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Published 06 September 2012 05:00, Updated 06 September 2012 06:16
Gina Rinehart has a love-hate relationship with the media. On the one hand she hates that major media fails to criticise, in her view, socialist style policies. In her most recent column in Australian Resources and Investment magazine she cannot get over the coverage given to an environmental protester for setting an Australian record for tree-sitting for 209 days. On the other hand, she’s a significant investor in media and also, she just can’t keep off the front pages.
Last week, Rinehart was the subject of much coverage for her comments in the column about Australians being work-shy. “There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” wrote Rinehart. “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. Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.”
Most of the people this was addressed to did not take kindly to Rinehart’s advice and as she inherited the core assets that are the source of her wealth today she has been easy to lampoon.
But BRW agrees that it is possible to enter the ranks of the super wealthy by dint of hard work rather than by birth. That’s because we regularly report on self-made millionaires in either our Rich 200 issue or in the Young Rich issue (which comes out at the end of this month).
Each year in the latter list, we encounter a new clutch of self-made entrepreneurs who have grafted for years to enter the ranks of the super wealthy. These by nature are exceptional people but nonetheless they prove that it’s possible to make millions in a lifetime. Or in the case of Rich 200 members such as Frank Lowy or Harry Triguboff, that it’s even possible to create a billion dollar empire more-or-less from scratch. If one of these self-made billionaires had written the same words as Rinehart, they may have been better received.
It does take certain characteristics to become seriously rich. These include an enormous capacity for hard work, a large appetite for risk combined with more than a bit of luck. Having the good fortune to be born into a secure family background with access to good education and encouragement is probably the single biggest factor when it comes to success. Most of all, would-be entrepreneurs need to have oodles of ambition – something we constantly celebrate at BRW.
What the response to Rinehart’s comments tapped into though was a sentiment that the rich are getting richer as the difference between the haves and the have-nots expands. While BRW celebrates the extraordinary financial feats of entrepreneurs, we do not ignore that what data there is on equality, in terms of distribution of assets, shows that developed nations are becoming less fair than they were a decade ago.
Australia is fortunate – it remains a relatively socially mobile country, far more than the US or the United Kingdom where social mobility has decreased in the past decade. Ensuring social mobility must be a policy goal of government as the concentration of wealth at the top makes it much harder for individuals at the bottom to climb the ladder of wealth creation. Harder, but not yet impossible.