The Mungana scandal is not just the story of a failed mining venture and its victims, but an expose of the arrogance of powerful politicians who compromised integrity for personal greed.
Late in the 19th century mining entrepreneurs were eager to profit from over optimistic expectations of ‘another Broken Hill’ in North Queensland. Ventures thrived with private railways linking new mines, including the town of Mungana. In the wake of ‘1000 disappointments’ of the failed Chillagoe Company, the new Labor Government acquired the assets.
This was the signal for opportunistic operators and politicians to orchestrate secret deals, allowing them to enjoy financial benefits at government expense. The critical acquisition was Mungana Mines. Its largest shareholder was William McCormack, future Queensland Premier. This culminated in a Royal Commission, whose bombshell report exposed key beneficiaries, including McCormack and his friend, Edward Theodore, then Treasurer of Australia.
In the aftermath of the scandal several myths have arisen. These are identified and refuted.
It is pertinent to ask if ethical standards have really improved over the past 80 years.