Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images
Georgina Hope “Gina” Rinehart is well on her way to becoming the world’s richest person.The only child of iron ore magnate Lang Hancock, Rinehart owns three-quarters of Australian mining giant Hancock Prospecting that she inherited from her late father in 1992.
Thanks to Australia’s resources boom and the rising cost of minerals, Rinehart is a very wealthy woman. In 2006, she became Australia’s first female billionaire and in 2011, Citigroup made the claim that Rinehart was on track to becoming the world’s richest person, potentially surpassing Bill Gates and Carlos Slim.
Until recently, the 58-year-old Rinehart sought to keep her private life private. But she’s recently emerged as a public figure with radical views who occasionally puts her foot in her mouth.
Rinehart was recently quoted by the Australian Resources and Investment magazine as saying, '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.'
Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan said in a statement that the quote was 'an insult to the millions of Australian workers who go to work and slog it out to feed the kids and pay the bills.'
Rinehart said in a recent video on the Sydney Mining Club's website that Australian workers should take a wage cut to be more competitive with African workers with a salary of $2 a day.
In Rinehart's opinion, Australia has become too expensive for the mining industry, and she suggests getting rid of recent taxes levied on miners as well as wage cuts for workers.
It is estimated that the mining heiress herself makes over $1 million every 30 minutes.
This video starts to get uncomfortable around the 4:20 minute mark.
The mining heiress fully emerged as a public figure in 2010 when she took a radical stance on tax policy.
Despite her penchant for privacy, Rinehart joined a campaign protesting the labour Party's mining 'super tax' that caught the media's attention.
The tax, known as the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, went into effect this July and will tax 30% of the 'super profits' of mining coal or iron ore in Australia in an attempt to more evenly distribute the wealth from the resources boom. It will affect companies with annual profits of over $75 million.
Rinehart shares many political views with her late father Lang Hancock, including his secessionist beliefs.
These include a rejected idea to use nuclear explosions to mine iron, and highly controversial secessionist policies.
Rinehart has said she wants to split Australia in half right through the centre, believing it would help shield the country from economic downturns in Europe and the U.S.
In the piece she penned for Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (known as ANDEV--which she also founded), she argued the Northern zone would be economically miner-friendly by slashing taxes and having more lenient immigration laws to allow cheap foreign workers to come into Australia.
Her prose, which was engraved on a plaque and attached to a 30-ton iron ore boulder, was crucified by the Australian media for its grammatical errors and lack of punctuation (but hey, at least it rhymes!):
The globe is sadly groaning with debt, poverty and strife
And billions now are pleading to enjoy a better life
Their hope lies with resources buried deep within the earth
And the enterprise and capital which give each project worth
Is our future threatened with massive debts run up by political hacks
Who dig themselves out by unleashing rampant tax
The end result is sending Australian investment, growth and jobs offshore
This type of direction is harmful to our core
Some envious unthinking people have been conned
To think prosperity is created by waving a magic wand
Through such unfortunate ignorance, too much abuse is hurled
Against miners, workers and related industries who strive to build the world
Develop North Australia, embrace multiculturalism and welcome short term foreign workers to our shores
To benefit from the export of our minerals and ores
The world's poor need our resources: do not leave them to their fate
Our nation needs special economic zones and wiser government, before it is too late.
She also believes the government carbon tax is a waste of money. In a piece originally published in Australian Resource and Investment magazine, Rinehart says:
'I am yet to hear scientific evidence to satisfy me that if the very, very small amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (approximately 0.83 per cent) was increased, it could lead to significant global warming...The sooner the carbon tax and MRRT are gone the sooner we stop wasting our time and money on these endeavours, and the easier it will be to finance for investment in Australia.'
Rinehart has supposedly made moves to control the public's perception of her. But it hasn't always worked.
In 2010, she spent $285 million buying a 18.6% share in Fairfax Media, which owns the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age in Melbourne, and the Australian Financial Review, as well as a string of radio stations.
The media speculated the buy was meant to skew the newspapers in her favour.
But her bid to the Fairfax Media board to buy three board chairs and have the ability to fire editors was denied. Since then, Rinehart has continually tried to dump her remaining shares.
Her personal life has been filled with controversy, too. Rinehart allegedly started a feud with her former maid and stepmother Rose Lacson that lasted for over 11 years.
After Gina's mother's death in 1983, Rose Lacson was hired as a maid by Rinehart, but began an affair with the late Hancock instead. The two were married in 1985.
When Hancock died in 1992, Gina accused Rose of killing her father, and had several of his organs preserved as evidence for a future murder case. Meanwhile, three months after Hancock's death, Rose married his best friend William Porteus.
After a 2 year inquest mired in controversy and alleged witness tampering, it was determined Hancock died of natural causes in 2003.
Lang Hancock was known as incredibly racist.
In this 1984 interview, Hancock is commenting on what he calls 'the Aboriginal problem' and says that the 'no-good half-castes' should collect their welfare checks from a centralized location, adding that 'when they had gravitated there, I would dope the water up so that they were sterile and would breed themselves out in the future.'
Before Hancock met Gina's mother Hope, he may have fathered Hilda Kickett, a half-Aboriginal half-sister to Rinehart. According to Kickett, she even had a father-daughter relationship with Hancock in her early childhood, The Telegraph reported several months ago.
Kickett claims to have DNA evidence of the connection, which the Rinehart clan vehemently denies. Kickett also says Rinehart's children call her 'Auntie Hilda.'
Since 1992, Gina has been the sole trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust that the late Lang Hancock had set up for his grandchildren.
But when the trust was due to vest on the youngest daughter Ginia's 25th birthday (seen here with her mother), Rinehart sent out emails to her children saying that she was changing the vest date to 2068 and naming herself as the sole trustee again (that means Rinehart would be in charge of the trust until she was 114).
The three eldest siblings are now fighting to have Rinehart removed as trustee. Ginia, the youngest, has sided with her mother.
Gina Rinehart attempted to keep the details of the lawsuit under wraps, but an Australian court lifted the gag order in March.
The publicized documents show a lot of mud-slinging on both sides. Rinehart believes her children do not have the knowledge or skills required to administer the trust, calling them 'slackers,' documents show, according to ABC News. Her three eldest children shoot back that Rinehart behaved 'deceitfully' and with 'gross dishonesty' by changing the terms of the trust with no notice, not to mention withholding the trust documents, ABC News reported.
On April 30, 2012, Rinehart made the trust vested so that her children could access the accounts, but they have been slow to do so as they purportedly do not fully understand the tax implications--a withdrawal of the assets would result in a $253 million tax bill against each of the children.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.