For the past few weeks, Gina Rinehart has been making waves in the media, grabbing headlines and angering people on all corners of the Earth with her blunt views on bettering the Australian economy. No she's not a politician, nor is she a development wonk, she's just filthy stinking rich and damn good at trolling.
"Africans want to work. Its workers are willing to work for less than $2 per day," she was quoted as saying today in what the BBC calls a "rare public appearance" (video below). "We must be realistic, not just promote class warfare ... Indeed, if we competed at the Olympic games as sluggishly as we compete economically, there would be an outcry," the mutlibillionaire added.
Rinehart, an Australian, was (we think) trying to make a point about wages and bettering Australia's mining industry. Why she chose to say that Australians should look at the sad state of African miners making less than $2 per day is beyond us. And today's rant comes just one week after Rinehart wrote in an industry magazine that "there is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire." She added there:
If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.
Yeah. There are so many layers to that (that there are rich people who are rich and famous for their socializing, that not smoking or drinking doesn't necessarily spell success, etc.) which we can't even bother to get into. And she did not stop:
"The millionaires and billionaires who choose to invest in Australia are actually those who most help the poor and our young," she said. "This secret needs to be spread widely.
So, there's that. But you may be asking yourself who exactly Ms. Rinehart is, and why is she allowed to speak so often with so much coverage. That's where we come in. Here's what we know of the Internet's newest troll:
She Became the Richest Woman on Earth by Inheriting It:
Rinehart is, depending on which report you read, worth around $30 billion. "Her family iron ore prospecting fortune of $30.1 billion makes her Australia's wealthiest person and the richest woman on the planet," wrote the Los Angeles Times's David Lazarus. More specifically, she's the Executive Chairman of Hancock Prospecting a position she's held since 1992 when her father died. And as The New York Times reported in March of this year, "A Citigroup forecast suggests that Ms. Rinehart could be on track to become the world’s wealthiest person, with a personal net worth of more than $100 billion."
She's also a mean mom who doesn't believe in trust funds. The Times wrote:
Georgina Rinehart ... is being sued by three of her four children for control of a trust fund worth billions of dollars. Ms. Rinehart has characterized her litigious children as slackers who need to find real employment, while they have called their mother’s conduct “deceptive” and “disgraceful.’’
This explains ... why those words about "hard work" sting a bit more.
She Fancies Media
Rinehart obtained a 12 percent stake in Fairfax Media in February reported The Australian, making her the largest shareholder in the company at the time. Fairfax publishes two of Australia's most influential papers, The Sydney Morning Hearald and The Age of Melbourne. "Their journalists fear she wants to turn them into a mouthpiece for the mining industry," reported The Economist in June when Rinehart raised her stake to 18.7 percent. And they explain:
The centre-left Fairfax papers (which support the mining tax) operate under a charter guaranteeing journalists freedom from management control on editorial policy. That has no appeal for Mrs Rinehart, who wants directorships “without unsuitable conditions.” The board has rejected her demands.
This explains ... why she isn't afraid to share her point of view with the world.
And Politicians Love Responding to Her
"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," Australian Prime Minister Gillard told reporters in response to Rinehart's "rare public appearance" where she unleashed those $2 wage comments. "We support proper Australian wages and decent working conditions."
"These sorts of comments are an insult to the millions of Australian workers who go to work and slog it out to feed the kids and pay the bills," said Treasurer Wayne Swan to reporters after Rinehart's "hard work, stop drinking" comments. While Health Minister Tanya Plibersek told reporters it was "pretty easy for Gina Rinehart to say that people on the minimum wage should get paid less."
This explains ... why we continue to hear about her. Australian politicians kind of love the straw man that is Rinehart, and since she's not exactly running for office (yet), picking on her and telling her she's wrong comes risk free. If you're an Austraian politician, of course you're going to look good against someone who says the country should idolize underpaid African miners.
Essentially all those factors make Rinehart is 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. And don't think for second, that the politicians and news agencies giving her air time aren't enjoying every second of it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.