Treasurer Wayne Swan has urged Australians to read his essay about ''vested interests'' in a television interview this morning as the economic debate intensifies among the government, the Coalition and big business.
Mr Swan is continuing his push for a ''fair go'', after his address yesterday at the National Press Club, where he argued Australia's ''proud egalitarian tradition'' was under threat from powerful vested interests.
This followed on from an essay he wrote in The Monthly last week, in which he attacked mining magnates Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest for unfairly dominating Australia's political debate.
The Treasurer's move has angered the magnates — who have hit back with advertisements and newspapers opinion pieces — as well as others in the business community. The Australian Financial Review reports today that big business is furious with
Mr Swan for picking a fight with the ''billionaire's club.''
But Mr Swan assured Channel 9 this morning that he was not questioning mining profits.
''Mining is a very important industry for Australia,'' he said, adding that the resources were owned by the Australian people.
''They can only be dug up once.''
Mr Swan said his essay was about opportunity and aspiration — and that he wanted to see Australia's middle-class grow. ''I really urge all of your viewers to read it.''
But last night, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey dismissed Mr Swan's ''fair go'' campaign as a distraction.
''Wayne Swan is declaring war on billionaires, but he is in fact waging war on middle Australia,'' he told the ABC's 7.30 program.
''He's increasing the cost of goods like private health insurance, electricity with the carbon tax, alcohol with taxes . . . average household interest rates now are higher under Labor than they were under us.''
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury — who was sworn in only yesterday — has been quick to start work in his new role.
This morning Mr Bradbury said that Mr Swan's comments were directed only towards a ''handful'' of elite business people.
The real issue he's concerned about here is not about success,'' he said.
''It's ultimately one of the way in which some people are seeking to use their wealth . . . to exert a disproportionate influence on the nature of the public policy debate.''
Mr Bradbury moved to play down concerns in the business community about the effect Mr Swans' comments will have on investment and working relationships.
''I think we have very strong pro-business credentials,'' he said, adding that the mining tax would benefit both big and small businesses due to cuts in the company tax rate.
But Mr Bradbury conceded there would be ''sensitivity'' among some in the business community as a result of Mr Swan's comments.