Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart said the Australian economy is at risk of falling over like Greece’s if major changes aren’t made.
Rinehart said falling commodity prices, Australia’s large debt, and tax-payer funded bail-outs could all work to deteriorate the level living standards.
Speaking at an event organised by the Institute of Public Affairs and Australians for Northern Development & Economic Vision, Rinehart called on business leaders to take more responsibility for their companies.
“Are our country’s business leaders just going to call for more handouts for their failing businesses struggling to be sustainable with the commodities crash?’’ she said.
“But where can such taxpayer funds come from given our debt and that we’re having to borrow money to pay even the interest on our government debt?’’
Rinehart said business people needed to recognise the country is in record debt and so shouldn’t be asking for the government to put its hand in taxpayers pockets to bail their companies out, or she said: “we’ll turn into another Greece”.
The comments come as Treasurer Joe Hockey warned of a potential $25 billion hole in the budget in light of the falling iron ore price.
In December’s budget update, official government estimates forecast iron ore would fetch $US60 a tonne, however the price quickly fell below this level and kept falling to reach 10-year lows of $US45 a tonne.
Rinehart said commodity prices were falling right across the board and that in light of this, other costs need to be cut, including the red tape price tags inflicted by the government, The Australian reported.
“Remember, one-third of Australia’s exports and revenue are from iron ore and coal alone and both have devastated prices now,’’ Rinehart said.
“We are fast approaching uncharted territory with Australian debt. This is an urgent problem for the country and it should be a priority in Canberra.”
Rinehart said while the prices paid for Australia’s commodities were set overseas, more could be done at home to help protect margins.
“But, let’s be frank, unless business leaders and others interested in the future of our country clearly speak up and point out why regulations, licences, permits and compliance burdens must be urgently and significantly cut, little but continuing lip service will occur,” she said.
“We are one struggling with too much government-caused debt, but do we really want to become a nation from red carpet to red tape? A nation of compliance, not performance? And see our standards of living deteriorate?
“Having seen quite a bit of the poverty of Asia, this is something I’d greatly prefer that my country develops the sense to avoid.’’
Rinehart has been challenging the government to cut costs for years, and has previously stated that making Australia an attractive investment destination was critical, adding it is an issue of which “too few Australians are realising the consequences".
In late March she asked Australian governments to “come to the party” and reduce regulatory burdens.
Rinehart said the mining industry would benefit if “onerous government regulations and delays” were reduced.