Gina Rinehart and former News Ltd chief John Hartigan receive 2022 Australia Day honours

Mining magnate’s appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia likely to spark controversy

Australia’s richest person, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, has picked up an Australia Day gong as has media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s former Australian chief.

Rinehart’s appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) “for distinguished service to the mining sector, to the community through philanthropic initiatives, and to sport as a patron” is likely to spark controversy.

The honours, which include the awards in the Order of Australia, were handed out to over 700 recipients, including a record number of women.

Hancock Prospecting’s executive chair has been criticised for declaring climate change education programs “propaganda”. Shortly after that, she declared herself in favour of renewable energy, but warned (without foundation) that a rush to reduce emissions would cost taxpayers billions.

According to reports from May she is Australia’s biggest landholder.

Rinehart supports a range of charities including the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Georgina Hope Foundation, which she chairs.

Australians would be more aware of her support for the Olympics.

She ran prime-time advertisements at last year’s Tokyo games, and supports swimming, volleyball and rowing athletes.

According to her website, she is one of Australia’s biggest Olympics fans, contributing $10m annually. Another article on her website says her personal investment in athletes has been a “game-changer”.

Australians are appointed an AO “for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or to humanity at large”, according to the governor general’s office.

Last year tennis great and Pentecostal minister Margaret Court, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, was made a companion of the Order of Australia. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, an advocate of same-sex marriage, said there was “no shortage of irony” that he received the same honour.

Broadcaster Kerry O’Brien rejected his own honour in protest at Court’s appointment.

The year before, controversy again marred the awards protest. The Council of the Order of Australia reviewed the honours for sex therapist Bettina Arndt and writer Mike Carlton after separate public outcries. The council ultimately decided they could retain their awards.

More recently, Turnbull has joined another former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to condemn the Murdoch media empire, and its executives have been grilled in a Senate inquiry that is due to report in March.

John Hartigan, who left Murdoch’s employ a decade ago, has also been appointed an officer in the Order of Australia for “distinguished service to the media industry, to Indigenous welfare, and to sport”.

As with many media executives, Hartigan had various run-ins with politicians – he once told Rudd to “pull his head in” after Rudd called Murdoch outlets a “cancer”.

John Hartigan, pictured here in 2010.
John Hartigan, pictured here in 2010. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

Hartigan, now 74, started out as a copyboy. He spent more than 40 years at News Limited, including for NewsCorp UK and NewsCorp US. He worked his way up to CEO in 2000 and chair in 2005. He carried both roles until he resigned in 2011. (News Limited became News Corp Australia in 2013.)

Commonly known as “Harto”, he has been an Australian Paralympic Committee director since 2014 and a trustee of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust since 2011.

Hartigan said he was “humbled” that the citation was not just for doing his job but for “being able to assist in a couple of areas that are important to me”. He lists those as the Indigenous Marathon Project, the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, as well as his position on the board of Anindilyakwa Land Council.

“(They’re) the things I’m most proud of, although I haven’t achieved anything close to how many people I admire [have],” he said.

“I just regret that our kids aren’t taught more about both Indigenous languages and Indigenous history in our schools.

“It’s so wrong we don’t have a more fundamental understanding.

“We can’t even get an Indigenous voice in parliament up and running. I’m far from being a handwringer or bleeding heart, I think I’m pragmatic in recognising that.”

Hartigan said he regretted many things about his career, such as missed opportunities as the newspaper industry was transformed by digital products. There are “so many things” he could have done better, he said, including while struggling to start his own one-man newspaper in the 80s.

But he said throughout his media career there was not a day when it wasn’t the “best job in the world”, from being a copy boy to being the chairman.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I felt more like the CEO of organising parties than the CEO of something commercial.”

Guardian Australia contacted Hancock Prospecting for comment.


Tory Shepherd

The GuardianTramp

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