Yesterday business heir Mr. James Packer took aim at former Australian PM, Kevin Rudd, stating that he took Australia ‘backwards’ when he held the top job. “I’m a big fan of Tony Abbott, I’m lucky enough to know him a little bit personally and professionally,” he went on to say on Fairfax Radio.
He then unloaded on the former PM, prefacing his remarks that while he didn’t want to ‘speak ill of someone no longer in the job’,
“I do think the governments in between the Howard and Abbott governments didn’t do a great job, in truth, of strengthening ties in our region …The truth is that Australia’s relationships with China, Japan, India and Indonesia probably all went backwards over the last five years.”
Mr. Packer is part of the business delegation travelling with Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Japan. Perhaps not a coincidence, Mr. Packer hopes to extend his gambling business footprint, opening a casino in Japan, in the wake of similar ventures in Macau and the Philippines and the soon-to-be completed Sydney Casino at Barangaroo Point.
Mr. Packer went on to say that Mr. Abbott’s government has declared Australia ‘open for business” and that it was ‘playing catch-up’ repairing relationships.
Read the ABC report here.
Read the Daily Mail report here.
An accident of birth means that James Packer has inherited sufficient wealth to dine at the big end of town and have close contact with Prime Ministers, political leaders and decision makers. Similarly with Gina Rinehart. An accident of birth made her an heiress to a massive mining fortune. Yes, both Mr. Packer and Ms. Rinehart have managed their inherited wealth and in some cases, embraced new industries. They are both members of Australia’s small, but vocal billionaires club (think Clive Palmer). But here the similarities end. Interestingly, our billionaires who did NOT inherit wealth (Kerry Stokes, Frank Lowy, Andrew Forrest) tend to keep a low profile when it comes to commenting on politicians, their performance and how the economy could be better run. Not so with the ‘heirs club’. In recent times Ms. Rinehart has distinguished herself bemoaning the high wages paid to Australian workers (as compared, unbelievably, to the $2 a day she believes African workers are earning), Australia’s lack of competitiveness, and the excessive red tape clogging the arteries of our business world.
Yesterday Mr. Packer let fly on Kevin Rudd who apparently took our relationship with Asia backwards. Not only is ‘Asia’ a mighty big region, Mr. Packer’s statement is a mighty big one when it comes to slamming one of our more experienced politicians, particularly in the Asian region. Interestingly, most political commentators view the early actions of the Abbott Government to have placed great strain on our relationship with Indonesia.
It is a given that business people will be comfortable with a conservative government which includes them in a delegation designed to foster closer industry contact. That makes a lot of sense. But why, oh why, does this make such heirs and heiresses captive to the notion that they can evaluate whether a leader is competent at foreign trade relations. And furthermore, that they have the right to comment on behalf of the entire population, most of whom did NOT inherit great wealth, and work 9-5 to try and create a modest nest-egg for their later years.
There is an old saying that those who can, write. And those who can’t, review. Similarly, I can’t help but think this works for billionaires and entrepreneurs. Those who can, create. And those who can’t, commentate.
What say you? Do Australian business leaders have a disproportionate voice when it comes to government policy? Is it right that these billionaires are involved with government trips such as these?