THE opposition ridiculed Wayne Swan for invoking his hero Bruce Springsteen as he renewed his attack on mining billionaires, while Clive Palmer, one of the Treasurer's targets, took aim at his lack of musical patriotism.
''It says everything about this government that it is guided by the principles of a rock singer, rather than any enduring philosophy that builds a stronger nation,'' shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said.
Describing Mr Swan's John Button lecture as a ''look-at-me speech'', he said: ''You have got the clown trying to run the circus.'' He said he saw rock music as entertainment, not ''as the benchmark of guiding principles for the destiny of a nation''. He was inspired by the likes of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill or a Robert Menzies.
If Springsteen was the right benchmark ''then we might as well have Glenn A. Baker and Molly Meldrum running the country - and they would do a far better job than the current mob'', Mr Hockey said.
Mr Swan said in his speech - which cast Springsteen as a working class hero who had influenced him from the 1970s - that the only regret he had about his attacks in his Monthly essay on Mr Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest was that he had not gone harder. In the essay he accused them of seeking to buy excessive influence in their own self-interest - he now says their subsequent actions have borne him out.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he was ''not here to defend billionaires, billionaires can defend themselves''. ''What's important, though, is that the Treasurer's words attack billionaires but his policies attack middle Australian families.''
Mr Palmer tweeted that it was ''unpatriotic'' of Mr Swan to be quoting songs from a millionaire US rock star. ''I prefer Oz groups like Redgum and the Seekers.''