It's not what Gina Rinehart wants...

Northern development and Enterprise Migration Agreements would certainly make Gina Rinehart happy. But the left risks junking them for no reason other than its deep-seated aversion to the magnate.'s what the nation needs that matters. And yet reading the reaction to some of Labor's recent policy scuffles, one could easily form the view that the left has an unhealthy obsession with Lang Hancock's daughter.

Take, for instance, the leaking of the Coalition plan to develop northern Australia, using tax incentives and infrastructure spending to lure workers to our near-deserted top end. Greens MP Adam Bandt and leader Christine Milne fronted cameras to suggest the plan had virtually been written by Ms Rinehart. (In between odes? For details of her recent crimes against poetry, see Two reasons to fear a Rinehart-led Fairfax, June 2012).

As The Sydney Morning Herald put it: "It is clear, however, that the 'visionary' document aligns almost exactly with the manifesto of the mining magnate Gina Rinehart and others who have formed a lobby group called Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision."

Then there was the MRRT's failure to capture any of the miners' profits – which, as Stephen Bartholomeusz explained, could be blamed just as much on the royalty increases of Coalition state governments (The premier factors undermining the MRRT, February 12). Labor yesterday ruled out tinkering with the MRRT formula, which according to the Greens who have sponsored a bill to do just that, will have Rinehart "popping the Moet".

And the left of the Labor party has frequently used Rinehart as its whipping girl, if that's the correct term, when it takes issue with the its own skilled migration policy.

Doug Cameron gave the mining magnate a few lashes last year as part of the union 'backlash' against Labor's policy, announced months before, of allowing teams of foreign workers into Australia under his own government's Enterprise Migration Agreements. Why unions had been silent on the policy up until Rinehart's involvement was a mystery. Mummy issues?

Before continuing I must point out that I've never met Rinehart, hold no mining stocks, and certainly haven't received a case of Krug Clos d'Ambonnay (which retails for around $4,000 a bottle) from her by express delivery.

But even if I had, the fact would remain that good policy must be argued on its merits, rather than on some deep-seated aversion to the mega-rich.

Yes, the issues listed above all have the capacity to make Rineahart happy, or not. But they are also intimately linked to our future prosperity.

I have argued numerous times that backing mining at the expense of other sectors of the economy is bad for the country in the long term – which is why a profit-related tax, without the royalty problem that brought Labor's plan unstuck, is a good idea.

But equally bad for the economy is unnecessarily frustrating an industry that could deliver greater productivity, profits and, yes, taxes.

Put the EMA issue alongside the Coalition's plan to develop the north, and the shamefully emotive nature of anti-Rinehartism becomes apparent.

Miners are using fly-in-fly-out workers that cost, according to Western Australia's planning minster, somewhere in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 a year to transport, feed and house. That's on top of wages that start well north of $100,000 and keep rising. And the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia estimates that half of Western Australia's 120,000 resources sector workers are employed on a FIFO basis.

Even with all those costs, the miners can turn a profit – but imagine the super profits they'd make if they had local workers, or teams of overseas workers prepared to do the job for less. That would be a massive jump in the miners' dismal productivity figures. More profits. More tax.

Elements on the left of politics need to take a step back and ask themselves where the money will come from to fund social welfare initiatives, and badly needed infrastructure in the rest of the country, if we frustrate miners simply to spite a few billionaires.

Unions should either back a plan to entice Aussie workers into the north, or allow overseas workers to come in and take the jobs. Opposing both at the same time is simply using a caricature of Gina Rinehart to score political points, while allowing our biggest wealth generating sector to continue to be one of our productivity blackspots.

Who really gives a stuff what Gina Rinehart wants. Time to put the national interest first.

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