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WA National Party Leader

[Under Construction]

HANSARD – Legislative Assembly of Western Australia


[Thursday, 5 December 2002]




Statement by Leader of the National Party


MR M.W. TRENORDEN (Avon - Leader of the National Party) [2.56 pm]:

It is important to recognise that 50 years have passed since the beginning of a whole raft of developments in the Pilbara. Although people might want to argue about how those things began, the fact is that the Department of Mineral and Petroleum Resources has just published a review confirming that iron ore has been Western Australia’s leading mineral export for the past five years. It does not take much to work out just how important the commodity has been.

Most iron ore product is exported to east Asia, and we often speak about that destination in this place because it is where a lot of other state product goes. Annual shipments through the port of Dampier from five major open pit mines in the Hamersley basin alone last financial year exceeded 65 million tonnes. Those mines continue to employ more than 2 500 people, which contributes significantly to the Western Australian economy. Iron ore production is a major driver of the Western Australian economy, as you would know, Mr Speaker, as well as anyone in this place. As a person who is heavily involved in agriculture, I recognise that mining, particularly iron ore mining, has been a major driver of economic activity in Western Australia. That must be recognised. Mr Speaker, you and some other members in this place live in important areas of the State which have been opened up in the past 50 years. I cannot see how people can argue that that is not the case.

Lang Hancock made a major contribution. The history of his contribution may be open to some debate, but as the Leader of the National Party I want to recognise his contribution. It is timely because of the fiftieth anniversary of the 22 November 1952 so-called discovery flight. Many people talk about the iron ore being discovered by others before Lang Hancock discovered it, but that is not the issue; the issue is that around that time there began the drive in not only that region but also other regions of Western Australia that has resulted in a major benefit for Western Australia. Lang Hancock was a major player in that drive. It is therefore timely that we reflect on the discovery of those massive iron ore deposits that were unlocked as a consequence of that discovery 50 years ago.

It was half a century ago that Lang Hancock’s plane flew through the gorges in the Hamersley Ranges and he saw for the first time the massive red cliffs of iron along the Turner River. When the wet season abated in 1953, he landed his aircraft in the nearby spinifex fields and began collecting samples over an area of almost 100 kilometres, which he named Hope Downs after his first wife Hope. It took 10 years to unlock that find. In 1962 he and Peter Wright, his old friend from Hale School, successfully promoted the discovery to Rio Tinto, which is now history. I assume that most members in the Chamber know how that worked. The state laws had to be changed to allow for the pegging of iron ore prospects, not only in this region but also in many others. That occurred in 1961. Now half a century later more than 500 separate deposits have been discovered around the Pilbara, many of which have nothing to do with Lang Hancock. Nevertheless, there was a time during the history of this State when that initial discovery was important.

I appreciate that there are some other matters about Lang Hancock. I met him on a number of occasions. He was a man of initiative. He used to repair his own aircraft.

Several members interjected.

Mr M.W. TRENORDEN: Members should make their own speech.

The SPEAKER: Members, it is traditional that when there is restricted time interjections do not occur. I am sure that opportunities will arise for members to have their say if they disagree with what the speaker is saying, but it is not appropriate to interject on a time-limited speech.

Mr M.W. TRENORDEN: I had some small contact with him, but my predecessor had much more contact. We had admiration for the man. He had drive and tenacity, although he showed some ruggedness in the way he dealt with some people. Nevertheless, he was a notable character in this State. The events of 22 November 1952 and all that flowed from that should be celebrated by the State.


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