Treasurer Wayne Swan has spoken against very wealthy Australians for exerting too much influence on government policies. He specifically named mining magnates Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart is an essay published in The Monthly magazine.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (C) talks with Australia's treasurer Wayne Swan while Japan's Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda prepares to pose during a photo call at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Finance Ministers meeting in Kyoto, western Japan November 6, 2010.
Mr Swan said their opposition to government measures such as the carbon tax and mining tax were done to project their self-interest as national interest. He said these wealthy Australians are part of a new global concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few who pose a threat to Australia's democracy.
"The rising power of vested interests is undermining our equality and threatening our democracy," he wrote.
"We see this most obviously in the ferocious and highly misleading campaigns waged in recent years against resource taxation reforms and the pricing of carbon pollution," he said.
The treasurer cited Ms Rinehart's recent purchase of Fairfax Media shares are part of the Australia and Asia's richest woman's attempt to wield greater influence on public opinion and boost her commercial interests. He said her buy-in on Fairfax combines a deep pocket, conservative political support, biased editorial policy and shock-jock ranting in an attempt to protect her interests.
"A handful of vested interests that have pocketed a disproportionate share of the nation's economic success now feel they have a right to shape Australia's future to satisfy their own self-interest," was how he described the billionaires.
He accused them of being a poison that had infected Australian politics and seeped into the country's economy.
"I fear Australia's extraordinary success has never been in more jeopardy than right now because of the rising power of vested interests.... Though these vested interests have not yet prevailed, every day their demands get louder," he said.
Mr Swan scored Andrew Forrest for complaining about high company taxes, but admits he is not paying any. The treasurer contrasts Mr Forrest with other Aussie businessmen who held on to their employees and cooperated with government during the 2008 global financial crisis.
He said the three were attempting to influence heavily public debate in favour of their business interests by funding into campaigns that had derailed the government's original mining profits tax.
He admitted the three also made significant contributions to the Australian economy by providing employment, but pointed out that other major employers did not seek to exert political power.
However, opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne dismissed Mr Swan's essay as being a venue for sour graping.
"Labor always falls back on class warfare and the politics of envy when they have nothing left in the cupboard of talk about of any substance," Mr Pyne said.
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