Swan slams 'ferocious' tycoons

AUSTRALIAN Treasurer Wayne Swan has continued his attack on high-profile mining magnates yesterday, distinguishing their attempts to influence government policy as different from those of “normal lobby groups” such as unions.
Swan slams 'ferocious' tycoons Swan slams 'ferocious' tycoons Swan slams 'ferocious' tycoons Swan slams 'ferocious' tycoons Swan slams 'ferocious' tycoons

Swan's campaign began with an essay published in the Monthly magazine last week in which he said the undue influence enjoyed by the billionaire magnates was an affront to the Australian sense of a "fair go".

Warming to the theme at a National Press Club speech in Canberra yesterday, Swan acknowledged that the wealthy have always influenced public affairs.

"But there has been a perceptible shift in this country over the past few years towards a stronger and stronger influence, being wielded by a smaller and smaller minority, and more and more plainly expressed in their own private interests," he said.

"We see this most obviously in the ferocious attacks bankrolled by the likes of Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer against the mining tax and a price on carbon pollution.

"The billionaires' protest against the mining tax would have been laughed out of town in the Australia I grew up in, yet two years ago it got a wide and favourable reception in the media."

Swan said he was "really proud" of his party's link to the trade union movement.

"They are working Australians who are bringing up families, going to work every day and because they have joined a trade union they lobby collectively for their rights - good on them," he said.

"They are just doing what normal lobby groups do, or interest groups do, in our society."

Swan targeted Rinehart's recent purchases of major interests in two media outlets, "reportedly to influence public opinion and further her commercial interests".

Responding to opinion pieces in Fairfax newspapers published today written by shadow treasurer Joe Hockey and Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb, Swan said the Liberal "economic stooges" finally agreed on something.

"I don't remember these guys spending their weekends to rush out breathless op-eds defending more super for workers or tax breaks for small business," he said.

"But there they are, rushing out to defend the vested interests - and that proves my point about who we represent and who they do."

Robb's piece described Swan's essay as a "self-indulgent rant".

Hockey said today Swan's use of the politics of envy was "appalling stuff".

"What he's doing is he's trying to court favour with the great bulk of Australians by attacking rich people," he told ABC Radio's AM.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott described Palmer, Rinehart and Andrew Forrest as people who "attract investment - they create jobs and they build prosperity".

"They are wealth creators," Abbott told reporters. "Wayne Swan has been the greatest wealth waster that this country has ever seen."

Two of the targeted moguls have hit back today, Forrest through a series of full-page ads in major newspapers - credited to Fortescue Metals Group deputy chairman Herb Elliott - and Palmer through an opinion piece in Fairfax newspapers.

Elliott wrote that Swan's attack was "heartbreaking to the Forrest family and baffling to those of us who work with him".

The colourful Palmer wrote of Swan: "I would say that, with his limited ideas, he could not make an impression on a cushion."

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