THE Treasurer, Wayne Swan, will intensify his assaults on the billionaires Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart tonight by accusing them of using the pillars of Australian democracy as personal playthings and seeking to expand the wealth divide by keeping more for themselves.
All while channelling rock icon Bruce Springsteen, who the Treasurer cites as his greatest inspiration and whom he credits with foretelling the decline of middle America as the economic foundations shifted, long before the economists.
In the John Button Memorial Lecture to be delivered in Melbourne, Mr Swan will say Springsteen's early albums, which were inspired by the decline of his native New Jersey, were relevant to Australia should Tony Abbott become the prime minister and govern for his billionaire friends. ''Don't let what has happened to the American economy happen here,'' his speech notes say.
''Don't let Australia become a Down Under version of New Jersey where the people and the communities whose skills are no longer in demand get thrown on the scrap heap of life.''
Mr Swan first took aim at Mrs Rinehart, Mr Palmer and Mr Forrest in a March essay for The Monthly magazine. He accused them of using their wealth to try to influence public policy for their benefit, not that of the nation. He cites as an example their opposition to the mining tax which is supposed to spread the benefits of the mining boom.
Mr Swan will say tonight that his
only regret about the essay ''is not going hard enough because every criticism I made has been played out almost to the letter on our national stage''.
He notes that after the essay, Mr Palmer mounted a now-aborted campaign to challenge him for his seat, Mr Forrest launched a High Court challenge to the mining tax, and Mrs Rinehart made a bid to control Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald, but declined to sign its charter of editorial independence.
''So, one tycoon is using his money to challenge the principle of fair taxation through electioneering,'' he said. ''A second is using his money to challenge it through the courts. And a third is using her money to challenge it by undermining independent journalism.
''Parliament, the constitution, independent journalism. All three are fundamental pillars of our democracy, being used as their playthings, supported every step of the way by the Leader of the Opposition.''
After his essay, Mr Abbott and the billionaires accused Mr Swan of waging class warfare for attacking the creators of wealth.
Tonight he will say that those who oppose measures to spread the wealth are the class warriors because they seek to increase the wealth divide which, in the US, is greater than the race divide.
''We just can't accept a situation where a handful of people can stymie economic reform which aims to spread opportunities to others.''