The richest woman in Australia has caused a storm by calling her struggling fellow countrymen ‘whingers’ and telling them to get out of the pub and work harder.

Billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who is also the world’s richest woman, has never had a real job.

But she has never had it so good, riding the crest of the resources boom in Western Australia.

The controversial Mrs Rinehart has also attacked Australia’s ‘class warfare’ and insists it is billionaires such as herself who are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money and creating jobs.

Australian treasurer Wayne Swan joined a chorus of critics after Mrs Rinehart also suggested the government should lower the minimum wage of $606.40 per week – less than £400 – and cut taxes to stimulate employment.

In her regular column in Australian Resources and Investment magazine, she warns that Australia risks heading down the same path as European economies ruined by ‘socialist’ policies, high taxes and excessive regulation.

‘There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire,’ writes Mrs Rinehart, who has built a $20 billion-plus mining empire since inheriting lucrative tenements from her father, Lang Hancock, in 1992.

‘If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.’

But her strident comments provoked a barrage of criticism, led by the Acting Prime Minister who earlier this month used the music of Bruce Springsteen to attack the ‘massively wealthy” to drown out the voices of ordinary people.

Reigniting his feud with the miner, Mr Swan described Ms Rinehart’s comments as an ‘insult to the millions of Australian workers who go to work and slog it out to feed the kids and pay the bills.’

Her comments provoked a sharp response from the union movement with Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney claiming her views were ‘stuck in the nineteenth century’.

‘Gina Rinehart’s comments are the product of someone who has never had to earn a living and an insult to millions of working Australians who didn’t have the head start of inheriting a fortune from their father and of being able to bully politicians by virtue of their inherited wealth,’ Ms Kearney said.

‘She has no respect for the values of fairness and equality on which Australia was built, and displays absolute contempt for the people who work for her.’

‘Her recipe would take Australia down the path of a nation divided between a super-wealthy elite and an underclass of working poor.’

The daughter of the late Australian iron-ore mining magnate Lang Hancock, 58-year-old Mrs Rinehart was declared the world’s richest woman in May.

In calculations made by Australia’s Business Review Weekly magazine, she was placed at the top of its Rich 200 list.

Mrs Rinehart has easily surprised Forbes’ calculation of the £16 billion estimation of Christy Walton, widow of John Walton and holder of a major stake in the American retail giant Wal-Mart.

In an extraordinary accumulation of riches from the mining industry, Mrs Rinehart’s wealth has grown by an unprecedented £11 billion this year alone.

She makes more than £630,000 every 30 minutes, say financial experts.