Rinehart Urges Costly Australia to Follow Singapore’s Path

Asia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart said Australia should follow the example of Singapore’s former prime minister to stimulate development of its northern regions.

“The north has the potential to develop beyond our imaginations,” Rinehart, 59, said in a video presentation to a mining conference today in Melbourne. “We should learn from the successful economic policies of Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore.”

Rinehart, whose wealth is estimated at $17.1 billion by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has been a frequent critic of taxes on carbon emissions, coal and iron-ore profits, creating tensions with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government. Lee, Singapore’s first prime minister, is credited with transforming his nation from a colonial backwater into Southeast Asia’s only advanced economy by encouraging foreign investment and averting corruption.

“Lee Kuan Yew kept taxes low, encouraged investment, and look what happened to our neighbor,” Rinehart said in the presentation to the Australian Mines and Metals Association. “Without even any of the natural benefits our north has.”

Rinehart last year said high costs may prompt mining companies to abandon iron-ore operations in Australia and criticized her countrymen’s attitude toward work. She has a 15 percent stake in Fairfax Media Ltd., publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, and has failed to get a board seat for herself after refusing to sign the publisher’s Charter of Editorial Independence.

Project Cancellation

Taxes and costs associated with environmental regulations and regulatory approvals were threatening the viability of major resources projects in Australia, Rinehart said, citing Woodside Petroleum Ltd.’s decision to cancel a plan to develop the Browse liquefied natural gas project at an onshore site on the Western Australia coast.

Rinehart’s closely-held Hancock Prospecting Pty is developing the A$10 billion ($9.8 billion) Roy Hill iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, while companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. and Glencore Xstrata Plc have deferred projects amid rising costs and falling prices.

The Roy Hill mine is on schedule to begin production in 2015 even as high costs and an elevated Australian dollar present challenges, said Ian Plimer, a director at Hancock unit Roy Hill Holdings Pty.

“All projects have those threats,” Plimer said today in an interview. “If you are fleet-footed enough and flexible enough then you can address them.”

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