Update: 12.20pm Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has started a war of words within the political Left and unions after suggesting the minimum wage should be cut and urging those without a job to stop drinking and smoking.
Ms Rinehart, worth an estimated $20 billion, used a column in Australian Resources and Investment magazine to argue it was millionaires and billionaires like herself that invested in countries and generated jobs.
She singled out the growth in “green bureaucracy” and the current minimum wage – now at $606.40 a week – as some of the biggest issues facing those who wanted to develop Australia.
“So let’s drop the class warfare and recognise that high-tax socialist policies don’t create jobs – business and investment do, and we need a lot more businesses, investment and reinvestment to continue to do that creating,” she wrote.
Ms Rinehart said Australia’s minimum wage compared poorly to that in the United States, making parts of the local economy uncompetitive.
“Why not ask whether lowering the minimum wages and lowering taxes would make employers hire more people?” she wrote.
And Ms Rinehart wrote people could join her in the upper-echelons of wealth if they worked harder and were prepared to move to areas such as WA’s North-West.
“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.
Federal crossbencher Bob Katter says Ms Rinehart’s advice left out the bit about “daddy being a major cattle station owner and the biggest mining magnate in Australia”.
“That helps as well,” he said in Cairns, agreeing that billionaires were out of touch with ordinary Australians.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said Ms Rinehart’s comments were an insult to the millions of Australian workers who slog it out to feed the kids and pay the bills.
“Tony Abbott is Gina’s knight in shining armour when it comes to fighting for tax cuts for her and Clive Palmer,” he said in a statement.
“The question for Tony Abbott today is, does he agree with Gina Rinehart that Aussies are lazy workers who drink and socialise too much?”
Mr Abbott has yet to respond publicly to Ms Rinehart’s remarks.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said Ms Rinehart should try living on the minimum wage before urging that it be cut.
“It’s pretty easy for Gina Rinehart to say that people on the minimum wage should get paid less,” she told the Seven network.
Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, told Seven she respected success but Ms Rinehart was not self-made.
“She’s accumulated wealth from her family,” she claimed.
Tony Maher, CFMEU national president, said Ms Rinehart’s comments revealed her “twisted logic”.
“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,” he said.
“What planet is she living on?”