THIRTY years of public advocacy during some of Australian agriculture and mining’s biggest policy battles have been rewarded for Mitch Hooke.
Mr Hooke has been named a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in today’s Australia Day honour’s list.
He joins other significant Australians - including tennis ace Lleyton Hewitt and children’s entertainer Patsy Biscoe - to claim the AM award this year.
Mr Hooke was acknowledged for his significant service to business, particularly to the mining and minerals sector and to policy development, research and trade opportunities.
He started as an executive officer at the Queensland Grain Growers Association (1985-1988) before moving onto the Grains Council of Australia where he served until 1995.
From there Mr Hooke became the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s inaugural CEO (1995-2002) before joining the mining and minerals sector, where his impact was most felt.
As CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia from 2002 until 2013, he fought some of his toughest political and policy battles.
The biggest was spearheading the MCA’s vocal public campaign against the former Labor government’s minerals resources rent tax which the Coalition eventually removed after winning government in 2013.
That advocacy platform saw Mr Hooke credited with contributing to the demise of former Labor PM Kevin Rudd due to the mining industry’s high powered campaigning including television advertising.
He has also performed other roles including, on the International Council of Mining and Metals from 2008-2013 - including Chair of the Trade Policy Group and Climate Change Policy Group – and was a member of the Australian Government's World Trade Organisation Advisory Council (1994-2008).
Mr Hooke currently lives on a farm at Glenquarry near Bowral in rural NSW with his family and last year was made an independent board member of Grain Producers Australia (GPA).
Mr Hooke said the Australia Day award was “very, very special” to him and his 92-year-old mother Patricia Hooke and father John Hooke who passed away in 2000.
He said his parents made great sacrifices to put him and four other siblings through school during “tough times” when they faced severe drought and depressed commodity prices.
“This award is pretty special for my mum and to me and for my wife and our three girls,” he said.
“The cliché that no man is an island is spot on - I could not do what I’ve done in my career, without the support of a strong home base.
“My wife and girls have lived through the highs and lows of an environment where their dad was very much in the public spotlight at times and that’s not easy.”
Mr Hooke said his parents provided a strong educational background but also “good instruction” on values and standards.
“That’s why I never compromised credibility and integrity during my career,” he said.
“Sometimes I got a belting for that - but also I believe you had to be able to look yourself in the mirror.”
Mr Hooke said he started as an agricultural adviser in Queensland then came to Canberra during the great wheat debate and the Hawke and Keating era.
He said he also joined the mining lobby during the early days of the “mining boom” and was able to help that industry understand it could not afford to continue a “burn, bash and bury” approach to soil and land management and to adopt a sustainability focus.
“I don’t know too many people who’ve been as fortunate as me as, in their careers, to be in the right place at the right time when massive changes were occurring,” he said.
“Each time my career shifted, more by fate than design, I happened to be there at a time of incredible change with incredible people.”
Mr Hooke said the various Chairman and Boards he’s worked with over the past three decades in the various industries also deserved to share in the award.
Former National Party President John Tanner was also awarded an AM for significant service to state and federal politics and to the Victorian community of Benalla.
Former Western Australian Upper House MP Murray Nixon was acknowledged for his service to the WA Parliament, agricultural sector and community with a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division.
He represented the Agricultural Region in the WA Legislative Council from 1993 to 2001 for the Liberals and served in various rural and farming related roles for his party over 35-years, including federally.
Mr Nixon also has a lengthy list of agricultural achievements including Federal Councillor and WA Committee Member for the Angus Society of Australia and was a mixed farmer and stud breeder, at Dalwallinu (1958-1963) and Moora (1963-1993).
Inaugural Animal Medicines Australia CEO and Director of the International Federation of Animal Health Dr Peter Holdsworth was awarded an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia
Dr Holdsworth was acknowledged for his distinguished service to veterinary science, particularly to animal parasitology and pharmaceutical development, and to professional scientific organisations.
He has held high level roles during three decades of service advising government on chemicals and food and biosecurity and he CSIRO on various commodities like meat, dairy and aquaculture.
Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove said the Australia Day 2016 Honours List recognised a diverse range of contributions and service across all fields.
“We are fortunate as a community to have so many outstanding people willing to dedicate themselves to the betterment of our nation and it is only fitting that they have today been recognised through the Australian Honours system,” he said.
“For over 40 years these honours have helped to define, encourage and reinforce our national aspirations and ideals by acknowledging exceptional Australians.
“Today, we add a new group of names to those we should all admire.”
Bruce Reginald French
Maxwell Graham Fehring
Lawrence Ronald Green
Peter Francis Hayes
Ian McLean MacKinnon
Heather Jean Stacy
Dr Bruce James Standen
Mr Grahame Richard Turk
Ms Ferial Zekiman
Frank Morris (Bill) Benjamin
Maxwell Lloyd Jelbart
Bernard Kennedy Walker