What The World’s Richest Woman Gina Rinehart Thinks About Climate Change

Does Gina Rinehart want to use Fairfax as a microphone?

A version of this blog originally appeared on DeSmogBlog.

SHE is the richest woman on the planet with a personal fortune approaching $30 billion thanks to her coal and iron ore businesses.

But when it comes to arguably the planet’s most pressing problem – human-caused climate change – the Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart dismisses out of hand not only the issue, but the expertise of the world’s climate science community.

Now, Rinehart, the head and owner of Hancock Prospecting, has revealed that she wants to use her substantial stakes in two leading Australian media companies to be able to promote the views of climate science deniers.

Earlier this week, the publicly-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s investigative television documentary Four Corners looked at Ms Rinehart’s life story.

Her climate science denial did not appear in the broadcast, but the ABC did ask her about it and has released the answers to a series of questions on the issue of climate change and her promotion of climate scepticism.

The program comes as Rinehart is engaged in a very public fight with the board of Fairfax, the media company which owns the nation’s most respected newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

As reported by Fairfax, Rinehart told the ABC that she would consider selling her 19 per cent shareholding in the struggling company unless she is given three board seats and the right to influence editorial policy. Continue reading “What The World’s Richest Woman Gina Rinehart Thinks About Climate Change”

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How the lobby door spins for Swan’s vested mining interests

THERE’S a revolving door outside state and federal government offices that has been spinning for decades.

Entering the door are former ministers, MPs, senior advisers and public servants with years of experience behind them on the intestine-like inner workings of governments, politics and policy making.

As they exit the door, many become part of the opaque and mostly unreported world of corporate and industry lobbying.

Treasurer Wayne Swan has publicly questioned the power and influence wielded by vested interests in the mining and resources industries.

In his recent essay for The Monthly, Mr Swan chose to name three people in particular – Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forest – as representing this undue power which is shaping public policy for the narrowest of interests.

Vested interests had worked together to undermine climate policy and mining taxation, he wrote.  Australia’s success was in “jeopardy”, vested interests were a “poison” threatening the future prosperity of the “great mass of good hearted Australians”.

Mr Swan picked on a small number of super-rich mining magnates, leaving multi-billion dollar corporations and industries that work equally as hard for their own interests wondering what they’d done to escape the Treasurer’s wrath.

The essay was brave and most likely, in my view, broadly accurate. But it was heavy on the rhetoric and light on solutions.

Mr Swan could have taken the opportunity to call for more transparency and openness in the systems that regulate lobbying and political donations.

He could have supported the calls in the just-closed Senate inquiry into lobbying for stronger oversight of lobbyists.

He did neither.

Yet it is the same industries that Mr Swan is criticising – fossil fuels and resource extraction – that can afford to scoop up the talent from the public service and put them to work in a system that allows them to operate largely unseen.

Continue reading “How the lobby door spins for Swan’s vested mining interests”

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The curious tale of Lord Monckton, Gina Rinehart, media ownership and Christian fundamentalists

IT was an extraordinary response, but then it was an extraordinary video revealing some extraordinary alliances.

Two weeks ago I posted a story on my blog about a YouTube video featuring one of the world’s least media-shy deniers of human-caused climate change – British hereditary peer Lord Christopher Monckton, the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley*.

In the video, the Viscount was in the boardroom of the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a free-market think-tank founded by west Australian mining magnate Ron Manners.

The video had been watched only 130 times when I clapped eyes on it following a Twitter post from journalist Leo Hickman, of the UK’s The Guardian.

In the video, posted by Mannkal (but since removed… and then reinstated… but possibly removed again by the time you read this), Lord Monckton suggests a good way to get free-market, climate science-denying views into the mainstream media, is simply to find some “super-rich” backers to buy the mainstream media.

As I watched the video last Tuesday evening, news was just emerging that mining billionaire and Asia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, had bought $192 million worth of shares in Fairfax (the publisher of Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and many regional newspapers and city-based radio stations) to take her share in the company to about 14 per cent.

To me, these two events were intrinsically linked, and not just because Mr Manners is a personal friend of Ms Rinehart’s.

When Lord Monckton went on a speaking tour around Australia in 2010, the organisers admitted that Gina Rinehart had offered to put up some of the cash. Ms. Rinehart also made one of her Hancock Prospecting staff available to organise one of the events in Perth.

When Lord Monckton repeated his junket around Australia in 2011, Ms Rinehart was again a supporter.

When ABC presenter Adam Spencer asked who had invited him to Australia, Lord Monckton answered he had been invited to deliver a lecture at Fremantle’s Notre Dame University. The university’s Dean of Business School Chris Doepel had already told me that this lecture, dedicated to Ms Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock, had been organised after discussions with her iron ore and coal company, Hancock Prospecting. Ms Rinehart attended the lecture.

In another interview, this time with the ABC’s Wendy Carlisle, Lord Monckton claimed he didn’t know who had paid for him to come, although the boss of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies had told me they had helped pay some of his costs.

Lord Monckton’s 2011 tour was mired in controversy before it even started after it emerged that during a conference speech in America he had compared one of the Australian Government’s climate change policy advisors, Professor Ross Garnaut, to a fascist.  He also displayed a huge Nazi swastika next to Professor Garnaut’s name. He “unreservedly” apologised for his “catastrophically stupid” remarks, but a few months ago changed his mind and said they were “very mild”.

In short though, the evidence would strongly suggest that Lord Monckton has close ties to Ms. Rinehart and that they have spent time discussing ideas. Continue reading “The curious tale of Lord Monckton, Gina Rinehart, media ownership and Christian fundamentalists”

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Monckton, Rinehart and a plan to capture the Australian media

BACK in July last year in a boardroom of a western Australian free-market think tank, the extrovert British climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton was holding court.

The topic for discussion? How to better capture the Australian media to help push a right wing, free-market and climate sceptic agenda.

At the time, Lord Monckton was in Australia at the behest of a mining association and Gina Rinehart to deliver a series of talks on climate change and spread his conspiracy theories that human-caused climate change is a left-wing plot to bring down the West.

At one point, Monckton told a boisterous partisan crowd: “So to the bogus scientists who have produced the bogus science that invented this bogus scare I say, we are coming after you. We are going to prosecute you, and we are going to lock you up.”

Lord Monckton had been invited to Australia by the iron and coal mining boss Rinehart, the country’s richest woman with a rising personal fortune in the region of $20 billion.

Hosting the meeting was the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a group chaired by mining “Hall of Fame” member Ron Manners to promote free-market ideals and low government intervention.

Manners is also a member of Gina Rinehart’s lobby group ANDEV, which has been joined by the Institute for Public Affairs to lobby for a separate low-tax low regulation economic zone for the north of Australia to make mining projects easier to develop.

It would be safe to presume, given Manner’s background in mining and the make-up of his staff, that this aim to lower government intervention would include any regulations and taxes on mining.

As far as its position on climate change goes, Mannkal’s website only appears to promote sceptical and largely debunked views on climate science, with links to many climate change denial websites which form part of a global network.

The Lord Monckton gathering, posted on YouTube [see UPDATE  below], had all the air of a strategy meeting. Continue reading “Monckton, Rinehart and a plan to capture the Australian media”

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Wielding power the Rinehart way

IT was one of those “drop your bacon sandwich at the audacity” kind of stories – the sort of revelation that shows what power and influence in a democracy really means.

Australia’s wealthiest individual, Hancock Prospecting chairman Gina Rinehart, loaded up a couple of Federal MPs onto her private jet and flew them to India for a wedding.  What for?

At the time, Rinehart was trying to secure a deal with infrastructure giant GVK, which had shown an interest in buying into some of her coal mine projects. Walking up the aisle was Mallika Reddy, grandaughter of GVK’s founder GV Krishna Reddy. As was reported in Crikey, the two MPs National Senator Barnaby Joyce and Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop were there to “lend cachet” to Rinehart.

Actually, it wasn’t just two MPs. Unreported at the time, but buried away in the register of interests, was an alteration to Brisbane Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro‘s entry. The change, recorded on 7 July, shows that Gambaro was also on the flight from Perth to India and stayed two nights in Hyderabad.

Continue reading “Wielding power the Rinehart way”

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