Research finds super rich also super tight
Legendary philanthropists are often also legendary tight-arses.
Oil man John Paul Getty, whose now multi-billion dollar trust and art collection underpin the J. Paul Getty Museums in California, had a payphone installed in his London mansion Sutton Place.
“The guests won’t mind paying for their calls,” he said, “and as for the deadbeats, I couldn’t care less.”
But it seems Australia’s richest have ticked the tight-arse box, but have deep pockets and short arms when the collection plate comes around.
Research from the Petre Institute commissioned by millionaire entrepreneur Dick Smith claims that our super-rich are giving less their counterparts in the US, UK and Canada, despite being comparatively wealthy.
In order to stir up some controversy on the issue, Dick wrote to Australia’s big four bank bosses and challenged them to commit to giving away 20 per cent of their annual salaries.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, they didn’t jump at the chance, although the Commonwealth Bank’s Sir Ralph Norris responded to say that he gave money to charity, but did it anonymously.
“I give of my time and provide significant monetary support, which I prefer to do anonymously from a public perspective,” Mr Norris said.
“While I respect your view in regard to taking a more public approach to giving, I fear there is something in the public psyche that would treat such action with cynicism, particularly in regard to bankers.”
Sir Ralph has a fair point here. Australians are far less likely to spruik the fact that they are giving to charity, and many of us find it kind of tacky if you do.
I even struggle with the idea that people can fork over a handful of change for a rubber wristband promoting Livestrong or another such charity, and claim the karmic benefits for months to come.
In comparison the yanks are world-beaters when it comes to both giving away their cash, and telling you about it.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has recently joined a movement called The Giving Pledge, where the super-rich (Zuckerberg’s apparently worth about $US6.9 billion) agree to give away most of their fortune.
As of early December, 57 families, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett had signed up.
Sir Ralph believes that people will be cynical about his motives if he elects to tell us how and where he spends his philanthropic dollar. I doubt it.
We’ll probably just think he’s trying to curry favour with us and leaven the negative perception we have of him because he earns more than $16 million a year and was the head of the first bank to raise interest rates last time official rates were raised.
Nothing cynical about that - just a statement of reality.
And if a bit more cancer research gets done or a few more homeless people get blankets next winter, well, I reckon I could handle softening my opinion on corporate salaries.
And before you fear that the view from this high horse is getting a little dizzying, reflect on the fact that despite how we might perceive ourselves, the average Australian donated just $424 to charity in 2004, or less than 1 per cent of the average wage.
While Australia’s super-rich probably deserve a mild public shaming with regard to their parsimony, the Federal Government and the industry itself have to shoulder some blame. Under Australia’s current hodge-podge of state and federal laws, many charities don’t have to, and don’t elect to publish their financial results.
Some even argue that opening their books would just confuse people - confuse them into sending their money elsewhere, I suspect.
But making sure charities had transparent and publicly available public records might at least remove one argument for Sir Ralph and his buddies not forking over more of their hard-earned when the charity collector comes calling.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…