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Greedy Australia in a league of its own


Sonny Bill WilliamsA week ago, rugby league fans were shocked to hear that Canterbury Bulldogs' star player Sonny Bill Williams was breaking his contract in order to accept a more lucrative offer from French union club Toulon.

The Daily Telegraph and other media chided him for his greed. But by mid-week, defenders were coming forward. Anthony 'The Man' Mundine declared he was '100 per cent behind [his] brother', reasoning that 'a man can change his mind from time to time if he wants new goals'.

Mundine and others were attributing Williams' departure to salary caps, which limit the amount of money players can earn and focus their attention on the game rather than the remuneration. There were warnings that more stars would leave if salary caps were left in place, and that it would spread to the other football codes.

Salary caps are effectively greed caps, and therefore serve a useful social purpose. But unfortunately greed is not confined to sport, nor even the corporate sector. Many Australians were scandalised by the $50 million retirement package awarded to Macquarie Bank boss Allan Moss earlier this year. However Australians as a nation are more greedy than we would like to think.

Last week, author and former foreign correspondent Christopher Kremmer delivered lectures on greed, as part of the PEN 3 Writers Project. He called Australia the 'miser of the Western world', and argued that the nation was created and sustained by greed.

He said that those Australians who give to charity donate a mere 0.33 per cent of their income. The British and French nations give twice as much per head of population in foreign aid, compared to Australia. According to the statistics Kremmer was drawing from, we rank 19th on the list of the world's 22 richest countries, in what we give in foreign aid.

He suggested to Radio National's Life Matters that the revival of estate taxes could do something to cap the greed of the nation's wealthy. Estate taxes, also known as death duties, prevent the passing of inherited wealth from generation to generation, which sustains the 'idle rich' sector of the community.

By contrast, America's rich give eight times as much as their Australian counterparts. Many of that nation's wealthiest citizens deliberately limit the amount of wealth they transfer to their children, because they believe it does them no good.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd commissioned Treasury secretary Ken Henry to conduct a review into Australia's taxation system. Last week it was reported that new rules being proposed by the review could remove incentives for sports stars such as Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting to set up charitable trusts.

This would appear to fly in the face of the Prime Minister's call at Friday's Oaktree Future Foundation launch for a 'new era of philanthropy'. He called to mind 'Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and their inspirational generosity'.

Rather than remove incentives that foster philanthropy, it would make more sense to reintroduce an inheritance tax.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: canterbury bulldogs, salary cap, Sonny Bill Williams, Toulon, Kremmer, death duties, estate tax



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Existing comments

He said that those Australians who give to charity donate a mere 0.33 per cent of their income. re this comment I was under the impression that individual Australians donated a higher amount than those stated but the Australian government gave less than the other governments am I wrong?

Ray Delaney | 04 August 2008  

Well, it is not just individual Australians that are greedy, the greed starts with the Government in all jurisdictions, corporate Australia is rampantly greedy.. Office works now charges for a staple in your documents you get printed.. between 5 and 50 cents, now that is just greed. Greed Greed and Greed is part of the Australian culture.

Micky Mantel | 29 December 2015  

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