Turnbull's opportunity to back battlers


Malcolm Turnbull Malcolm Turnbull laughed off the Government's half-baked attack on his wealth last week.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese mocked the new opposition leader as the 'reborn friend of the battler' from 'struggle street in Point Piper'.

However some of his colleagues were more illuminating. Small Business Minister Craig Emerson wished him well and said he hoped 'class envy belongs to the 20th century and not the 21st century'.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said Australians are 'less interested in whether you come from privilege than whether you represent privilege'.

Malcolm Turnbull is a wealthy man. But, as the Australian Catholic Bishops assert in the annual Social Justice Statement launched last week, wealth is 'not in itself a bad thing'.

'Affluence can bring great benefits, depending on how we use it.'

Instead what destroys society is greed, and rich and poor alike can be afflicted by this condition, which is the product of an affluent society. The Statement argues:

'The worker and the family can be trapped in a cycle of overwork, over-consumption and debt in the effort to achieve material success. Indeed, affluence can give rise to the mentality that one has an inalienable "right to things". People can lose a basic sense of gratitude for what they have and instead be grasping for more and more.'

With the current meltdown of the global economic system, we are seeing the catastrophic impact of the actions of the wealthy who are greedy.

Some might be tempted to cheer on the sidelines as scores of greedy investors are punished for their sins. Certainly they lost sight of many of the principles of responsible stewardship as they played hard and fast during the era of loose credit, complex deals, and blind hope in rising home prices. But they will recover more quickly than those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Historically, the poor suffer most whenever there is a major financial crisis, with many losing their jobs. Retired senior public servant, and St Vincent de Paul Society economist, John Wicks is preparing an article on the crisis for Eureka Street. He says the poor will pay the cost of government decisions to put many billions of dollars into rescuing failed financial institutions.

'They won't have the money to put into health and education. Local councils are also caught up in it, with their investments. They are going to have to reduce expenditure on services, and increase rates, to cope with their losses.'

Wicks says the crisis proves that, while the free market is a brilliant mechanism, it will need to be offset by more regulation and government intervention, to ensure a fairer economic outcome for all members of society. In this, Malcolm Turnbull will have a good opportunity to demonstrate that he truly represents those who 'live in rented flats'.

Michael Mullins Michael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: malcolm turnbull wealth poor economy



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Existing comments

A very wise, judicious and fair-minded editorial. Well said!

Cassandra | 22 September 2008  

Why don't church leaders read the bible and promote the biblical law that all debts be cancelled after 7 years and remind people that you can not serve God and Money. Lets face it love of money is the root of all the worlds problems. Money has its uses until it becomes an addiction.

Edward Arnold | 29 October 2011  

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