Oh my. Who's the greatest threat to our democracy? Our democratically-elected Treasurer or...
Mining barons Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest have taken on Treasurer Wayne Swan labelling him an “intellectual pigmy” who doesn’t understand economics and accusing him of demonising hard-working Australians.
The separate attacks, both published today, follow Mr Swan’s article in The Monthly Friday that named Mr Palmer, Mr Forrest and mining magnate Gina Rinehart in a discussion of threats to democracy.
Within minutes of being anointed a Living National Treasure by the NSW National Trust yesterday Mr Palmer said the Treasurer didn’t “know how the economy works”.
“He knows that. He has to rely on faceless men in the ALP who all live in Melbourne, all send him faxes and texts, tell him what to do; and if he doesn't know he can call his department," Mr Palmer told reporters.
Following up on the opinion page of this morning’s Age Mr Palmer says it is “the mark of an intellectual pigmy” to play the man.
“To classify people by their means, race, class or gender is not a substitute for robust discussion,” the article says.
Mr Swan said Friday politicians had to choose between standing up for workers and “kneeling down at the feet of the Gina Rineharts and the Clive Palmers”.
He will take up the theme at the National Press Club today in an address entitled: “If we don’t grow together we grow apart”. Immediately afterwards he will turn to Twitter for a half-hour forum using the hashtag #FairGo...
Mr Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group has taken out advertisements in this morning’s papers calling the Treasurter cynical and hypocritical.
“Andrew Forrest and his team created one of the great business success stories in Australian history,” says chairman Herb Elliot in the advertisement. “Andrew epitomises the spirit of what an Australian can do if given a fair go. For a politician to suggest that he has lost sight of this fair go ethic is baffling.”
Mr Swan said Friday that “for every Andrew Forrest who wails about high company taxes and then admits to not paying any, there are a hundred Australian businesspeople who held on to their employees and worked with government to keep the doors of Australian business open during the global financial crisis.”
The Fortescue advertisement concedes the nine-year old mining company has yet to pay company tax but says it will pay over $1 billion in taxes, royalties and other charges this year and over $2 billion next year.
“These amounts do not include estimates for the recently passed carbon and minerals resources rent taxes because the laws have been drafted in such a manner as to be confusing and difficult to interpret,” the advertisement says.
“For Mr Swan to demonise Andrew Forrest is an act of cynical hypocrisy. Mr Swan knows better. Certainly he understands that years of investment and losses precede any taxable income.”
Under Andrew Forrest Fortescue had created thousands of jobs and helped more than one thousand indigenous Australians out of poverty.
“Just last year he and his wife gave over $50 million to support causes such as eliminating the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the rest of Australia, fighting human trafficking, fire and flood relief, the arts, and other benevolent purposes,” the advertisement says. “They have never sought public attention for this generosity.”
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies said many of its members were small, and could hardly be accused on endangering democracy.
“We have 360 members who have decided democratically to take out advertisements,” said national policy manager Graham Short. “Each member has one vote. They don’t like the minerals tax and they don’t like the carbon tax.”
The advertisement also placed on record a unanimous decision by Mr Forrest’s wife and children to spend their inheritance on “assisting those in desperate need” when he passes on.
Before seeing the advertisement Mr Swan yesterday derided “predictable reactions from the predictable quarters”.
“I could have set my watch by the response,” he said. “When you talk about building a fairer society, you are invariably accused by some of engaging in the politics of envy.”
A spokesman for Mr Swan said the Fortescue advertisement “helps prove the point the deputy prime minister is making”.
“Vested interests can buy media space to get their agenda across - working Australians don't have the same opportunity.”
Mr Swan’s address to the National Press Club will be televised here at 12.30 pm.
In today's Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald and Age
Wayne Swan knows nothing about me, or our democracy
By Clive Palmer
ALL Australians have an inherent right to be treated equally under
the law regardless of our race or means or where we live. We are one
nation, with a diverse and rich background.
The heritage of all Australians, rich or poor, and that of our
leaders, elected or not, is something we all must respect. It's the
mark of an intellectual pygmy not to recognise that and to play the
man, not the ball.
To classify people by their means, race, class or gender is not a
substitute for robust discussion about ideas or solutions to pressing
national problems. John F.Kennedy once said words to the effect that
''governments may come and go but ideas go on for ever''.
Yet Treasurer Wayne Swan has done just that. His attack on industry
leaders who have led not by their words but by their courage and
willingness to take action - to preserve the nation's standard of
living, to protect workers and families, to expand our international
trade, to reach out to our future in Asia and the world - is
disappointing. As an elected national leader, the Treasurer needs to
examine who he is, who he really represents, and what is in the best
interest of all Australians.
In his essay in The Monthly attacking so-called ''billionaire
activists'', including me, the Treasurer suggested he is fighting for
workers' rights and to represent the workers in all areas of national
government and policy. But as a member of Parliament and our
Treasurer, he should not just be concerned with the rights of workers
but the rights and needs of all Australians.
The Labor Party has lost respect for the rights and needs of
individual Australians. So it is not surprising to see the Labor
Treasurer singling out our national business leaders for attack. It is
common ALP practice to attack others rather than to examine the
shortcomings of Labor policy or Labor leaders.
It would be far better for the Treasurer to face the truth that he
personally doesn't know how the economy works, that he is just a
puppet of the faceless men who give directions on what to do and say.
In last week's leadership ballot between the two robots, we saw the
robot with the least respect of the Australian people being re-elected
to lead the ALP - a clear demonstration that there is no leadership
in the Labor Party and that it has contempt for the views and wishes
of the people.
That the Treasurer takes instructions from the faceless people and/or
his department, rather than reflecting the will of the people, is
not democracy as I know it. Democracy means respecting the rights of
all. It means respecting the verdict of all members of society and
respecting the results of public polls and the will of the people.
The Treasurer attacks me as being anti-democratic but he hardly knows
me, or who I am. Other than a five-minute encounter at breakfast one
morning, he has never met me.
I would say that, with his limited ideas, he could not make an
impression on a cushion.
If the Treasurer knew me, he would know that I stand ready to protect
the precious democracy we value in this country. If he knew me, he
would know that my family has a strong commitment to this country.
That our family members served and died in the First World War and
four of them served in the Second World War. They served in the
Middle East and elsewhere to protect the democracy we know. Members
of my family still suffer from their service in Vietnam, and my nephew
served in the Australian Air Force at INTERFET headquarters in East
If the Treasurer knew me, he would know that I am a director of the
John F.Kennedy library in the United States and one of the main
benefactors of the Profile in Courage Awards that recognise
outstanding government service and leadership. If he knew me, he would
know that I am member of the presidents' council of the Club of Madrid
- a club that includes 57 former presidents, prime ministers and
heads of state and which was set up for the purpose of creating good
governance and democracy around the world. If he knew me, he would
know that I sponsored the last conference of the Club of Madrid in New
York, along with Microsoft and Google. That conference dealt with the
Arab Spring and a shared society.
I truly believe in democracy and accepting the people's will. We have
in this country respect for freedom of speech, the right of
association, the right to vote, the equality of men and women and
tolerance - tolerance towards all those who are different from
ourselves, who come from different countries or races and have
different means and wealth but are the fabric of the society that we
We need to always respect the right of the public to know. The free
press stands as the last sentry at the gate of freedom, protecting the
public's right to know and the freedoms we all enjoy. What is far more
important than how much money you have or any position you hold is the
content of your character.
We need in our country more love and forgiveness and the spirit of
I forgive the Treasurer for his mistakes and I remind him that a
mistake doesn't become an error until one refuses to correct it.
Australians, however, will not forgive the Labor Party for destroying
the wealth of this country and robbing our children of their
The 0.01 Per Cent: The Rising Influence of Vested Interests in Australia - By Wayne Swan
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