCMG. Although, I did thoroughly enjoy Brian Buckley’s book  Lynched: The life of Sir Phillip Lynch, mastermind of the ambush that ended Gough Whitlam’s run.

Upon reflection, with my own scale of ranking with respect to ‘character’ I would rank Arvi Parbo right up at the top of my list where, as I have explained elsewhere, my first meeting with Arvi was at a mine site, near Bullfinch, in the midst of Western Australia’s bushland, and over many years, in fact right to Arvi’s death on 1st May, 2019, he certainly became a very effective business mentor for me.

I was fortunate in that his role as my business mentor was then taken over by Harry Kitson who become my co-director in our Mannwest Group Pty Ltd running from 1970 right through until Harry’s death in October, 2000.

Thanks for reading.

Ron Manners AO
5th March 2024

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