The world according to Gina Rinehart
Australia’s richest person reckons that wages are too high, business taxes are too high, environmental regulations are stifling progress, there is an entrenched culture of entitlement and we socialise too much. In fact Australia is, according to Gina Rinehart, pretty much in the grip of socialism.
You couldn’t really make this stuff up – but she has, writes Ben Hillier in Socialist Alternative. The mining magnate has laid it all out in her latest column – titled “Let’s get back to our roots” – for Australian Resources and Investment magazine. The first thing any reader of the article will note is the total lack of self-reflection on the part of its author. Rinehart inherited her wealth, and her industry receives some $4 billion dollars in government subsidies and concessions every year. The second thing of note is the paucity of facts she has mustered – surely the only display of thrift the world’s richest woman is capable of.
But there is more to be said than the bleeding obvious. Rinehart has in two short pages effectively done what Karl Marx required three long volumes to do: given us a lesson in how the bosses think, and how capitalism works. For such achievement she deserves to be widely read.
Rinehart asks us to reflect on the achievements of her grandfathers. “They are examples of our roots” and role models for the rest of us, she opines. Their achievements? Getting filthy rich. On her mother’s side was James Nicholas, a worker who became a class traitor. He figured out how to climb the social ladder by living off the labour of others, eventually becoming the owner of Cobb and Co. in Western Australia. The other, George Hancock, was a pastoralist who grew fat running sheep all over Aboriginal land.
Great capitalists they were – taking what belonged to others and making it their own. But loving capitalism in this age of capitalist crisis is not enough. In case anyone wants to go soft on slavery, Rinehart pays tribute to her late friend Michael Kailis. Australia’s “king of crayfish and prawns” is an even more worthy example because he wasn’t as soft as her relatives. No, Michael made money the hard way: “He talked the local prison officer into letting him take the prisoners off his hands during the day, and return them at night, too tired for trouble. This would most likely be against regulations today.” The nanny state strikes again. It has been encroaching on our rights since around the time convict transportation was abolished.
Her father Lang Hancock doesn’t earn a mention – possibly she is still wounded from his slur that Gina was “a slothful, vindictive and devious baby elephant” – but it is worth noting that her ideological mentor was well to the right of Genghis Kahn. The outspoken magnate told ABC TV talk show Monday Conference in November 1971: “I believe in the principles of the Liberal Party. I don’t believe in the practices, because they’re socialist.” Hancock also wanted the Reserve Bank abolished because it is one of the “instruments of socialism”. Maybe he read Marx on capitalism being but the prelude to socialism and became convinced that everyone was implicated in the coming of the new society. If there is one thing that stacks of cash will buy you, it’s a mountain of paranoia.
A practical animal
The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree. Lang’s daughter outlines the virtues of capital in general via her history lesson, but she also gets down to the practical issues of the day – how Australia is being strangled by socialism. And to be fair, if you look hard enough you can see it everywhere. Just last week I was at the pub. A mate bought me a beer then offered me a smoke. For nothing. The gesture had all the hallmarks of a communist fifth column. It has to be nipped in the bud: “spend less time drinking, or smoking and socialising” instructs the heiress. Yeah, and spend the time you save eating some cake.
Lang once wrote that “For a few packets of lollies you can buy a professor to work for you.” Rinehart is more of a do-it-yourself muser: “Why not ask whether lowering minimum wages and lowering taxes would make employers hire more people? … In the United States, there are many people willing to work for US$9 per hour.”
The US federal minimum wage is actually $7.25 per hour. And it’s a jobs bonanza across the Pacific at the moment. Ask Clint Eastwood how much he cries about it. Nevertheless there is an unspoken logic here. If we all work for half pay then we’ll certainly have to work longer and have less time for all that socialising. Just like in early industrial Europe. That will curb the spread of the socialist doctrine for sure. And wage deflation will no doubt make the price of cake fall in the medium term.
She laments the destruction of our way of life: “We have lost our roots: our pride in building and providing for ourselves.” One quick retort would be, “Thank Christ we still have the CFMEU to keep some of that spirit and tradition alive.” Rinehart will have none of that. Unions keep wages up and thereby cost jobs. If the CFMEU had its way, all our shopping centres and apartment buildings would have to be built in China where the wages are cheaper. You’d have to drive all the way to Guangdong just to get a secure car park.
If crushing wages is a priority for Rinehart, so is lavishing praise on other rich people like herself: “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.” It certainly is a secret. Probably only 1 percent of the population knows about it. But if she wants to be widely read, why publish these thoughts in an obscure, little-read industry newsletter aimed squarely at the 1 percent? Surely it would make more sense to write for a major daily like The Age? Ah well, who can ever figure out the mind of a genius anyway?