Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has warned that Australia must not continue on a course towards being another Greece, Spain or Portugal, as she launched her new book in Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday.
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Rinehart jokes about Fairfax snub
Mining magnate Gina Rinehart laments her 'partial opportunity' at Fairfax.
Mrs Rinehart has been a passionate critic of the mining and carbon taxes, and said too few Australians realised the consequences of the nation's declining competitiveness.
"We don't want to see Australia continue on a course with too many heads buried in the sand, critical investors discouraged by bad policies, even hated, too few understanding the problems while Australia moves towards being another Greece, Spain or Portugal," she said.
“We need to focus on earning, not spending and we need to have a good environment for investment.”
Mrs Rinehart also said that Australia's mining industry needs to cut its costs if it was to survive.
‘‘People overseas aren’t going to buy our produce because we’re Australians and we’re nice people,’’ she said.
‘‘They’re going to buy our produce if we keep our costs down.
‘‘One of the things that I’m really concerned about is the cost competitiveness of our industry because our industry doesn’t sell on the local market, it sells on the world market.’’
Asked by independent Fairfax Media director Jack Cowin if she had any regrets, Ms Rinehart admitted she wished she had invested in Channel Ten when he had first invited her but "I couldn't afford it".
In a shot at Fairfax Media, she said it was good for outsiders to join the board of media companies.
‘We’ve now got the opportunity to be in Fairfax, well a partial opportunity that one, and also in Ten,’’ she said.
"I think it’s good for people just outside the media industry, and basically I am, to know something about other industries, [and] to be on these boards,’’ she said.
Ms Rinehart took questions from the floor for about 10 minutes and said her two main policy objections were new and increasing taxes, such as the MRRT and the carbon tax, and the cost of regulation.
Her recent Galilee Basin coal and rail projects had been required to seek more than 5000 approvals, she said.
"BHP and Rio have whole floors of people [working on these approvals]," she said. "It's really hard for small business."
At the Sydney launch of Northern Australia and Then Some were Mrs Rinehart's daughter, Ginia, Fairfax Media director Jack Cowin, former Commonwealth Bank chief, and Future Fund chairman, David Murray and Lachlan Murdoch.
At the Brisbane launch were Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen and several of Mrs Rinehart's closest allies, including Hancock Prospecting chief executive Tad Watroba.
Mrs Rinehart used the occasion to share memories of her childhood growing up on her family's property in the Pilbara, in Western Australia, and she spoke glowingly of the mangoes and mulberries that are grown on her station to this day.
But she also revisited the political arguments for which she has become well known, including calls for Australia to develop its sparsely populated north.
The rare public appearances came on the day it was revealed that Mrs Rinehart's Roy Hill Holdings would have former foreign minister Alexander Downer as an alternate director.
The appointment was revealed in documents submitted to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and will make Mr Downer an alternate to Mr Watroba.
Roy Hill Holdings is the company through which Mrs Rinehart is seeking to build a $9.5 billion iron ore project with a consortium of Asian companies.
Mr Downer's appointment on November 15 came a day after Mrs Rinehart's 26-year-old daughter Ginia was appointed as an alternate director to Ian Plimer.
Mr Downer, a former Howard government minister, was in Cyprus and could not be reached, but the appointment adds to his role on an Australian advisory board for controversial Chinese communications group Huawei.
Mrs Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting owns 70 per cent of Roy Hill, with the remaining 30 per cent owned by a consortium of Posco, Marubeni, STX, and the China Steel Corporation. Mr Downer's Adelaide-based company, Bespoke Approach, has provided lobbying services to Posco for its affairs in Australia.
About $7 billion in debt financing is being sought to help develop the Roy Hill project, which is now expected to make its first shipments from Port Hedland in September 2015 rather than the previous goal of late 2014.
The project is planned to produce about 55 million tonnes of iron ore a year - a similar amount to that produced by Andrew Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group over the past couple of years.
Company documents show Mrs Rinehart and her partners have so far tipped $1.67 billion into the project, in the form of share capital, as they gradually take up their agreed stakes.
With AAP, Bloomberg