Article – WA risk-takers under threat: Mine boss

31 May 2014
Phoebe Wearne
The West Australian

PHOTO: West Australian of the Year David Flanagan. (Iain Gillespie)

The “disproportionate” influence of vocal minority groups is eroding rewards on offer for West Australians who take risks, according to newly crowned West Australian of the Year David Flanagan.
In an opinion piece written for The Weekend West, the Atlas Iron chairman said this WA Day the State’s residents should remember that the benefits of risk, hard work and innovation that many of them enjoyed stemmed from a willingness to embrace risk in pursuit of a reward.
Mr Flanagan, who received the State’s top honour last night, said WA was one of the best examples in the world of a relationship between risk and reward.
But he said there was a worrying trend in WA of minority groups, including some politicians, vested-interest lobbying outfits and anti-development “brigades”, seeing the rewards for those who took risks as ripe for the picking.
“There is no disputing that we must all share the spoils of success to some degree,” Mr Flanagan said. “No one who has the State or the country’s long-term interests at heart could argue otherwise.
“But I fear that the balance is tipping in such a way that we are gradually reducing the incentive to invest money, time and reputation in the sorts of ventures with the potential to deliver the rewards we need to sustain our lifestyles and beat the challenges we face.”
Mr Flanagan, a geologist by trade, founded Pilbara mining powerhouse Atlas Iron a decade ago and has overseen its rise to become Australia’s fifth biggest iron ore exporter.
It now employs more than 600 people and generates revenues nearing $1 billion a year.
He is also known for his personal philanthropic contributions to charities and Aboriginal organisations and won the inaugural Governor’s Award for Giving in 2011.
Mr Flanagan was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship last year and travelled to the US to investigate models of governance in foundations and charitable organisations.
He is on the board of Giving West and is chancellor of Murdoch University.
The West Australian of the Year winners were announced at a ceremony at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Mr Flanagan won both the overall award of the night and the business category award.
Kimberley artist Lena Nyadbi won the indigenous award, Ochre founding director Louise Howden-Smith took out the arts and culture award, philanthropist Nicola Forrest won the community award and Winthrop Professor Kadambot Siddique won the professions award. Scorchers coach Justin Langer received the sport award and Timothy Lefroy the youth award.
Courtesy of The West Australian