Time on their hands

Ask an entrepreneur what they need most and the answer is simple: Time.

Yet two of Australia’s richest miners apparently have so much time on their hands that they’ve got space to engage in everything but their chosen profession.

You could forgive Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest for keeping his head down at the moment, as his company Fortescue Metals ramps up to take advantage of the still-rolling mining boom and he also confronts the little matter of fighting the Australian Securities and Investment Commission in the High Court over allegations he misled investors.

And yet he’s back in the major business newspapers again today, revealing what he says are new details about the deals done around the mining tax before Kevin Rudd was brutally deposed by Julia Gillard back in June 2010.

Never mind that two years has passed, and Rudd has risen up to unsuccessfully challenge Gillard again, and the mining tax legislation is through Parliament – Twiggy appears intent on going over old ground, with these news stories set to roll into an address to the National Press Club early next month.

What’s Twiggy up to? Matthew Knott from The Power Index and Crikey tried to answer that question yesterday, but Forrest’s motives remain difficult to read.

Does he still think Rudd could topple Gillard? Does he just want to make Gillard’s life hard? Is he campaigning for some sort of new assistance for Fortescue or the wider mining industry?

All of these are possible, but the time and effort that Forrest is putting into this campaign is very surprising. And if he really is motivated by any of those objectives, you have to ask: Will he really have any luck?

Palmer’s mining colleague Clive Palmer is another miner who has seemed intent on doing anything but for most of this year.

He’s had a stoush with management of his Sunshine Coast hotel and then dropped hints about making some sort of giant investment in the region’s tourism sector.

He’s fought Frank Lowy’s Football Federation of Australia and been stripped of the license to his Gold Coast United club. He’s also set up a new body called Football Australia which is part protest group, part think tank, part silly foil.

He’s also become heavily involved in the Queensland election, threatened to sue the Queensland Government and QR National and held forth on numerous other issues.

For a bloke whose big mining project, the giant China First coal mine in Queensland, is now a year delayed, you’d think Clive had other things to worry about. Apparently not.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d much rather see billionaires in the news than hiding themselves away, as they so often do.

But on behalf of entrepreneurs everywhere, I ask again: Where do they find the time?


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