Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan said he welcomes debate about reforms needed to build a fairer society, sparked by his comments last week that resource tycoons are acting in their own self interest.
“When you talk about building a fairer society, you’re invariably accused by some of engaging in the politics of envy,” Swan said in a weekly note published yesterday. He speaks on the same theme at the National Press Club in Canberra later today.
Swan last week wrote an article in The Monthly magazine saying resource tycoons such as Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest are undermining the Australian notion of a “fair go” -- where everyone has an opportunity to prosper. He said a handful of vested interests that have pocketed a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic success now feel they have a right to shape Australia’s future to satisfy their own self interest.
The comments were an “irrational outburst,” Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG), Australia’s third- biggest producer of iron ore, said in a statement on March 2.
“There have been the predictable reactions from the predictable quarters,” Swan said yesterday. “This is far too important a debate for our country and its future to dismiss with tired old slogans.”
Australia’s economy is propelled by a mining boom predicted to last decades as the urbanization of hundreds of millions of people in China and India drives demand for iron ore, liquefied natural gas and coal.
“Australia is at a really important chapter of its economic story,” Swan said. The government wants to create a nation where “all citizens share in the benefits of the Asian century, not just the fortunate few.”
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