By KATE LEAVER
Gina Rinehart is the world’s richest woman.
And let’s be honest – she’s also one of the least likable people in the public sphere. Last Wednesday, Rinehart released a video that shows how far removed she is from the reality most Aussies inhabit. Take a look:
I’ll warn you, it’s a painful 9mins 55 seconds. Gina was addressing the Institute of Public Affairs – but like Taylor Swift when she wins an Australian Country Music award – Gina spoke to her people via video message. The video has now been circulated around the world as the Gospel Of The Obscenely Wealthy And Unhinged.
Let’s take a quick refresher course in all things Gina: Gina is in charge of the family trust set up by her father, Lang Hancock, in 1988. It’s the trust fund to end all trust funds – Gina’s dad was doing more than sending her to school with a gold coin for her Dollarmite account, that’s for sure.. Hancock’s grandchildren – Gina’s children Hope, Bianca and Ginia Rinehart, and John Hancock - were scheduled to inherit their share in September last year.
Ginia sided with her mother, and the other three children took her to court for what they called “her deceptive, manipulative and disgraceful conduct.” You’ll perhaps remember Hope’s plea in particular – she lives in Singapore with her family and lives on around $60,000 each year, despite the immense wealth to which she is now legally entitled.
Gina Rinehart tried to keep her legal battles private – something I would usually respect – but this case is a blatant attempt to cover up reprehensible behaviour. Gina has claimed that the income tax on her kids’ trust fund dividends would send them bankrupt – something that was officially declared untrue on Wednesday, September 12. She tried to push the date her kids could access their money to 2068, but has finally relinquished power this week, according to her lawyers.
It’s a messy, undignified affair and I’d posit, the most concise demonstration of the corrupting influence of obscene wealth in the world today. This development is just the latest in a string of recent humiliations in the Rinehart & Riches Saga.
International media have given Rinehart the title of “the world’s biggest troll”. Harsh, no?
It gets worse: The Atlantic Wire has described Rinehart as “that perfect mix of Bond villain, Marie Antoinette and Cruella de Vil – the kind of stinking rich and socially ham-fisted character that’s so easy to hate.”
I know it sounds harsh but I am kind of inclined to agree.
Rinehart casts herself as the villain at every turn. At times, she’s almost a parody of herself. Like her mining magnate composite, Clive Palmer, she is a caricature of wealth. She is a cartoonist’s dream. But unlike Palmer, she appears to have no sense of humour, no sense of fun and not a scrap of humility.
She leaves herself open to mockery – “Let them eat cake! It worked for me!” she cries – and constantly squanders her own influence. She’s a political gift to our treasurer Wayne Swan, who swoops in on behalf of the battlers at every convenience. Swanny always takes the bait and, as you know, enjoys a good sparring partner when it comes to class warfare.
Rinehart may think she’s doing Australia a favour in raising the topic of a competitive economy, but the way in which she does it immediately makes the conversation redundant. She’s a case study in how not to deliver politically charged messages.
The BBC called Rinehart’s latest sermon “a rare public address.” As if she were royalty. As if we should be grateful she deigned to address the commoners. When the truth is, she’s an unfortunate communicator, and would be very wise to invest in a speech writer or media adviser to avoid some of her less-than-perfectly-pitched one liners.
I really do not like this woman. I don’t like what she stands for and I don’t like what she says.
But I need to do better. I need to give this woman a chance.
She doesn’t make it easy. But I’ve tried.
If you strip back the condescending, threatening tone – Rinehart’s message about a competitive economy is relevant. We exist in a region where cheap, cheap labour is available broadly, and it is becoming difficult to compete with that.
I find her idea of lowering minimum wage deplorable, and the manner in which she suggested it, somewhat repulsive. Cheap labour is not indicative of a strong economy, it’s a product of poverty and desperation, and human rights are compromised, if not totally irrelevant. The $2-a-day African workforce is nothing to aspire to – as Wayne Swan swiftly pointed out.
I can’t help but think that one day, maybe, Gina Rinehart might have something quite sensible to say – but by then it’ll be too late, because she’s already “the world’s biggest troll.” It’s a shame, to see the world’s richest woman parade and protect her billions, instead of contributing to intelligent discussion or championing social justice or being someone younger women can look up to and admire.
It’s a missed opportunity to do some good and it grieves me to see it happen.
Has your opinion of Gina Rinehart changed over time?