An Embarrassment of Riches7 September 2012
The richest Australian and the world’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, earns $2 million an hour. (Correction: she MAKES $2 million an hour. Whether she earns it or not is open to dispute).
My views tend to veer to the left but I don’t have a great problem with people acquiring fortunes, particularly when they’ve done this through incredible talent and ingenuity. Bill Gates changed the way the world operates but at least he has the humility to appreciate his wealth and the desire to want to use it to help others. He doesn’t wish his children to become multi-billionaires through an accident of birth.
Gina, on the other hand, has amassed her wealth because she happens to be the only child of a mining magnate, Lang Hancock.
This week she has gone onto You Tube to tell Australians that we’re overpaid and lazy and that African miners are happy to work for $2 a day. Apart from the ludicrousness of her statements, I really would dispute her point about African miners. You may remember that 37 of them were killed a few weeks ago by South African police for daring to ask for more money. They may EARN $2 a day, but whether they’re happy about it, I would think is unlikely. And if Gina is determined to reduce Australian pay rates, maybe she could start by persuading some of her fellow industrialists to cut their prices so that our demands aren’t so high. We pay more than $2 for a loaf of bread and Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world.
I understand the complaints by Australian companies that it’s extremely difficult to make money in the manufacturing sector in Australia when we’re trying to compete with countries with much lower salaries and standards of living. This is a problem experienced by most first-world countries when faced with imports from South East Asia and a lot of big-name Australian manufacturers have had to close in the last few years. But the mining companies in Australia are hardly struggling. In fact, they’re booming. Gina’s company is worth $30 billion for instance.
The right-wing economists always bang on about the “trickle-down effect”, ie if the people at the top are wealthy and the companies are highly profitable, this will trickle-down to the worker on the shop floor or down the mine. This was a favourite theory of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and has been shown time and again to be untrue. Gina is a prime example of someone who has no intention of letting her fortune trickle down or trickle anywhere for that matter, except into her bank account where it’s not so much a trickle as a downpour.