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#073: Mining for ideas – Bernard Wheelahan AM

By Jordan Michaelides

Bernard Wheelahan AM is a retired business executive whose career spans multiple continents across mining, resources and renewables.

His work in building Latin-American and Australian relations has been recognised with scholarships named in his honour at ANU, and a membership to the Order of Australia. He’s served in an incredible array of positions, that makes my life look like child’s play. Bernard has served as Chairman of Pacific Hydro and the Council of Australia Latin America Relations, President of Shell in Venezuela, and directorships that have included Transfield, Woodside and Karoon Gas.

After I interview each guest I always want to know: If they could pick just one guest to be on the podcast, who would it be? When I asked Phil Ruthven this question, he said Bernard’s name in a heartbeat.

Bernard is wise, kind and full of brilliant stories from an individual who has clearly taken his fair share of responsibility through life. This was an enjoyable episode in which we covered:

  • Earliest memories
  • Lesson learnt from his parents and family
  • The hunter/gatherer shift & indigenous culture
  • His time at Shell, working as an Industrial Chemist to the President
  • Pacific Hydro & renewables
  • Venezuela, dictatorships, economy and politics
  • Australia & Latin America relations
  • Jordan Peterson

Listen to the episode

Watch the episode: 


02:23 – Introduction
05:43 – Where and how he learnt to drive
08:36 – Earliest memories, his father
11:15 – Lesson learnt from his parents and family
15:18 – The hunter/gatherer shift & indigenous culture
18:04 – First job, customer service
21:34 – His career and working for Shell
25:21 – Being an industrial chemist to the President
26:59 – High school, patrolling no man’s land
28:52 – Mining & resource potential in Australia
34:25 – Stock market, Pacific Hydro
38:11 – Venezuela, dictatorship, economy and politics
47:39 – Democracy, current & future of Venezuela
51:54 – Australia & Latin America relations
57:13 – Language experiences
01:00:52 – Oil and mining leaders he respects
01:03:33 – Renewables, global warming skepticism
01:05:43 – What is never changing?
01:06:22 – Daily routine
01:08:37 – Jordan Peterson
01:10:44 – Best purchase under $200
01:11:09 – Most influential book
01:11:31 – A book he would gift
01:13:19 – What is difficult to find middle-ground on?
01:13:41 – If he could have a billboard anywhere