A day after he was accused by Treasurer Wayne Swan of being the loyal servant and paymaster of Australia's richest woman, Gina Rinehart, Coalition leader Tony Abbott kept his distance from the controversial wage ideas of the mining tycoon.
Mr Abbott, however, insisted that Ms Rinehart was entitled to her ideas, including the suggestion to cut the minimum wage from its current level of $606.40 per week to help make Australian businesses more competitive.
"But it's not something that the coalition has considered, and it's not something that the coalition's planning for," Perth Now quoted Mr Abbott's remarks to media in Bendigo.
In addition to her last week's column in an industry magazine, Ms Rinehart's 10-minute video posted Wednesday on YouTube containing more remarks about what makes Aussie industries less competitive is also eliciting strong responses from political and business leaders.
One such comment came from Australia's most powerful political leader for the moment, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who defended the country's wage policies and insisted it has other advantages compared to Africa as a mining destination. Ms Rinehart had pointed out earlier than Africa's $2 daily wage is attractive to foreign miners.
"It's not the Australian way to toss people $2, to toss them a gold coin, and then ask them to work for a day," Ms Gillard told media in Perth on Wednesday.
Another female political leader said Ms Rinehart, the world's richest woman, is greedy.
"Look what you're getting - a wealthy woman who tells other people that they should drink less, smoke less, work harder, get paid less, failing to recall of course that her father left her millions to start with," Perth Now quoted Australian Greens leader Christine Milne.
"It is as if she thinks the whole country is there to be dug up, smashed and shipped away at slave labour rates," she added.
Dave Oliver, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said Ms Rinehart's remarks is an insult to her own workforce when they are compared to African miners, which includes between 100,000 and 250,000 child gold miners who are paid pittance.
"It took me a bit of time to work out if I was watching a comedy skit or a horror movie . . . It just beggars belief that she is trying to advocate a position where for us to be competitive we have to look at the conditions that we see in third-world countries," ABC quoted Mr Oliver.
With her viral magazine column and YouTube comment, an analyst commented that while Ms Rinehart's delivery of her latest business ideas on the popular video sharing site was quite good, the content of her speech was wanting.
"A very eloquent speech. Very well put together and weaves together all elements of what I would call the discourse of moral panic," ABC quoted Professor John Buchanan of University of Sydney's Workplace Research Centre.
In an opinion piece in the Herald Sun, Terry McCrann took the cudgels for Ms Rinehart and described the prime minister's response as Gillard verballing.
"Gillard's $2-a-day smear was simply ludicrous. Yes, Rinehart is an attractive hate figure. She makes a great political piñata for Gillard, her treasurer Wayne Swan, and assorted cronies in the media," Ms McCrann wrote.
"Instead of trashing Rinehart, a prime minister who understood what was going on, and had the country's future at heart, would at least respect but hopefully embrace her (and everyone else's) message," Ms McCrann suggested.
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