Article courtesy of the Land – By John Carter.
My past three weeks have been stimulating. I attended the 30th anniversary of the Intercollegiate Meat Judging association at Wagga with universities around the Pacific rim and every state in Australia represented. It has been a rewarding journey with wonderful young people who have kept stepping up to take over as others moved on to important careers.
It was also the 40th anniversary of Gina Rinehart’s celebration of her father’s 70th birthday – the unforgettable “Wake Up Australia” flight. Lang Hancock and others on the passenger list were very keen advocates of nuclear energy. I was invited due to my successfully moving a motion for the nuclearisation of Australian energy and defence at the Liberal Party’s annual convention in 1975. Nothing happened and I resigned from the Liberal Party.
In 1979, for 36 hours, 200 odd of us were flown in a Boeing from Sydney, over the Blackwater coalmines, Mt Isa, Jabiluka Uranium, the offshore Kimberley gas fields, the Broome-Kimberley tidal electricity generation potential and Dampier. We camped under the stars at the lonely Learmonth Airfield and then flew back over the deserts to circle Ayers Rock at 460 metres,the Simpson Desert, Birdsville and then Sydney.
My diary records dining with the enthusiastic Joh and Flo Bjelke Petersen, being summoned by Sir Lennox Hewitt, then Qantas chairman, to discuss Australia’s woeful promotion of beef as we flew low over the Ord River Scheme; discussing the Duracks and McDonalds who took cattle there from near my home. I tried to sleep in a six-person army tent billeting the boisterous John Singleton. I dined beside Leslie Walford but but our hostess dominated all. As we circled Dampier in the dusk Gina said: “When Daddy flew me over here in our little plane 17 years ago (1962), he said that Dampier would have bigger ships and tonnages than Sydney.”
Her father wasn’t on the flight due to a serious illness but his character came through. As a third-generation Pilbara sheepman he had found and experimented with asbestos and then, in 1952, flying with his wife in a storm had discovered the iron ore the government experts said didn’t exist. His battles to get foreign capital despite government red tape brought out his great energy, and stubbornness. His daughter has built on his vision and the sheep station girl has become one of the world’s wealthiest women – all to our common good.
Finally, I read Craig Emerson’s remarkable insight into how parliament functions, and misfunctions, in ‘The Boy from Baradine’. This is a well-written story of a disadvantaged boy from Baradine becoming Bob Hawke’s key advisor, mixing with world leaders and illustrating that intelligence and energy can overcome an unlikely start. His humour and lack of political nastiness is very refreshing.
These past weeks seed my hope for youth who grow up in the bush.