Rinehart calls for tax cuts, criticises renewables and ‘eyesore’ solar panels

Article by Edmund Tadros and Maxim Shanahan

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart has demanded a cut to taxes in Australia, including state payroll taxes and the fuel excise, and bemoaned the spread of renewable energy projects and “eyesore” solar panels after being named The Australian Financial Review Business Person of the Year.

Her polemic came after former UK prime minister Boris Johnson told the audience of almost 200 chief executives, managing directors, chairmen and directors that there would be “a lot of positives” if Donald Trump were elected for a second time in 2024, particularly in foreign policy.

Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson is interviewed by national affairs columnist Jennifer Hewett on Thursday night. Oscar Colman

Five other corporate titans were named The Australian Financial Review Business People of the Year at the inaugural dinner event: Robin Khuda, CEO of data centre company AirTrunk; Vik Bansal, CEO of Boral; Sam Hupert, CEO and co-founder of ASX tech firm Pro Medicus; Lynas Rare Earths chief Amanda Lacaze; and AustralianSuper chief investment officer Mark Delaney.

The event, hosted by Financial Review editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury, was held at The Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency overlooking Darling Harbour in Sydney.

Mr Khuda expressed thanks for the award but joked he’d been advised by his lawyers not to comment on a rumoured multibillion-dollar IPO of the company he founded just six years ago.

Robin Khuda, the CEO of AirTrunk, accepts his award. Michael Quelch

‘Democratising capitalism’
Mr Hupert, who co-founded medical imaging software group Pro Medicus in 1983, said he was proud of the way the company had grown into a global powerhouse and had inked deals with major hospital groups in the US such as the Mayo Clinic. He also joked that the company, which has a market capitalisation of about $9.7 billion, had grown its staff numbers from about 100 to 115 thanks to software being very “scalable”.

An energetic Ms Lacaze referred to herself proudly as “Mining Barbie” and reminded the audience that while Australia used to ride “on the sheep’s back”, it today “stands on the miners’ shoulders”. She added that the sector “should not be attacked, undermined or nobbled because all the [public] services you enjoy are paid for by the mining industry”.

Mr Delaney said it was “a bit unusual” to receive the award, before noting that the “magic” of superannuation was that it “allows everyone in Australia to participate in the wealth created by Australian businesses … essentially democratising capitalism”.

The investment chief was at the centre of one of the year’s biggest (non) deals, helping to blow up Origin Energy’s attempted $20 billion takeover by two private equity firms. He told the audience: “we came up against the big end of town, but it was clear where our duties and responsibilities were.”

“Mining Barbie” Amanda Lacaze accepts her award. Michael Quelch

‘Challenging year’
After being awarded the top prize, Mrs Rinehart thanked the other executives for their speeches and noting that Ms Lacaze’s defence of the mining sector had been “terrific”.

“It has been a challenging year for our primary industries, with many more interventions from the government,” Mrs Rinehart said.

“Many come from people in the city, who don’t understand the importance of those in agriculture.”

She strongly criticised payroll tax and the fuel excise, and said Australia should “roll out the red carpet” to investment by removing red tape.

Mrs Rinehart said that renewable energy projects could result in one-third of Australia’s agricultural land being “taken over” and suggested that “eyesore” solar panels should be placed in “city parks and rivers” rather than in rural areas.

Her new year’s wish was for the media to provide “more common sense” and to “not ignore what Blind Freddie can see”, she said

Johnson backs net zero
Mr Johnson surprised many in the audience by saying that “net zero is unequivocally the right way to go”, after Rishi Sunak’s UK government earlier this year reversed some of the former prime minister’s key climate policies.

Mr Johnson said he thought the days of coal power were limited, but “we’re going to depend on gas for an appreciable length of time”.

“Whatever your views about the science of climate change, you intuitively start to see that humanity is having a colossal impact on what is a quite fragile and small ball in space,” Mr Johnson said.

“If we can insure ourselves against that by going towards green technology, which will deliver millions of good, high-skilled jobs, then what’s wrong with that? It may take longer than we think, but I think [net zero] is the right path. I’m sticking up for net zero.”

The UK leader said it was the “constitutional duty” of the prime minister to have a good relationship with whomever was US president at a given time, and there could be “a lot of positives” if Donald Trump were elected for a second time in 2024, particularly in foreign policy.

“You can make a very strong case that Trump, by being robust, was of more value to the world than the Democrats by being flexible and soft,” Mr Johnson said.

He pointed to Mr Trump’s initial arming of Ukraine, his “tough” stance on North Korea, and the development of the Abraham Accords to argue that “the bad guys of the world will know that they will have strong president in the US”, if he is re-elected.

Mr Johnson questioned whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have occurred under a Trump presidency.

“I would be amazed if [Vladimir] Putin had done what he did in February 2022 with Trump in the White House. But none of this should be taken to mean I don’t think [US President Joe] Biden has done a very, very good job in a lot of situations.”

Mr Johnson also argued that the controversial policy for Britain to exit the European Union, which he championed, helped speed up the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the country and saved lives.

Affordable housing a major issue
Mr Johnson also said centre-right politicians in the West needed to realise the seriousness of the housing crisis.

“Centre-right people need to realise that the biggest single problem for young people is that they cannot buy a home,” he said.

“They cannot get the keys to a place in the same way that people of my generation could.”

He expressed befuddlement at the inability of young Australians to buy a home.

“It took me four hours to fly across the country … is there a problem with your housing laws?”

HanRoy is part of Hancock Prospecting

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