AMMA pays its respects to three resource industry visionaries after the recent passing of former AMMA president and Robe River pioneer Charles Copeman, Woodside Petroleum founder Geoff Donaldson and highly respected Tasmanian businessman Byron Bonney of Bonney Group.
All three men passed away in recent weeks and were highly revered among Australia’s business community for their contributions to our national resource sector.
Charles Copeman was president of AMMA’s board from 1982-1985 while the head of Consolidated Gold Fields Group, but it was in 1986 when his impact on Australian industrial relations was cemented in history due to his principal role in the Robe River dispute.
As CEO of Australian iron ore miner Peko-Wallsend, Mr Copeman sought to remove restrictive workplace practices, wind-back union influence and create greater productivity and profitability at the newly-acquired Robe River site.
The ensuing industrial action at the behest of the site’s powerful unions eventually forced Mr Copeman to sack the entire 1000-strong workforce. Resisting pressure from the Hawke Government and orders from the WA Industrial Relations Commission to reinstate the employees, he later shut down the mine until the unions put forth a commercially acceptable compromise.
The Peko-Wallsend boss eventually reinstated its workers and reopened the mine, but only after achieving key concessions and effectively ending the union dominance of the Pilbara’s resource industry.
The Robe River case has since been viewed as a watershed moment in Australia’s IR history and Mr Copeman a courageous and steadfast industry leader of uncompromised principles.
Also in 1986, he was one of the founders of progressive industrial relations organisation the HR Nicholls Society and a medal continues to be awarded by the organisation in his honour. Mr Copeland passed on 27 June 2013.
Woodside founder Geoff Donaldson passed on 3 July 2013 and will be widely remembered as an oil and gas industry pioneer who kept the company afloat in its early years.
In 1954, Mr Donaldson underwrote the company’s first share issue before commencing a 28-year chairmanship with Woodside until his retirement in 1984.
With a donation of £5000 in 1959, he supported Woodside through to its procurement of permits for 367,000 square kilometres off the coast of Western Australia in the 1960s. Fifty years later, the area is home to Woodside’s $27bn North West Shelf Project, accounting for more than 40% of Australia’s current oil and gas production.
Speaking to News Corp website Perth Now after Mr Donaldson’s passing, current Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said the company founder was a ‘business legend’.
“Geoff’s legacy is enormous and he will always be remembered as the man that built this great Australian company,” Mr Coleman said.
“Geoff was a true pioneer of the industry in Australia and without his personal drive and perseverance Woodside would not have become the company it is today.”
Byron Lloyd Bonney was a Tasmanian business entrepreneur who over the past three decades had built the Bonney Group of companies to now include Lloyds North, Caltas and Bonney Energy.
Mr Bonney’s first business venture was Lloyds North which he founded with nine staff in 1977 as Tasmania’s first woodchip mill. Today, Lloyds is a diversified forestry, mining and logistics operator and one of the Apple Isle State’s largest privately-owned employers.
Remembered as a proud Tasmanian businessman, Mr Bonney’s Caltas entity employs 80 personnel across 59 Caltex service stations and also operates 21 self-serve petroleum outlets. His Bonney Energy company recently acquired Chisholm Petroleum’s Victorian operations and is aiming to become one of the state’s leading fuel distributors.
Tasmanian independent newspaper The Advocate reported that it was only recently that Mr Bonney began to build an executive management team that would allow him to step away from the business he founded in 1977.
“Byron was a man of immense integrity and honesty,” Bonney Group managing director Wayne Bould told The Advocate.
“He had a great pride in his business and, as far as his business operations were concerned, he was both visionary and also a perfectionist.”
Mr Bonney passed on 11 July 2013. His company is a valued AMMA member.