Gina Rinehart seems to court controversy – from her family lawsuits to her battles with Australian media.
Now, the Australian mining heiress, worth $19 billion dollars and earlier this year thought to be the world's richest woman, has sparked another controversy in her latest column in Australian Resources and Investment magazine. (Yes, I am a registered reader online.) Rinehart rails against class warfare and says the non-rich should stop attacking the rich and go to work.
“There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,” she writes. “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 socializing and more time working.”
The comments were part of a treatise on what she sees as Australia’s decline due to high taxes, high wages and over-regulation. Rinehart said taxes should fall, red tape should be cut, environmental rules relaxed and the minimum wage should be lowered. (It’s currently AUS $15.06 an hour or $606 a week, about the same in U.S. dollars). (Read more: Millionaire Parents Say Kids Aren't Fit to Inherit)
Her quotes are sure to escalate the already heated debate in the United States, Britain and Europe over class warfare, taxing the wealthy and “fair shares.”
When governments target the rich, she warns, they really hurt the middle and lower classes.
“The terrible millionaires and billionaires can often invest in other countries. And if they do suffer, what does that really mean? Maybe their teenagers don’t get the cars they wanted or a better beach house or maybe the holiday to Europe is cut short; But otherwise life goes on for these millionaires and billionaires.”
Those who really suffer from anti-business and anti-investor policies are regular workers who “usually vote for the anti-business socialist parties,” she writes. “If you want to help the poor and our next generation, make investment, reinvenstment and businesses welcome.”
She also tells the stories of her two grandfathers and three of her wealthy friends, who all started at the bottom and worked their way to the top. One grandfather, James Nicholas, started cleaning stables and launched a transportation company. Another granddad built a sheep station with 25,000 sheep.
Her pal Michael Kailis came from a poor Greek immigrant family and became Australia’s crawfish king. Friend Jack Cowin borrowed from friends to found the Hungry Jack burger chain, and is now the country’s “king of fries.” (Read more: The Lack of Women Billionaires)
“The lessons are the same,” she writes. “You can’t get rich without working hard, taking risks, investing and reinvesting your profits. “
Of course, as Rinehart knows, you can also become very rich from inheriting and expanding your father’s company.
-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter: @robtfrank