It’s great to be back after a refreshing break with so much to look forward to in 2016.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time at the beach with my family and friends where we walked, talked and fished.
Spending time with people who aren't immersed in politics is one of the most important balances available to politicians. These political ‘outsiders’ give perspective that is too often lost by those of us whose lives are lived mostly inside the political beltway.
It doesn’t take long for it to become abundantly clear that most people have no time for the Canberra gossip and Party machinations. They are too worried about their jobs, their families and the cost of living. Almost universally, the more independent are scathing of the level of government interference in their lives and the impost it applies.
A summer break allows time to explore and discuss issues in a more leisurely manner than is often otherwise available. Add a couple of drinks and a BBQ to the mix and it seems many of the world’s problems can be distilled to their very essence.
Somehow, the late night solutions aren't always so plausible in the cold light of the next day!
However there was one evening where a group of us were discussing the Australian of the Year Award. Some thought it had been politicised in recent years whilst others simply wondered upon what criteria it was chosen. Our attentions then turned to whom we would choose to be Australian of the Year.
My nomination was for Gina Rinehart.
To be upfront, I consider Gina to be a friend, but her story is an inspirational one for anyone that cares to learn about it.
Gina inherited a company that was mired in debt and business difficulties. As a widowed mother of four she worked to turn around the company to become the incredible success it is today.
In the last year, she has finalised the world’s largest private company mine financing to create the Roy Hill mine. In the process, she generated thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars of future wealth for our nation.
Yes, the Roy Hill shareholders will also share in those billions but so they should. They have taken enormous risk to produce an incredible result and none of it would have happened without Gina Rinehart’s efforts and determination.
Along the way, media reports suggest that her company has paid over $2.3 billion in taxes over the past four years. On top of that, Gina Rinehart provides many more tens of millions in donations to worthy causes. Unlike some other noted philanthropists, this giving is often done with little fanfare or media attention.
How many are aware that Gina Rinehart has offered to build a $175 million oncology hospital in Darwin? Or that her foundation provides care packages to thousands of people undergoing cancer treatment. Her program of sponsoring the education and development of impoverished Cambodian orphans, rescued from the back streets of Phnom Penh, has been life changing. She is also one of the largest non-government sponsors of Australian Olympic sports.
The list could go on, but I am sure you get the picture.
This is a lady to whom wonderful opportunities were given. But they were only opportunities; it took her determination, hard work and strength of character to turn them into realities. She now shares her amazing success with thousands of others.
Notwithstanding the public trials and tribulations that come with being Australia’s most successful business person, Gina Rinehart has remained fiercely loyal and patriotic to our nation and its citizens. She has created vast wealth far in excess of what any other Australian has managed and has sought to share much of that in a manner befitting a person who cherishes their privacy.
It’s probably not politically correct to nominate a person like Gina Rinehart for Australian of the Year, but in my mind she deserves the honour.