If there's one woman who's doing more than her fair share to ensure that the rich are loathed as greedy, ruthless and completely alienated from the rest of society it's Gina Rinehart, the billionaire mining magnate and the world's richest woman.
Today we've published Ed Amory's column which discusses how rising inequality poses serious reputational problems for the rich, problems that not only affect the wealthy, but the whole of society.
If there's one woman who's doing more than her fair share to ensure that the rich are loathed as greedy, ruthless and completely alienated from the rest of society, it's Gina Rinehart, the billionaire mining magnate and world's richest woman.
Just a week after accusing poor people of spending too much time socialising, smoking and drinking, she's suggested that Australian workers should take a pay cut to allow Australian companies (like hers) to become more competitive. African workers are on $2 a day, she says, Australian workers should take note. This was not an off-the-cuff remark, you can view the video below, and may notice that she's speaking woodenly and from a pre-prepared script.
It's quite incredible to think that someone could consider the plight of miners in Africa — where labourers work under dangerous conditions for pitifully small wages — and think 'if only my country were more like this!' Or that someone could consider the state of the world economy today and think, 'what we need to do to save capitalism now is turn back time on workers rights!'
At risk of stating the blindingly obvious to anyone but Gina Rinehart, the problem with the world economy today is not that Australian miners are well paid, but that billions of the world's people (2.44 billion in 2008) live on less than $2 a day. Yes, it's hard to compete with countries and firms that exploit their labour force, but if these global imbalances are to be evened out, let's hope it will be by raising living standards across the world, rather than lowering them.
Australians may feel concerned at declining global competitiveness, but if this can only be achieved by making ordinary Australians worse off, they should start asking themselves: who do we want to benefit from Australia's economic growth? Surely not just Gina Rinehart.
You could apply the same principle to the rest of the world and ask, who do we want to benefit from economic growth? Unless you want economic growth to benefit the privileged at the expense of the rest, the argument that policies like raising the minimum wage should be resisted because they hamper business, weaken.
Ed Amory notes that in 2006, the 400 richest Americans earned an equivalent income to the 640 million world's poorest. Gina Rinehart's fortune is estimated at approximately $18 billion, or equivalent to the annual income of almost 25 million workers on $2 a day (assuming their income is $2 a day, every day of the year.)
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that she is completely incapable of understanding or showing any empathy with the world's poorest — they live not just in different worlds, but different universes. But it's her responsibility to change this. The rich cannot live isolated from the rest forever.
Read more by Sophie McBain