(Reuters) – Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart, one of the world’s wealthiest people, has displayed a trait rarely revealed publicly among the super-rich: insecurity.
Rinehart’s first book was eagerly awaited by an Australian public enthralled and sometimes appalled by her story of big business, family feuds and almost unimaginable wealth.
But the 58-year-old widow with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $18 billion, played it safe at the launch of the book, ‘Northern Australia and Then Some: Changes we need to make our country rich’.
Media were hand-picked for events around the country and Rinehart surrounded herself with hundreds of supporters mostly from the mining fraternity, where she is revered for transforming her late father’s debt-ridden iron ore business into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
There were no advance copies of the book and no questions over a fractured family life that has left Rinehart wrestling with three of her four grown children over control of a family trust that rakes in hundreds of millions of year in royalties.
Nor was there mention of her contentious plan to hire nearly 2,000 foreign workers to help build a $10 billion outback iron ore mine, at a time when Australians by the thousands are losing their jobs across the sector.
“The way she went about controlling the launch of her book shows a deep insecurity on her part given these types of things are typically designed as promotional media events,” said David McKnight, an associate professor in Journalism and Media at the University of New South Wales.
“This was Gina Rinehart controlling the media in order to display her over-developed sense of hero worship for her father.”
SHADOW OF LANG
Rinehart’s book Northern Australia, a collection of essays, speeches, and poems, calls on politicians, environmentalists and the public to support Australia’s miners, the nation’s main growth engine, or face the consequences of economic decline.
The book displays Rinehart’s adoration of her larger-than-life father, Lang Hancock, which can be touching, but echoes much of Hancock’s famed right-wing utterings.
Rinehart has spent much of her life in the shadow of her mining magnate father, who also pressured Australian governments to better support the mining sector.
It was Hancock, a prospector and one-time “jackaroo” or Australian cowboy, who was credited with discovering the vast iron ore deposits of far west Australia’s “Pilbara” in 1952 while he was piloting his own plane though a storm.
Anxious to exploit his find, Hancock lobbied for years to get a ban on iron exports over-turned and made a fortune when it was. He also proposed using small nuclear bombs to help mine the Pilbara, advocated secession for Western Australia state and had business dealings with the brutal Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. His disparaging comments on the unemployed and Aborigines outraged many Australians.
A mountain range and a rail line hauling tens of millions of tons of iron ore across the outback, destined for Asia’s steel mills, now bears the Hancock name, as does the private company Rinehart now oversees.
Hancock often referred to his softly spoken daughter, his only child, as his “right-hand man” or simply “young fella”.
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