Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart makes Forbes rich list, but do we care?

If Gina Rinehart were in any other field of endeavor, she'd be celebrated in Australia right now, feted, sung about, if you like, as an unsung hero.

The mining magnate just made top-100 in the world for something. 

That's practically sainthood material for your average Aussie sports star, and definitely worth Australia's equivalent of a knighthood — the Order of Australia — if you're in some academic field, or literary or other. 

As it is, Rinehart is in the business of making money — lots of it.

A billionaire 18 times over, she has just made it onto the Forbes rich list, ranked No. 29.

She is the only Australian to have made the top-100.

She is now known to be the richest woman in the Asia Pacific, and ranked as the 19th most powerful woman in the world, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim topped the list with a worth of $69 billion. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were ranked second and third place with $61 billion and $44 billion.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was further down the list, at number 35, with $17.5 billion.

That's right, Australia's Rinehart has a good .5 of a billion dollars on America's Zuckerberg.

So why aren't Aussies showering her with accolades, or writing the aforementioned songs about her?

Well firstly, they tried that already — not with Rinehart, specifically, but with one of her kind. A very rich person.

This week, the National Trust of Australia (New South Wales branch) named another Aussie mining billionaire, Clive Palmer, as a Living National Treasure. 

In doing so the Trust — a widely respected nongovernment organization that tasks itself with "promoting and conserving Australia's indigenous, natural and historic heritage" — put Palmer up there with the creator of the cervical vaccine Professor Ian Frazer, naturalist and conservationist Dr Harry Butler and world champion Formula One driver Sir Jack Brabham… not to mention Kylie Minogue and Olivia Newton-John. 

The organization said the National Treasures were chosen because they personified qualities all Australians should aspire to.

"Their generous and significant contributions have, like them, become part of our national heritage,'' he said in a statement, quoted by the Fairfax press.

Clive Palmer? We get that having a billion in the bank is certainly something to aspire to, but …

Palmer's anointing kicked off a proverbial shitstorm of debate, not least within the National Trust organization itself (the national body refused to endorse the NSW decision. 

According to the Fairfax media, questions were raised about Palmer "even before he became involved in public slanging matches last week — first with Football Federation Australia and its billionaire chairman, Frank Lowy, then with the federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, who accused Palmer and others of using their wealth to 'poison' the political and economic debate."

Palmer is a controversial figure to say the least — brash, not afraid to use his vast wealth to get what he wants … or what he doesn't, as his efforts to deep-six the Australian government's proposed Resource Super Profits Tax proved (he threatened to cancel mining projects, jeopardizing thousands of jobs). He has been unabashed in his support of fellow Aussie billionaires using theirs to do the same.

So, back to Rinehart, speak of the devil. She has campaigned vociferously to influence government policies as they affect the mining industry.

She campaigned publicly against the mining tax. She has even gone as far as to purchase a bigger stake the country's most influential media group, Fairfax, not even bothering to counter claims that she's harnessing Fairfax's influence "to ensure her pro-business worldview is promulgated," as one recent article — written under the headline "Does Gina Rinehart's move on Fairfax make her an oligarch?" — put it.

The same article points out that this is probably not unfamiliar to the average American, who would be used to billionaires seeking to expand their political influence.  

However, in Australia it's something a little unfamiliar and a little unsettling.

It's not that Australians don't like billionaires or aspire to be one. 

It's just that they don't like anyone — not even billionaires, or National Treasures — to get too big for their boots.

Perhaps that's why Gina Rinehart will likely be celebrating her Forbes success alone, possibly with a very nice bottle of something bubbly.

Down Under just hopes, for Australia's sake, that she doesn't take offense and look for somewhere else to enjoy her billions. We already know that at current exchange rates, they'd buy a lot more bubbly — and probably a few more friends — in the US.

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