Rinehart wage call an insult
Battler: Karina Ward with her daughter Kiarra, 3. Picture: Bill Hatto, The West Australian

Australia's $20 billion woman, Gina Rinehart, was yesterday criticised for being out of touch with ordinary Australians after calling for cuts in the minimum wage.

Politicians, unions and workers railed against Mrs Rinehart, who also called on people to stop socialising and smoking and instead focus on working.

Mrs Rinehart used her column in the Australian Resources and Investment magazine to argue that entrepreneurs and wealth-builders were being held back by over-regulation, class warfare and "socialist policies".

She argued in favour of cutting the $606 a week minimum wage, warning that not doing so would cause Australia problems like those facing Spain and Greece.

Lower taxes for all and a better work ethic from the jobless would aid the economy, she said.

"There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire. If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain; do something to make money yourself - spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising and more time working," she wrote.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said Mrs Rinehart had managed to insult the very people she needed to work on her big mining projects.

"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," he said.

Fellow billionaire Clive Palmer said Mrs Rinehart was out of line and invited her to work at his Townsville nickel refinery for a taste of reality.

Fortescue Metals Group boss Andrew Forrest said Mrs Rinehart was entitled to her opinions but his experience differed.

"I've heard other companies talking about this terrific labour shortage - Fortescue has never seen it," he said.

Rivervale mother Karina Ward, who is the sole breadwinner in her family of six, said there was not a cent to spare from her minimum wage.

Ms Ward, 33, spent her $530 take-home weekly pay on food and bills and could sometimes afford a barbecue at the park.

The childcare worker challenged Mrs Rinehart to live on her wage for a month.

"I bet she couldn't cope," she said. "It's very hard, especially with teenagers."

United Voice assistant secretary Carolyn Smith said Mrs Rinehart's comments lacked compassion.

The West Australian

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