The world’s richest woman, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart, urged those “jealous” of the wealthy to “spend less time drinking” in a piece the government described as “insulting” on Thursday.
Rinehart, whose family iron ore prospecting fortune of Aus$29.2 billion (US$30.1 billion) also makes her Australia’s wealthiest person, hit out at those who she said were envious of the rich.
“There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” she wrote in an industry magazine column.
“If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself — spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.
“Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.”
Rinehart blamed what she described as “socialist”, anti-business policies for the plight of Australia’s poor, urging the government to lower the minimum wage, as well as taxes, unless it wanted to end up like Greece.
“The terrible millionaires and billionaires can often invest in other countries… maybe their teenagers don’t get the cars they wanted, or a better beach house or or maybe the holiday to Europe is cut short, but otherwise life goes on,” she wrote.
“The millionaires and billionaires who choose to invest in Australia are actually those who most help the poor and our young. This secret needs to be spread widely.”
But senior ministers including Treasurer Wayne Swan — an outspoken critic of Australia’s mining billionaires and their deep-pocketed anti-tax campaigns — slammed the remarks.
“These sorts of comments are an insult to the millions of Australian workers who go to work and slog it out to feed the kids and pay the bills,” Swan said, adding that Rinehart clearly regarded Australians as “lazy workers who drink and socialise too much”.
Swan has repeatedly attacked Rinehart, coal magnate Clive Palmer and iron ore baron Andrew Forrest for running “self-interested” campaigns against the centre-left Labor government’s taxes on mining profits and pollution.
He penned a lengthy essay for prominent magazine The Monthly earlier this year taking the billionaires to task and ramped up his attack in a speech this month drawing heavily on the lyrics of US working-class rocker Bruce Springsteen.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said it was “pretty easy for Gina Rinehart to say that people on the minimum wage should get paid less”.
The left-leaning Greens party noted that Rinehart had “accumulated wealth from her family”, while Australia’s mining union labelled her remarks “bizarre” and accused her of pursing a “dangerous” agenda.
“At the same time as trying to import cheap foreign labour and avoid paying tax, Rinehart claims it’s millionaires and billionaires who are the greatest for social good,” said mining union president Tony Maher.
“What planet is she living on? She should spend less time ranting and more time sharing.”