In the wash-up from America’s presidential election, much is being made of the hundreds of millions of dollars that conservative billionaires spent trying to secure a Republican victory.
Reports suggest casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent somewhere in the vicinity of $US150 million, while arch conservatives David and Charles Koch are believed to have spent a similar amount.
That these billionaires’ money failed to affect the election result is obviously been cheered by Democrats and jeered by large sectors of the media, including the business press, which in most instances has categorised these donations as investments gone bad.
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The role that these billionaires played in the US political process, both in front of and behind the scenes, raises some interesting questions as Australia heads into an election year.
What role will Australia’s wealthiest political donors play in the lead-up to next year’s poll? Will our most prominent billionaire donor, Clive Palmer, kiss and make up with the Coalition and throw big dollars at a LNP win? And what of those billionaires like James Packer and Frank Lowy, who like to have a bet each way, donating roughly equal amounts to Labor and the Coalition?
And perhaps most importantly, what role will Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, decide to take in the political process?
It’s a question that has been rattling around my brain in the past week since I got my hands on a copy of Rinehart’s new book, which is called Northern Australia and then some: Changes we need to make our country rich.
It’s closer to a family scrapbook than a weighty tome – partly a compendium of speeches and articles; partly a timeline of her family’s empire; partly a tribute to her parents; partly a collection of her much-maligned poetry; partly a chance for her friends and supporters to say nice things about her in print; partly a collection of cartoons.
It’s also a bit of a mess. There’s a foreword, a preface, a preamble, three dedications and an introduction before you hit the guts of the book.
However the introduction, written by Rinehart herself, is without doubt the key to the entire book. It’s the only really new piece of writing and it’s perhaps the best encapsulation of Rinehart’s view of the world we’ve had yet.
Beyond our means
Rinehart starts the introduction with an extract from Andrew Bolt’s Bolt Report television show, where her favourite journalist interviews David Murray about the state of the Australian economy and what he sees as the Labor government’s profligate spending.
For Rinehart, Labor’s spending has not been matched by the investment or policy necessary to establish a platform for entrepreneurs to grow their business and create wealth.
These are, she argues, simple values that Australians used to hold dear in a better time.