Gina Rinehart’s wealth peaked in 2012 at an estimated $30 billion, making her the richest person in Australia. At her height, Rinehart was one of the richest women in the world, and arguably the most hated woman in Australia.
Today BRW magazine released its 2016 rich list which saw Rinehart lose the top spot and her wealth tumble to around $6 billion. No doubt there will be some celebrating Rinehart’s fall, and others will be insisting that she and other miners are still not paying their ‘fair share’ of tax. However, Rather than attacking people like Gina Rinehart, we should be celebrating them.
Australia rode on the back of a massive mining boom in the early 2000s which filled government coffers and enabled the Rudd-Gillard government to go on a massive spending spree. Even as late as 2013/14 iron ore royalties provided the Western Australian government with $5.3 billion, roughly 20 percent of its revenue. Think about that for a moment – around 20 percent of WA’s budget was provided not by citizen mum and dad tax payers, but by royalties generated from the mining and sale of iron ore alone. This is revenue that the state would not have otherwise had went to fund the state’s health, education and justice systems, providing benefits to Western Australians across the board.
In addition to the tax windfall the mining industry provided Australians, it provided employment and jobs, as well as giving us the iPhones, televisions and other products that have benefited consumers and Australians across the board.
It was Gina Rinehart’s astute investments and the massive global demand for minerals that saw her personal wealth soar, and at the same time, despite the massive benefits to consumers, the seething resentment of her success. What people failed to understand was that Rinehart’s wealth was comprised not of dollars in the bank, least of all, horded in a massive keep along the lines of Scrooge McDuck as people seemed to imagine.
Her wealth, far from being liquid was tied up in the mines she owned. The very same mines which were propping up government revenues, providing funds for health and education, employment and minerals used to make the consumer products we have all come to rely on.
The Gillard Government, and particularly the then Treasurer, Wayne Swan sought to capitalise on the growing politics of envy, and to paper over his government’s appalling financial management through the introduction of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. As if we weren’t already over-reliant on the mining cash cow that seemed like it would never end. But end it did, along with the scrapping of the pathetic new tax which saw a paltry $126 million dollars raised from the already contracting mining industry.
Now, I’ve never met Gina Rinehart, and I have no idea what kind of person she is. But rather than vilifying her and other mining entrepreneurs for their successes, we should be celebrating them, and counting the benefits that such personalities provide the community at large. People like Gina Rinehart don’t get rich from taking a seemingly unfair slice from a finite ‘wealth pie’. They get rich because they provide products and services that people want and benefit from.
While you may say that people like Gina Rinehart can afford to have their wealth slump by three quarters, it is time for the politics of envy to end and for all of us to change our mindset about the dynamic actors in our economy.