This article is a reflective piece, written by Ron in early 2002 and presented to the WA School of Mines Mining Executive Development Group and also included in his book, Heroic Misadventures. An excerpt of it was published in WA Mining Club‘s annual publication, Minesite, in 2007.
I must warn you that I am still going through the process of moving all my archives from Kalgoorlie to Perth and in unpacking these boxes I am revisiting adventures from bygone days – and throughout it all, finding that our industry is still confronted with hurdles, different by name but identical by nature and created by the same sources.
I will bear in mind the advice that many events that happened to me really are of no importance to anyone, not even myself. The important thing is what we choose to do about these things and what we choose to make happen. This reveals our values and choices. Whatever happens by accident is of little concern, but our choices are, so always remember:
“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Here are a several of such ‘human moments’ that show you what I mean.
- What would Shakespeare think of our mining industry?
- Four peasant revolts
- The brief version of the Vaughan Burt story
- A brief background on Keith Parry and how he encouraged me to form Croesus Mining
- A ‘book review’ of the Croesus Mining story. If such a book is ever written, it could be a useful handbook on how to avoid going the long way around as I did
Shakespeare might have commented on some of the challenges we faced by saying:
“When disaster comes, it comes not as single spies but in battalions.”
I am currently helping a well known prospector, Denis O’Meara get his own company, De Grey Mining, up and running and I am enjoying the burst of creativity that it brings on. I only hope that I can remember some of the lessons that I’ve learned, so often.
Road map and introduction
- If we have time I would like to share my favourite quotes on management and leadership. Management and leadership, of course, are quite different subjects and I have strong views on each that I would be happy to share with you.
- Then, if we still have time, let’s look at the following concerns which are massive topics in themselves, but they are all best dealt with in small forums such as this. To be honest with any of them, demands being brutally politically-incorrect.The topics are:
- Mining statistics/a role for junior mining companies/the poor past financial performance of Australia’s resource industry.
- Property rights and how Australia is losing sight of this cornerstone to civilization, thus leading onto how we have completely lost our way with the ill-considered Native Title Act.
- Politics, and the fact that we can no longer afford the cost of the current burden of government, as witnessed by our, ‘out of control’ taxation department.
- Global sustainability lobby group/unsustainable dreams of a resource cartel/dangers of over-regulation.
- Corporate citizenship versus responsibility to shareholders.
What would Shakespeare think of our mining industry?
Shakespeare was possibly the world’s finest dramatist, giving us the ability to look at our own selves without being self-conscious. This objectivity gives us the ability to learn something new of ourselves.
We are members of an industry who often find it difficult to talk to each other but if Shakespeare was reporting on our activities, our responses would produce a highly entertaining version of the Merchant of Venice, particularly if he had been fortunate enough to have been the Chairman of the Australian Prospectors Miners’ Hall of Fame for the past five-and-a-half years.
Most of us have adequate knowledge of our own companies, but little of other companies, and some not even a clear view of the national significance of our own industry. To facilitate and gather support for the Miners’ Hall of Fame, Shakespeare would need to study each company and in particular all those CEO’s running them.
This would give him a clear overview of the quality of leadership, the vision and perception each CEO has toward their own company and the overall industry and its interlinking facets. He would be fascinated to hear how these CEO’s personally feel about this very vital and creative industry. Their lack of passion could have mystify him. He would be staggered to hear comments such as “exploration is a destroyer of shareholder value”.
Or, “we are dropping the word MINING from our company name, as this will bring more investor support.”
Or “we don’t really think of ourselves as a mining company.” To these three CEO’s, Shakespeare would identify and ask what they are afraid of if they feel that: “to be direct and honest is not safe.” (Othello)
Shakespeare would enjoy putting to words the very precise correlation that graphs so accurately the speed at which decisions are made; quickly in smaller companies and perhaps never in the largest. Not only did smaller companies CEO’s identify faster with the Australian Prospectors & Miners’ Hall of Fame‘s vision of presenting our industry in a more dynamic and youthful fashion, but they also put their own personal money into the project in addition to shareholder support.
Shakespeare’s genius and patience would be tested in his desire to transform all this into a literary masterpiece. In some cases he may have to borrow a phrase from my favorite writer Ayn Rand:
“The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life.”
Shakespeare would be impressed by Professor Geoffrey Blainey’s overview of the industry as they both have in common the appreciation that the industry’s economics and ethics are not at odds, but in harmony. This would be consistent with Shakespeare’s other writings where he invites us to rethink the relationship between our economic and our spiritual life.
Rising above any temptation to create a resentful ‘poor class’, with unjustified feelings of entitlement, Shakespeare would enjoy our process of achieving improvements to knowledge, science, and skills, in a profession that cannot survive without honesty and integrity. Hopefully Shakespeare would be forgiving in his dealing with some of the executive pay packages and ‘golden umbrellas’ set up in such a way that the senior executives view their companies as being worth more to them as a break-up or takeover target than as a living breathing entity worth nurturing and growing.
Greed is the killer of many good relationships and Australia has recently been confronted with gross examples of corporate greed that diminish the corporate side of our industry. Greed sits more comfortably with governments and unions but the corporate world fails to present to the public the true value of our endeavours. Politicians may be able to fool some of the people, some of the time, but if we are to find mineral resources and economically develop these, we have to face the indisputable facts of nature and of natural science. As Sir Avi Parbo has said: “Nonsense cannot be pursued far in engineering”.
Shakespeare would expand the theme so ably laid out by another of our mining industry legends, Charles Copeman, in his masterful understatement from the introduction to his 1988 AusIMM presidential address:
“We come together because we have a mutual interest in improving what is done by the mineral industry, in all its aspects. It is this sense of continuing improvement, of doing better, of doing as well as we can, as our knowledge and skills improve, that unites us in creating and fostering a professional association of like minded people.
We know from our professional training and experience that enormous progress has been made, at an ever increasing rate, in the mineral industry, particularly in this century. We know that the mineral industry has played a very major role in providing the means by which so many people survive to live longer, healthier and more interesting lives, than ever before. Indeed together with the oil and gas industry, which is an integral part of the mineral industry but has achieved its own commercial distinction, it is fair to claim that the mineral industry has played the major role in providing the means for the advancement of the human quality of life.
We do not need to make any great claims on human society in consequence of our statement of these contributions. The facts, for those who are aware of them, speak for themselves. Our more modest interest, as members of our professional association, is to look to the future, while conscious of our heritage as a guide to what more might be done, in that future.
We certainly do not claim that this indisputable contribution made to human welfare by the mineral industry gives us some moral position of superiority from which to claim greater support or understanding from the wider community of people.
On the other hand we know that as members of the mineral industry we have a responsibility to do what we can to help other people to be aware of, and to understand the significance of, those facts which will only speak for themselves if we take the trouble to make them known.”
To which Shakespeare would respond: “This above all – to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” (Hamlet)
Shakespeare, like all creative writers, simply worked with ordinary words, to which they claim no intellectual entitlement. They spend their lives making value out of combinations of words that have no economic worth in themselves, being common property, infinitely reproducible with no scarcity value.
Poets and writers like Shakespeare, blaze a trail, so that people such as us can fight our battles and tackle our challenges with a clearer perception of how we fit into the overall scheme of things.
As Shakespeare said in Hamlet:
“We know what we are,
but know not what we might be.”
Yes, Shakespeare would be ideal for the task of dramatizing our industry with passion but unfortunately as he is not available, we may have to step forward and take on this challenge ourselves. To which Shakespeare may respond:
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2)
Here, I’m sure that Shakespeare was using the word ‘madness’ in the same sense we often use it to describe that reckless ‘just one more’ drill hole, that so often makes that major mineral discovery. So it’s up to us now, to infuse this sense of responsibility and unrelenting curiosity to the next generation as we continue on in life’s relay race.
We will need enough courage to adopt these big goals and again Shakespeare would encourage us by saying:
“Be not afraid of greatness:
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” (Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 5)
Four peasant revolts
Thomas Jefferson once said:
“I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Details of four mini-revolutions, by individuals are attached at the end of this piece as an Appendix. They exhibit the level of exasperation felt by some Australians as they try to go about their regular productive business activities. Australia boasts that it has a highly educated population, but if that were true it would be obvious to all that if you tax something, you get less of it. If you subsidise something, you get more of it.
In Australia, we continue to tax work, growth, investment, employment, savings, productivity, initiative and ability, whilst subsidising non-work, consumption, welfare and debt. No wonder we are getting less of the former and more of the latter. Have a look at these four quick examples of peaceful individual revolutions when government greed and stupidity become intolerable, followed by a comment on gathering information from enemy territory.**
The brief version of the Vaughan Burt story
Last month I received an interesting invitation to a boardroom lunch at the Vaughan Burt family-owned Drillex Drilling Company in Cannington. In attendance was Vaughan, his three sons – Sheldon, Julian and Simon – and their financial controller, David Cashman.
With justified pride they showed me their engineering works and several of their own designed drill rigs, together with photos showing their successful rigs operating in many parts of the world. Vaughan then used the board room lunch as an opportunity to tell the following story, of a time so long ago I could hardly remember the details myself:
On a November day in 1968, an event took place that was to dramatically change the lives of a family, creating an opportunity, previously unimaginable,” he said.
In an earlier time of that same year, Vaughan and Libby Burt and their two eldest boys, had decided to leave the sheep station, Narracoota, some 80km north of Meekatharra, without any plans for their future. The sheep station had presented them with extremely harsh conditions, created by the lack of rains. They sold their share of the property to the existing partners and departed. Eventually arriving in Perth, Vaughan, as a pastoralist, found suitable employment hard to find in the city.
In October 1968, Vaughan, then at Dalgety & Co, was offered the position of Branch Manager of that firm in the town of Mt Magnet, and with his family, Libby expecting their third child, were to depart forthwith. At that time Vaughan’s brother David and his wife Christine, lived at 56 Lewis Street, Lamington, Kalgoorlie, David being the WA manager of the Melbourne-based firm of Metals Exploration, headed up by a distant relation in Reg Hare.
One November day, David was off to play squash with a friend at the Hannan’s Club, upon entering the club he bumped into Ron Manners (me!) who had just finished playing squash with Wally Unger of G & K fame.
A discussion followed in which Ron asked David what brother Vaughan was up to these days. Ron knew Vaughan from earlier days when Vaughan was working for Jack Maund on Edjudina Station, east of Kalgoorlie. Vaughan remembers buying a new Polaroid camera from Ron during that period.
David told Ron that Vaughan had departed the station game, and was to go to Mt Magnet rather reluctantly to work for Dalgety’s. Ron suggested to David that he couldn’t see how Vaughan could get terribly excited about that especially when all the excitement was here in Kalgoorlie. If David would speak to Vaughan, tell him that Ron would like to play squash with him in Kalgoorlie, the following weekend wherein Ron may be able to offer Vaughan some alternative employment with WG Manners & Co in Kalgoorlie.
David spoke to Vaughan by phone with Vaughan saying it would be certainly worth the trip. Vaughan drove to Kalgoorlie on a Friday and played squash with Ron and was soundly beaten. Ron offered Vaughan a job with the WG Manners sales team at the weekly wage of $125, with car allowance and other benefits. Ron did convey to Vaughan the level of excitement in Kalgoorlie at the time.
Vaughan drove back to Perth to inform Libby of the conversations he had with Ron and very little time was spent to make up their minds. Vaughan advised a not too happy Dalgety’s, packed up and left for Kalgoorlie. Vaughan and Libby bought a house from Wally Unger for $8000 and sold it back to Wally ten years later for six times that amount.
Vaughan spent a very informative and interesting fourteen months with WG Manners & Co. where he grasped the business of sales so professionally expounded by Ron. Daryl Thom, at the time the drilling engineer for WMC Ex Div, asked Vaughan if he would like to form a contract drilling partnership with Daryl. The answer was yes, and Lodestone Drilling commenced operations. However, Daryl was unable to find further needed working capital and his share in Lodestone was sold to Harry Davies Snr of Davies Drilling fame and so Davies Lodestone Drilling was formed.
Vaughan progressed over the next few years, ending up in 1976 as the Managing Director of Davies Drilling. In 1978 with Australian Consolidated Minerals (ACM) as a partner, Vaughan started the company, Vaughan Burt Drilling. Later called Drillex, the private company went public and then private again as the Burt family bought all the public shares.
Vaughan and Libby Burt have prospered with their drilling, owning the company today and having the privilege of their three sons involved. A remarkable life really, which can be attributed in no small way, in fact the only way, in that chance crossing of paths by two people in Kalgoorlie on that November day in 1968. Had either person, Ron or David, been one minute earlier or later in their pursuits, it could never have happened and one can only speculate how different life would have been for Vaughan and Libby if they had gone to Mt Magnet. Vaughan often expresses his indebtedness to Ronald Brown Manners.
Now what a scream, someone thanking me for playing a game of squash, when all the hard decisions where made by Vaughan Burt himself. I relay this story to you, not to highlight the coincidence that Vaughan speaks of, but rather to focus on Vaughan’s initiative to do something positive as a result of these co-incidences and to actually make things happen. Believe me, he is still making these things happen.
It’s interesting to judge a man by the quotations that he has on his desk and this is the one on Vaughan Burt’s desk:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the Arena. Whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause – who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement or who at worst fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” (Theodore Roosevelt, 1912)
A brief background on Keith Parry and how he encouraged me to form Croesus Mining
I first met Keith Parry when we were both mature-age students at Kalgoorlie’s School of Mines in the 1950’s. I can’t remember anyone who was a fulltime day student then, we all seemed to attend three hours per night, five nights per week. There was work to be done during the day.
Keith was eleven years older than my early-twenties and I was really in the mid-age group. As I recall it was the young 18 and 19-year-olds that managed the best marks.
Keith’s day job was selling and delivering groceries and Amgoorie tea for D & J Fowler & Co (a wholesale food distributor) and during his time at the School of Mines he joined Gold Mines of Kalgoorlie (GMK) as a sampler and assistant surveyor (Kevin Carter recalls talking Keith into enrolling at the School of Mines and also giving him his first job at GMK. Alan Jordan also recalls these events).
There wasn’t a lot of light hearted fun in Keith, who explained to me once that he had spent three years in the mid-forties as an RAAF pilot and had a bit of catching up to do. You wouldn’t want to get in Keith’s way, however we developed a good friendship as we were both loners, or at least not part of any group who brought with them common shared experiences.
I suspect we both found the going pretty hard as there had been a lack of continuity in our schooling (I deliberately use the word schooling, not education). Over the next 26 years of Keith’s life, he progressed just about as far as anyone could possibly go in this mining industry of ours.
He went from Production Manager at GMK to Divisional Manager for Ready Mix Concrete, rejoining the Western Mining Corporation (WMC) Group in 1967 as manager of the Mount Charlotte Gold Mine. Transferring to WMC’s Kambalda Nickel Operations (KNO) in 1968 as Assistant Resident Manager and in 1971 he became KNO’s Resident Manager for what was at that time WMC’s largest and most important mining operation.
From Kambalda he moved to Perth in 1973 as General Manager for WA and in 1976 he was appointed to the board and became Director of Operations and according to WMC’s official records, this was a position he filled with great distinction.
Other roles filled by Keith included several years as president of the Chamber of Mines of WA Inc, and member of the Board of Management of the WA School of Mines. In 1982, Keith succeeded Sir Laurence Brodie-Hall as Chairman of Central Norseman Gold Corporation, so in a way I guess I now have one of his old jobs.
Sadly Keith died suddenly in May 1986 at the peak of his career and the board of WMC recorded the following tribute:
“Mr Parry was a mining engineer and executive of the highest calibre, very highly respected both in Australia and overseas. His concern was with attaining the highest performance standards in the activities for which he was responsible, demanding performance from the people who worked for him while taking a deep interest in their welfare and development.”
Keith Parry was posthumously made Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 1986.
Now I share this brief story of Keith Parry with you all because I think it is a tremendous example of dedication and ambitious persistence and I would just like to finish it off with a couple of personal anecdotes to reveal Keith’s human side. Firstly, he called me just after lunch one day (I presume it was it was in December ‘75 when the gold price was around $107 per ounce and things were looking rather grim). Keith suggested I meet him at the Federal Hotel for a drink. Now this was a very strange thing for either of us to be doing in the early afternoon but knowing there must be a reason I said yes.
Keith was more excited than usual (no it wasn’t because of anything happening at the Federal Hotel) and he explained to me how they had scheduled that day for mass retrenchments of their underground workforce. I think from memory, 360 ‘pink slips’ had been prepared and signed.
Fortunately, Sir Laurence Brodie-Hall had, at the last minute, successfully negotiated a cash equity injection from Homestake Mining Company of the USA, and with only hours to spare they had averted the anticipated mass retrenchments. Keith just needed someone to talk to as apparently he had been bearing the heavy burden of this knowledge. Emotionally it had drained all his energy, physically and mentally, for those past few weeks.
The other personal anecdote was one day in 1982 when Keith called into my office in Brookman Street, Kalgoorlie with a book in his hand and said: “I owe you a book so please have this one. Do you mind me telling you why I am giving you this book?”
Naturally I was curious so I let Keith continue to explain how he had been worrying about the way I had been developing exploration properties over the years and joint venturing them out to the larger companies. In the long run, he explained that approach is not good value as larger companies are very inefficient with any early stage exploration, he said to me:
“You will get more ‘bang for your buck’ , if you do the exploration yourself. This book hopefully will stimulate you to gather a key team of people around you and float a company to take care of the exploration yourselves.
“Your mining equipment supply company that you have been running for so long has got something that some of the larger companies lack, you guys will go beyond the call of normal duty to keep our WMC operations going. Ihave watched the way you ‘rob’ components off some of your new drill jumbos and other mining equipment, to keep our equipment running as you are aware that downtime costs us around $250,000 per hour. The larger companies we deal with often spend all their time seeking permission from head office before they make any move at all.
“If you can apply that sort of fast decision making to your exploration then you will succeed. WMC used to be like that, but we are ‘losing the plot’ the larger we get.”
The book Keith gave me, The Hunters by John Masters is described on the cover as: “the intimate personal record of the building of a uniquely successful Canadian oil exploration company…by the president of Canadian Hunter Exploration.”
The book was a real ball-grabber of how Masters and his colleague Jim Gray, two geologists, left the safety and expertise of a large company to enter the realm of exploration. They became a company, without assets but with ideas. Their ideas were good and they had a great bunch of friends to help them over the corporate hurdles.
Keith Parry knew I would be sucked into the challenge and about a month later when he next saw me he said: “Have you got that company together yet?”
I did have Croesus registered as acompany early the following year, initially with Chris Lalor as Chairman and myself as Managing Director. There were many good reasons why we didn’t actually list for another three years but at least the wheels were set in motion.
I later thanked Keith for the book and explained how it had brought a few threads together for me and I clearly remember his answer: “Ron, I would have to give you many books to repay you for giving me that copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.
“Until I read that book, I could never really understand why mining and other productive industries get such a hard time from the very people who benefit most from it. I used to think it was ignorance but now I understand exactly what is going through their minds.”
Now for those who have not read Atlas Shrugged, I would urge you to put it as number one on your reading list. Atlas Shrugged is like no other book you have ever read, it can be related to the changing pattern of today’s society and events where we currently see union payments taking priority over secured creditors, dubious native title claimants taking priority over legally granted exploration rights.
Atlas Shrugged contains a five-page definition of money and its purpose. The definition is so brilliant that it alone marks the book as a must for your library.
Here is a portion of that definition:
“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked – what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?”
“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money – Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed. “
Quite often over subsequent years I noticed Keith Parry’s published comments on various issues, all having the clear philosophical focus that I suspect was refined by his reading of Atlas Shrugged.
Here are two examples:
1. Speaking in his final presidential address to the Chamber recently, Mr Parry said that for the first time in 10 or 15 years he was gaining confidence that the country is beginning to accept the hard facts of economic reality.
“I sense a growing awareness of important issues and a willingness by the man in the street to make his opinion known.”
“The long suffering majority prepared to get up and have a go on their own account and who produce the wealth of this country are becoming sick and tired of not being able to keep up with the growing army of consumers and distributors of wealth, a large number of whom are making demands on the public purse for their narrow and sectional minority interests,” Mr Parry said.
He said he believed the government will react to the deep dissatisfaction which he said existed within the community because of the “pandering” to minority groups and their ever-increasing taxation demands on the tax payer.”
He also had a final word on the issue of Aboriginal land rights. Mr Parry described as well meaning those people, some of them churchmen, who had been outspoken on the issue.
But he called them to account on the point that they seem to have been keen to yield up areas that are thought to be worthless while they are less enthusiastic when it comes to valuable urban land granted to them and others which just as equally belong to Aboriginals.
“I have not entered into any public argument with them but at this point I would like to make the observation that without much doubt the area most profusely populated by Aboriginals in Western Australia was the Swan and Canning River valleys.” (from a 1985 newspaper)
2. “Australia as a country has embarked on a spending spree where demands on the public purse, whether for welfare, for bureaucratic growth, or for every minority group that rears its head, seem endless. Nevertheless the end result is the same, the high tax levels have brought demands for higher wages and benefits, until the miner has priced himself out of work.
“As one of my colleagues said recently, the consumers of wealth have out- paced the producers of it, and someone has to suffer for it. To ensure that isn’t the industry, I see no alternative but continual attention to the increase in productivity per man by whatever methods are at our disposal.” (Keynote Address, Underground Operators Conference, 1985)
Keith Parry lent a unique style of management to WMC. It was a low profile practical technique about which he said:
“Managers do the managing. They manage the image, the industrial situation and operations. We throw people in to do the whole job and we do so at a pretty early age. They sink or they swim. Those that swim learn a lot of skills that they would not learn in some other companies. We are the absolute antithesis to some big overseas and Australian companies. In companies with centralised management, the aim of every man is to spend the minimum time in the operations and to get into the head office as quickly as possible because that is where the power lies. At WMC the power is with the operators.”
My sincerest regret was that Keith Parry could not attend the listing party for Croesus on July 24, 1986, having died suddenly and unexpectedly just two months before. However, Croesus Mining contains a lot of the spirit generated by Keith Parry.
Now to conclude. Just as Keith Parry left me with a challenge, I’ll let Shakespeare leave each of you with a similar challenge:
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
which, taken at th e flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures. (Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3)
Following are four quick examples of peaceful individual revolutions that occurred when government greed and stupidity become intolerable, followed by a comment on gathering information from enemy territory.
1. It was after the ‘peasants’ revolting in 1975 that I realised our efforts were producing more benefits to the parasites of government, than we were receiving ourselves. Here is an extract from the minutes of a company meeting held 27 years ago (June 17, 1975):
The Chairman called on Mr Manners to advise the meeting on the affairs of the company and the circumstances leading to the winding up. Mr Manners advised that Rivendale was an administrative company having been formed to participate in Western Australia’s mineral and investment fields.
The various anti-private enterprise policies of the current socialist government, in transferring the initiative from companies to government instrumentalities has greatly reduced opportunities for private companies.
Rather than investigate the possibilities of becoming a claimant under the many government assistance plans to prop up companies, it was decided that it was best to be honest and accept the fact that the company should be liquidated rather than continue to operate under socialist rule.
2. I was again peacefully protesting in a letter I wrote to the Deputy Commissioner for Taxation on April 20, 1976. Here are just three paragraphs:
Dear Mr Deputy Commissioner,
I am acknowledging the unsolicited literature that you sent to me, dated March 16, 1976. Among other things you allege that I “owe” a liability and request that I “pay” it; you claim that I have the right to appeal your finding after I “pay” the alleged liability.
The mentality that takes such positions as these used to puzzle me. But, it does no longer, because I have long since concluded that – and my dear Mr Deputy Commissioner, I’m sure you will agree with me, we live in a highly irrational society.
…I will grant that the government does things for me that I neither request nor need. But since I did not request them, you must regard them as acts of charity and not expect me to pay for them. I’ll not pay for them for the simple reason of self-preservation; otherwise what’s to stop every crackpot in the country from packaging a load of garbage, bolting it to my car, throwing it in my window, or hanging it about my neck and then sending me a bill for services rendered?
You remain sir, my humble and obedient servant…
Now you might ask what is achieved by writing letters like this? Naturally, I received a very detailed list of questions from the Deputy Commissioner, all carefully numbered. To which, I duly replied with a similarly numbered list of answers to questions that they hadn’t asked, quoting them an irrelevant letter date.
Several weeks passed before they rang and asked me for a copy of a letter they appeared to have misplaced. I may have been a bit abrupt with them and that might explain why I have not heard from them since. The moral of this story? It’s often better to fight using your own rules , rather than rules set by the enemy.
3. The anti-business terrorism in Australia continued, and on October 20, 1984 an article from The Weekend Australian told the sorry story of how a Victorian small business factory owner was earning $22,000 from his $770,000 investment and at the same time generating government revenue of between $843,000 and $1.01m.
The government was receiving 43 times more from this investment than the owner was. This example was described by the Australian Small Business Association as “typical”.
I am a product of this generation and living through all this has shaped my views and developed a high degree of cynicism when politicians “offer to help”. This cynicism has enabled me to retain a few dollars, for continued investment in our endangered mining industry, for which I make no apology.
All I do know is that if you fill in every government form and pay every tax that is demanded, you will be both poor in spirit and pocket. Please realise that in saying this I’m not suggesting that you take any short cuts in any of the key pillars of best practice i.e safety or environmental management. I’m simply suggesting you ignore any nonsense when it’s served up to you by that bureaucracy.
4. A final example of ‘peasant’ revolt brings us right up to date as it is a November 2001 letter to the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, MLA. The author of this letter is a legendary Queensland based Australian, a former geologist and senior mineral economist with Mt Isa Mines, and more recently the manager of a Queensland coal mining company, a farmer and a scholar by the name of Viv Forbes.
The letter is long but concise in its summary of the continuing policies shared by all Australian governments who sincerely believe that there are votes to be gained by getting in the way of any productive achievement. Viv Forbes likens the bureaucracy to “ticks on a bull” and explains that his bull can only support so many ticks. Here are just two paragraphs of his letter to the Queensland Premier:
Most people like to see cultural centres, clean air and water, subsidised opera, pristine parks, Expo’s & games, smart-state subsidies and a bit of local pork barrelling, but these are but froth and bubble on the great river of enterprise. My message to you is this: “The river of enterprise in Queensland is polluted, overtaxed and clogged with legal debris and a tangle of red tape.”
It is easy to become complacent down there in the honey pot, surrounded by drones, but I warn you, the hive is buzzing. The future will not reflect the past and the quicker you can act to clear the ticks off the bull, the better we and Queensland will weather the interesting times I see ahead.
Start today. Repeal something.