Australia is in the grips of a populist hearts-and-minds tussle as the battle for the ruling Labor Party’s lost middle ground goes up a notch. In the last week, Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan has launched a major broadside on the country’s “rich,” paying particular attention to the small number of mining bosses whose ascending piles of money matches the depths of the holes they dig as the products of their efforts feeds the ever-hungry energy and materials beast that is China. The mining industry has countered with a touchy-feely ad campaign designed to make us all love them.
The Treasurer used an essay in a news magazine and an address to the National Press Club to tease out his elaborate j’accuse. Australia’s ability to ride the Asian tigers—30% of global GDP last year was generated within 10,000 km of Australia’s borders according to Swan—and the Labor government’s apparent skill in increasing income for the poorest 10% is not only ignored by the Big End of Town; it is actually undermined by it, says Swan.