WAYNE Swan's only regret about attacking billionaires Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest is that he did not go in hard enough.
Every criticism he made about some of Australia's ''wealthiest and most outspoken mining tycoons'' has been ''played out almost to the letter'', he will say in tonight's John Button lecture in Melbourne, declaring defiantly that ''I don't regret a word of it''.
In an intensely personal speech, ''Land of Hope and Dreams'', also highlighting the effect Bruce Springsteen's music has had on him, he will say that given the mining billionaires' grab for influence ''we have to stand up and be heard, because when the massively wealthy buy the loudest megaphones, the voices of the people are drowned out''.
Renewing his assault on the trio, Mr Swan - who is acting Prime Minister while Julia Gillard holidays in north Queensland - will strongly reject claims he has engaged in class war, an accusation levelled after his March
essay in The Monthly, when he opened fire on the billionaires.
He will point out that in the essay's wake, Mr Palmer threatened ''in a blaze of self-promotion'' to run against him in Lilley (later skulking away from that contest ''in an epic display of political cowardice'' but eyeing another seat), while Mr Forrest deployed his wealth to buy newspaper ads ''to insist he was not deploying his wealth to have a disproportionate say'' in the nation's future. Now he is bankrolling a High Court challenge to the mining tax. Mrs Rinehart is ''baldly seeking the power to manipulate public opinion by buying Fairfax Media and explicitly refusing to sign the company's charter of editorial independence''.
''So one tycoon is using his money to challenge the principle of fair taxation through electioneering. 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.''
Mr Swan - whose musician daughter Erinn will introduce him by singing The Boss' The Ghost of Tom Joad - describes himself as part of the ''Springsteen generation''.
''If our generation has an anthem, it is Born to Run ,'' he says, and which he still cranks up on budget day. ''It's a song about realising that big and daunting responsibilities are just around the corner.'' He will pick up on the warnings in Springsteen's music about the dangers of exclusion and inequality leading to social dislocation and unrest.
''If I could distil the relevance of Bruce Springsteen's music to Australia it would be this: don't let what has happened to the American economy happen here. 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.
''Don't let this be a place where ordinary people's views are drowned out and only those with the most expensive megaphones get a say. Don't let it be a place where Gina Rinehart can buy The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review with her pocket change and try to trample fierce and proud independence unchallenged.''
Answering critics, he will say that far from relying on class warfare, ''My argument is one whose central economic imperative is actually to avoid the class warfare that is fomented when inequalities of wealth, opportunity and living standards are allowed to mount unchecked.''