Australia treasurer says he's inspired by The Boss
FILE - In this July 11, 2012 file photo, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan speaks to the media after delivering a speech at an investment forum in Hong Kong. Swan on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, revealed that U.S. rock star Bruce Springsteen has long been his political inspiration with lyrics warning Australians against following the U.S. road toward widening economic inequality. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's treasurer says Australians can learn a lot — and avoid economic pitfalls — by listening to The Boss.
Wayne Swan revealed Wednesday that American rock star Bruce Springsteen has long been his political inspiration. He said the New Jersey-born working class hero's music railing against inequality echoed Swan's own public battle against Australian billionaire mining tycoons who oppose his tax reforms.
Swan, named by banking magazine Euromoney as the world's finance minister of the year for 2011, also said Springsteen's songs should serve as a warning to Australians against following the U.S. road toward widening economic inequality.
"The Boss was and remains my musical hero," Swan, who as treasurer is his center-left Labor Party government's chief economics minister, told a Labor forum Wednesday.
Swan, 58, said Springsteen often observed big changes occurring in U.S. working class life long before economic statisticians recognized them.
He said Springsteen's 1975 breakthrough album "Born to Run," as well as subsequent albums "Darkness on the Edge of Town," ''The River," ''Born in the U.S.A" and "Nebraska," talked about the shifting foundations of the U.S. economy before the subject became topical.
"If I could distill the relevance of Bruce Springsteen's music to Australia, it would be this: Don't let what has happened to the American economy happen here," Swan said.
"Don't let Australia become a Down Under version of New Jersey, where the people and communities whose skills are no longer in demand get thrown on the scrap heap of life," he added.
Conservative opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey dismissed Swan's speech as "ridiculous."
"It says everything about this government that it is guided by the principles of a rock singer, rather than any enduring philosophy that builds a stronger nation," he told reporters.
Swan cited economists and sociologists who agree that wealth inequality has overtaken race as the most divisive factor in American society.
Working-class Americans have been losing their share of national prosperity since the 1980s, while the wealthy have been taking more, Swan said.
Median U.S. household wealth declined by more than 30 percent between 2004 and 2010, while it increased in Australia by more than 20 percent in the same period, buoyed by a mining boom fueled by Chinese industrial demand, he said.
Swan said the lyrics of the song "Badlands" from Springsteen's 1978 album "Darkness on the Edge of Town" could be a warning against the growing political influence of Australian mining barons Gina Rinehart — who is Australia's richest person — Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest.
Swan quoted lyrics from the song: "Poor man wanna be rich/ Rich man wanna be king/ And a king ain't satisfied/ 'Til he rules everything."
Mining magnates have been campaigning against the government over the introduction in July of a 30 percent tax on iron ore and coal miners' profits that have burgeoned over the past decade due to Chinese growth.
They also oppose a carbon tax that came into effect in July that requires Australia's largest polluters to pay 23 Australian dollars ($24) for every metric ton of carbon dioxide they produce.
Swan accused the three outspoken miners in an article in March of using their wealth and influence to undermine Australia's democratic processes.