Gina Rinehart Gets New Title: Queen of Mean

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By Vittorio Hernandez | September 7, 2012 9:30 AM EST

Gina Rinehart has several titles only she could claim such as Australia's richest person and the world's wealthiest woman. However, her recent comments about Australian minimum wage earners and YouTube remarks on the country's global competitiveness earned her a new title - Queen of Mean.

In a commentary in Business Spectator, James Kirby pointed out that the Queen of Mean crown was once bestowed on Leona Helmsey because of her infamous court utterance that "only the little people pay taxes."

Ms Rinehart's magazine column suggestion that the weekly minimum wage of $606.40 be cut and for poor workers jealous of billionaires to reduce their drinking and smoking and to work harder to get ahead in life became viral and earned the mining tycoon harsh criticisms from Australian politicians and other influential figures who pointed out that Ms Rinehart failed to admit that the main reason behind her wealth is inheriting money from her father.

The negative publicity that her comments generated led the Atlantic Wire in New York to describe Ms Rinehart as "the kind of stinking rich, socially ham-fisted character that is so easy to hate."

However, Mr Kirby pointed out that giving such titles to the mining tycoon is unfair since if similar comments would be made by other wealthy Australians, the politicians would probably just chuckle or nod gravely.

An outspoken critic of government policies such as the mining and carbon tax and known for even battling her estranged adult children in court over control of their inheritance, Ms Rinehart is her own worst enemy, Mr Kirby wrote. However, he acknowledged that her point about the high wages paid to Australian miners is valid in view of falling iron ore prices.

But her other views about the negative impact of government policies on competitiveness appears weak since the latest report from the World Economic Forum said that Australia retained its high ranking in the global competitiveness in the last 12 months. The report cited the country's improved infrastructure and better banking system, but at the same time pointed to the weak labour regulation and high wage cost.

Ms Rinehart insisted that the speech recorded for the Sydney Mining Club and posted on YouTube was made not to protect her self-interest but to issue a call to action.

However, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has dismissed Ms Rinehart's YouTube comment as old talk while Treasurer Wayne Swan described it as almost daily pearl-rattling which Australians are sick and tired of.

"Gina Rinehart has always been opposed to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. She's always opposed to carbon pricing. She's still opposed to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, she's still opposed to carbon pricing. Where's the news in that . . . I don't share her view," ABC quoted Ms Gillard.

Unperturbed by the prime minister's comments, Ms Rinehart said on Wednesday night at the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies gala dinner that miners should stand up for the industry or just stand by and watch exploration and investments go offshore.

"We have never faced before the competitive risk we now face from lower-cost countries with vast resources. We cannot ignore that they have vast resources," Perth Now quoted Ms Rinehart, who insisted the mining industry needs leaders willing to be unpopular as it fights for change.

She offered a $50,000 prize, to be funded by Hancock Prospecting, for brave souls ready to stand up for the country's resource sector.

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