Ever wondered what the ultra-rich really think of you? One multi-millionaire CEO has spelled it out…

Nobody actually expects One-Percenters to care about working people, but the least they could do is pretend

Ryan Coogan
Friday 15 September 2023 05:47 BST
Tim Gurner

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The mark of as well-written villain monologue is that, no matter how heinous their world view, they should at least give the impression of being reasonable. You don’t see the Joker telling Batman that he does the things he does because, “well, I just like watching things explode”, or Blofeld telling James Bond: “I just wanted to build a cool laser.”

You need a little nuance. A hint that there’s some underlying justification to the carnage. After all, it’s unrealistic to think that anybody would just come out and announce: “Hey, I’m the bad guy.”

A speech by an Australian CEO has gone viral on X (formerly Twitter) after he suggested that unemployment should rise by 50 per cent because workers had become too “arrogant” and need to be brought back down a peg or two.

Gurner Group boss Tim Gurner told the Australian Financial Review’s Property Summit that productivity had plummeted during the global pandemic as “people decided they didn’t really want to work so much”, and that “we need to remind people they work for the employer, not the other way around”. He suggested we need to “see pain in the economy” in order to correct this epidemic of working people – particularly construction workers – having it far too good for far too long.

When somebody says something that ridiculous, I usually assume it’s just some provocateur trying to get hate-engagement, because it’s easier to make money upsetting people online than it is to develop any marketable skills or personality. What made Gurner’s speech so shocking, though, is that he really seems to mean it.

It’s one thing to be an outrageous monster because you’re trying to get your YouTube channel off the ground or secure a guest spot on GB News. But to casually throw out such remarks, to a group of like-minded investors, hints at something more worrying to me.

Is this how the ultra-rich actually talk to one another? Is it how they actually think? Do they really believe that workers are little more than a commodity?

It’s the kind of thing you suspect, but put to the back of your mind. I tend not to agree with conservatives, but I’m sure they act in what they believe to be our best interest – they might be a little misguided, but they aren’t spiteful, surely? Nope! Turns out the cartoonish, Roald Dahl version of greedy capitalists was right on the money.

It will not surprise you to know that Gurner got his start in business after receiving tens of thousands of dollars from his grandfather. No wonder he thinks people are lazy! He probably just assumes we can all do that.

This isn’t even the first time he’s gone viral. You may also remember Gurner as the “avocado toast guy”, who made headlines a few years ago after suggesting that the reason millennials couldn’t afford their own houses was because they spent all of their money on brunch. Say what you will about him, but it’s clear that he has a sharp grasp of how money works.

The idea that anybody could think working people have it too good, or are somehow taking advantage of the system, after the decade we’ve had, is so disconnected from reality that I’m getting a migraine just thinking about it. People can barely afford to heat their homes, but apparently it’s the poor, embattled CEOs that we should feel sorry for. My entire generation is condemned to live in shared homes and fight over barista jobs because we’ve never known a stable economy – but, clearly, the solution is to make unemployment worse.

Most people I know will never own their own house, or have children or a stable career, because CEOs like Gurner left the economy in tatters 15 years ago and never looked back. We’ve worked so hard that, at any other time in history, our faces would probably be on money – and yet we’re continually told that we’re lazy and entitled by the laziest, most entitled people in the world.

Luckily for Gurner, he’ll probably never experience the pain that he advocates for. Good for him. I’m sure he’ll have plenty of time to come up with brand new ways of saving the economy, like smashing windows at random or banning hugs. There’s no such thing as a bad idea.

But maybe in the future, it would benefit him to conceal his economic genius behind more creative language. It’s a rough old world out here. Nobody actually expects you to care – we got past that about three prime ministers ago – but the least you could do is pretend.

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