“Women need to work harder”

De­spite the in­tense pub­lic fas­ci­na­tion in Gina Rine­hart, the rich­est per­son in Aus­tralia, she re­mains fiercely pri­vate. In a rare in­ter­view, she talks to Stel­lar about fam­ily, phi­lan­thropy – and her ad­vice to other women

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by LANAI SCARR

While grant­ing a rare in­ter­view, Aus­tralia’s rich­est per­son Gina Rine­hart talks can­didly to Stel­lar about fam­ily, giv­ing back and her ca­reer ad­vice to women.

Cruis­ing down the Thames on a vin­tage um­pire’s boat be­hind the Aus­tralian row­ing team, Gina Rine­hart is in her el­e­ment. Perched at the front of the wooden- decked Ulysses in a flo­ral pantsuit, gold heels and her sig­na­ture pearls, with the wind whip­ping her hair in the wake of the women’s eight heat, Aus­tralia’s rich­est per­son can’t wipe the smile off her face.

“It was such a thrill,” the no­to­ri­ously pri­vate 64-year- old beams as she sits down with Stel­lar shortly af­ter her ad­ven­ture on the iconic river. Time is of the essence when it comes to the world’s sev­enth wealth­i­est woman – while she talks to Stel­lar on a makeshift barge that has been cleared out for her, a char­ter jet awaits to fly her to yet an­other Eu­ro­pean city di­rectly af­ter­wards.

Yet she says she al­ways has time for the ath­letes she sup­ports through her epony­mous Ge­orgina Hope Foun­da­tion. “I think it is im­por­tant that we back young peo­ple who are striv­ing for ex­cel­lence, striv­ing to rep­re­sent our coun­try at the top lev­els,” Rine­hart says as she looks out over the river at the ath­letes com­pet­ing below. “I think they form good role mod­els for a lot of other peo­ple. [In] sport there is no such thing as self­en­ti­tle­ment. It is re­ally how much you put in as a per­son, be you a male [or] a fe­male,” she says.

Sports, and es­pe­cially Olympic ones that pro­mote women, are a pas­sion of Rine­hart’s, and through Han­cock Prospect­ing, the com­pany that made her fam­ily bil­lions (Rine­hart her­self is es­ti­mated to be worth $24 bil­lion), she has do­nated tens of mil­lions over the years to the Aus­tralian swim­ming, vol­ley­ball, syn­chro­nised swim­ming and, most re­cently, row­ing teams. Yet there are those who ac­cuse her of us­ing phi­lan­thropy to ad­vance her per­sonal pro­file.

The only child of trail­blaz­ing West Aus­tralian iron ore mag­nate Lang Han­cock has been a po­lar­is­ing fig­ure in Aus­tralian busi­ness, so­ci­ety and pol­i­tics – and even her own fam­ily – for years. She rarely speaks to me­dia and is guarded in many of her rare in­ter­ac­tions with se­lected press; when she speaks to Stel­lar she’s softly spo­ken, po­lite and en­gag­ing – but clearly on guard. Even her most se­nior staff re­fer to their boss as “Mrs Rine­hart” at all times.

Per­son­ally, on­go­ing bit­ter le­gal stoushes with two of her four adult chil­dren – John Han­cock, 42, and Bianca Rine­hart, 41 – haven’t helped. There are also dis­putes with the heirs of Lang Han­cock’s for­mer busi­ness part­ner Pe­ter Wright, along with a close friend­ship with for­mer deputy prime min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce.

Last year Rine­hart con­tro­ver­sially awarded Joyce the Na­tional Agri­cul­ture and Re­lated In­dus­tries Day award and a sub­se­quent $40,000 cheque (which was given back).

“It wasn’t given un­der the ta­ble. It wasn’t given be­hind closed doors. It was given not only for ev­ery­one there to see, but all the me­dia present to see,” she says in her first pub­lic de­fence of the money. “He is a good man.”

Those who or­bit in Rine­hart’s cir­cle say she is mis­un­der­stood. “Be­fore I met Gina all I had heard was neg­a­tive things about her and I thought she was a mean bitch,” says renowned neu­ro­sur­geon Dr Char­lie Teo, whose foun­da­tion has re­ceived fund­ing from Rine­hart. “But now we’ve formed a re­la­tion­ship and she has been in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous not only with her money, which has been given un­con­di­tion­ally and with­out the de­sire for ku­dos, but also with her time and per­sonal sup­port. She has got a good soul and she very much is mis­un­der­stood. She’s got a heart and a big heart at that.”

Rine­hart says she has not overly pub­li­cised Han­cock Prospect­ing’s and her own phil­an­thropic un­der­tak­ings – from sports and school schol­ar­ships to hos­pi­tals and can­cer char­i­ties – be­cause she was raised not to ex­pect ap­plause. “When I was grow­ing up it was not proper to talk about phi­lan­thropy, so al­though we have qui­etly been build­ing our phil­an­thropic en­deav­ours over the years there is still a lit­tle bit of that cul­ture,” she says.

Mean­while, Rine­hart’s el­dest son John and his sis­ter Bianca have been en­gaged in an ac­ri­mo­nious seven-year le­gal bat­tle with their mother re­gard­ing the multi­bil­lion- dol­lar Hope Mar­garet Han­cock fam­ily trust, and say that their mother’s phil­an­thropic ef­forts are mainly to im­prove her pub­lic im­age. John Han­cock is clearly an­gry. “It doesn’t mat­ter if you’re a swim­mer or a son, the mo­ment you don’t do some­thing she wants or give her ad­vice she wants you’re dumped,” Lon­don­based Han­cock tells Stel­lar while on a fam­ily hol­i­day in the At­las Moun­tains in Mo­rocco. “When you read your own mother’s hand­writ­ing in the mar­gins of le­gal doc­u­ments… it makes fa­mil­ial re­la­tions a tad try­ing. ”

For her part, Rine­hart says she has worked hard her en­tire life to pro­vide for all of her chil­dren but would not be drawn on the le­gal dis­putes or who should take over Han­cock Prospect­ing once she steps down. “I cer­tainly have done enough to keep my chil­dren com­fort­able all their lives,” she says. “It wouldn’t be fair on my chil­dren to com­ment [on who should take over the com­pany].”

Love or loathe her, no- one can dis­pute her steely de­ter­mi­na­tion or work ethic. Her ipad never strays far from her hand and she ad­mits to “never not work­ing”.

And Rine­hart is clearly not one for flow­ery sen­ti­ments. When asked what ad­vice she’d of­fer other women, she does not mince her words. “If you want to go fur­ther up the lad­der what you should be do­ing is work­ing through lunches, work­ing later,” she says. “Will­ing to, even on hol­i­days or pub­lic hol­i­days, be avail­able. Be­cause what you should be want­ing is that you’ve achieved that po­si­tion your­self – you are wor­thy of that po­si­tion. I don’t think [gen­der] quo­tas can do that. It’s got to al­ways be, if a woman wants an ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tion… they should put in that ex­tra, put in more than their col­leagues.”

“I’ve cer­tainly done enough to keep my chil­dren com­fort­able all their lives”

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