Australia’s mining tycoon Gina Rinehart — the world’s richest woman — is at it again. This time she has sparked controversy by comparing wages in Australia’s mining industry to cheap labor in Africa where workers earn less than $2 a day.
In a video posted on the Sydney Mining Club’s website, Rinehart called for fewer regulations and taxes to prevent losing mining investment from international firms in favor of cheaper operating costs in Africa.
“Business as usual will not do, not when West African competitors can offer our biggest customers an average capital cost for a ton of iron ore that’s $100 under the price offered by an emerging producer in the Pilbara [Western Australia],” Rinehart said.
“Furthermore, Africans want to work and its workers are willing to work for less than $2 per day. Such statistics make me worry for this country’s future,” she said.
Rinehart’s comments prompted a quick response from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday, who said it was not the Australian way to give people $2 or “toss them a gold coin” to work for a day, Reuters reported.
"We support proper Australian wages and decent working conditions," Gillard was reported as saying.
Billionaire Rinehart’s remarks on the state of the Australian economy, which she said was “becoming too expensive and too uncompetitive to do export oriented business,” come just a week after she made international headlines for telling Aussies to drink less and work moreinstead of being jealous of those with more money.
No stranger to controversy, Rinehart, who inherited mining firm Hancock Prospecting and is estimated to be worth $18 billion by Forbes, has been involved in a legal battle with three of her four children, who are trying to remove her as trustee of a multi-billion-dollar family trust.
In the nearly 10-minute long video, Rinehart went on to criticize the Gillard government over its introduction of the carbon tax and mineral resource tax, citing that it hurts Australia’s global competitiveness.
“To point them out is I hope no longer a sign of self-interest, but a duty and a call for action,” Rinehart said. “Our federal and state governments must know that, now more than ever, we must lift our international competitiveness just to stay as well off as we are.”
- By CNBC's Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani.