Gina Rinehart calls for lower wages

Mining heiress Gina Rinehart has hit the headlines yet again, this time for comments made in a 10-minute YouTube video created for the Sydney Mining Club. In the video Ms. Rinehart bemoans the uncompetitiveness of the Australian economy, stating that we are too expensive and too uncompetitive in the international business arena. She notes that, if we competed at the Olympic Games “as sluggishly as we compete economically, there would be an outcry”. The high cost of labour is one of the main reasons for this uncompetitiveness, Ms. Rinehart maintains, with the observation that African workers “want to work … and are willing to work for less than two dollars a day”.

The Prime Minister and Treasurer both took exception to the remarks regarding the hourly rate, with Julia Gillard commenting

“It’s not the Australian way to toss people two dollars – to toss them a two dollar gold coin – and then ask them to work for a day,”

Ms. Rinehart is currently Australia’s wealthiest person and the richest woman in the world. Recently she has called for a lowering of the minimum wage and suggested that poorer Australians should cut down on drinking, smoking and socialising if they wanted to get rich.

Read the Australian Financial Review’s summary here

Opinion – Button up Gina – you have no idea

How much do you earn per day?

If you are on a full single Age Pension you are earning $53.80.

If you are mining in Africa, apparently, you are on $2.00.

And if you inherited your daddy’s mining company, it’s $2 million an hour – say $16 million per day.

Yes, that’s right $2 million an hour.

So it is likely if you are on $2 million an hour you may not fully understand the trials of those who were not born into great wealth. In fact, it is entirely possible you simply won’t understand anything at all about how hard so many Australians work – and how much of a struggle it is to cover the mortgage, let alone all the other weekly bills.

In order to properly research this blog, I suffered through Ms. Rinehart’s 10-minute YouTube presentation to the Sydney Mining Club. It is heavily scripted, laborious even, as she reads a list of carefully selected statistics from an autocue.

Many other statistics are overlooked.

Our economy is described as sluggish. But if so, why are we the envy of nearly every other nation in the OECD with quarter upon quarter growth for 21 years?  It’s really time all the facts were highlighted and not just those that suit Ms. Rinehart’s billionaire’s view of the world.

Quoting the pay rate of African workers at $2.00 an hour is as irrelevant as it is insulting. Of course pay rates vary according to the region of the world. And of course some companies get away with slave labour. But what has this got to do with Australian companies and Australian workers? Didn’t our mothers and fathers work hard and pay taxes to help create a system where nearly all of us are treated decently and fairly? And shouldn’t we all support that system ahead of lowering minimum wages and striking some opportunistic pay rate to help miners earning two million a day earn even more? African workers were in the news a couple of weeks ago when 34 of them were gunned down during a protest at a mine. And more recently when their workmates were charged with murder, even though many were running in the opposite direction at the time. Such outrages and lack of human rights have no place in Africa – nor in Australia. So perhaps discussions of our economy need to stay on track and not introduce such irrelevant and unhelpful measures as the rate of pay in a developing country where workers have few, if any rights at all.

In the interests of supporting a healthier debate, let’s also remember the contribution to the Australian economy from mining is only about 10 per cent. The number of workers employed is barely two per cent. Mining is not saving this country. Repeat, mining is not saving our economy. The vast bulk of the profits go straight overseas. Many other industries are inputting far more into our national GDP. It’s time we heard from other successful business people – perhaps those who have built their wealth from scratch rather than inherited it – as to how they believe we can continue to prosper while ensuring we all get a fair share of the pie.

Were Gina Rinehart’s comments helpful?
Should we lower the minimum wage?

Written by Kaye Fallick