Multi-millionaire Tim Gurner ‘sincerely’ regrets ‘deeply insensitive’ comments on unemployment and productivity | Englishheadline


An Australian multi-millionaire said he regretted controversial comments he made in a tirade against unemployment after receiving global backlash. 

Founder and Chief Executive of the Gurner Group Tim Gurner made the remarks at a property summit on Tuesday, declaring unemployment should rise by 40 to 50 per cent to encourage Australians to work harder.

He has now issued a statement, saying he “deeply regrets” the comments and was “wrong”. 

“There are clearly important conversations to have in this environment of high inflation, pricing pressures on housing and rentals due to a lack of supply, and other cost of living issues,” he said in the statement on Thursday.

“My comments were deeply insensitive to employees, tradies and families across Australia who are affected by these cost-of-living pressures and job losses.  

“I want to be clear: I do appreciate that when someone loses their job it has a profound impact on them and their families and I sincerely regret that my words did not convey empathy for those in that situation.”

The Melbourne-based property developer currently ranks 154th on the AFR’s Rich List with a net worth of $912 million.

He faced criticisms this week after he earlier claimed the pandemic had wiped out productivity, especially among tradies and younger workers who decided they “didn’t want to work” as much.

“I think that the problem that we’ve had is that people decided that they didn’t want to work so much anymore during COVID and that has had a massive issue on productivity,” Mr Gurner said on Tuesday.

“Tradies have definitely pulled back on productivity. They have been paid a lot to not do too much in the last few years and we need to see that change.

“We need to see unemployment rise… we need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around.” 

A video of Mr Gurner speaking at the event quickly gained more than 11 million views on X (formerly Twitter).

High-profile United States congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared the clip of his remarks to her 13.2 million followers with a comment about pay disparity.

“Reminder that major CEOs have skyrocketed their own pay so much that the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is now at some of the highest levels *ever* recorded,” she said in the post. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews leapt to the defence of tradies, saying they “work incredibly hard and so do their families”. 

“I think tradies work incredibly hard. I really don’t know where those sorts of comments come from,” the Premier said.

“Beyond that, good governments are not about less jobs, they’re about more jobs and that’s why we work everyday to try and make sure our economy’s strong, and make sure that we’ve got more people in work than ever before.”

Greens senator Nick McKim said it was “rare that the hatred felt for working people by the capitalist classes be displayed in such stark relief”, while Labor MP Jerome Laxale added the property developer’s comments were reminiscent of a “cartoon supervillain”.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed on Thursday the nation’s unemployment rate stayed at 3.7 per cent in August, after reaching a record low of 3.4 per cent in July last year.

The Bureau also found annual productivity is sitting at minus 3.6 per cent after the GDP (output) fell by the same number in the year to June.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe suggested in his final speech last week that the issue of increasing productivity lay in the hands of the government, rather than workers.

“This is, fundamentally, a political problem, and it is a major problem,” he said.

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