Mining tycoon’s media plan is ‘bad news’

Australia’s government has said it fears the country’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, plans to use her growing stake in a major newspaper publisher to push her own commercial agenda.

Rinehart, an iron ore magnate whom Forbes magazine estimated in March was worth $18 billion, is a vocal critic of the centre-left government’s plan to impose a 30 per cent tax on the burgeoning profits of iron ore and coal miners, from 1 July.

She is also opposed to a A$23 tax that Australia’s worst industrial polluters will have to pay for every metric tonne of carbon dioxide they emit from that date.

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Rinehart last week increased her stake in struggling Fairfax Media, Australia’s second biggest publishing company, from 12.6 per cent to 18.7 per cent.

Fairfax newspapers reported yesterday that Rinehart, Fairfax’s largest shareholder, wants three seats on the Fairfax board of directors including the deputy chairman’s role plus the right to make significant editorial decisions.

Her reported demands are in conflict with traditional Fairfax board protocol that directors not interfere with editorial decisions

Rinehart supporter John Singleton, a former Fairfax board member, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday that “editorial interference would have the made the papers more readable in the past”.

Deput prime minister Wayne Swan said it was clear that Rinehart and Singleton “reserve the right to impose their political views”.

“That has very big implications for our democracy. I think we should all be very concerned at this turn of events,” he said.