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Turnbull, the self-made man. Seriously?

I am an ambitious person, but I am not ambitious in the sense that I want jobs only for the sake of them … I am here to do things I think are worthwhile. I am always careful that the political positions I take are consistent with good policy. I would not want to be prime minister of Australia at any price.
– Malcolm Turnbull

A couple of days ago in The Weekend Australian, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton made an appeal for Australians to “guard against compassion” in the matter of refugees and asylum seekers held in offshore detention. I’ve written about this in some depth here at Independent Australia.

Yesterday, we heard from various members of the LNP that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a shining example of the virtues of coming from tough beginnings, working hard and making a lot of money. This was in response to an advertisement authorised by the ALP, questioning how much the Prime Minister will personally gain from tax cuts his party introduced that benefit the so-called “big end of town.” According to the ABC report:

The ads state the Prime Minister has “millions invested in funds which hold shares in dozens of big businesses which would benefit from the tax cut”.

Labor also released analysis of Mr Turnbull’s financial interests register, showing he indirectly owns shares in 32 companies worth over $50 million.

“Who exactly is he looking after?” the ads asks.

Predictably the LNP, supported by friendly media, have worked as hard as Turnbull to confect outrage at the “personal nature” of the ALP ad. This reaction is enormously funny for several reasons,not least that just last week Turnbull personally attacked Labor’s Tanya Plibersek, and yes, irony is dead, buried and cremated:

Turnbull then appealed for the public compassion, claiming that the ALP was opposed to him and Lucy “having a quid.”

“They want to attack me having a quid,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“They want to attack me and Lucy for working hard, investing, having a go, making money, paying plenty of tax, giving back to the community.”

The rags to riches Turnbull fairly tale is just that. Here’s a couple of facts:

By the time Turnbull was in Year 10 and a long-term boarder at Sydney Grammar, his father Bruce was doing well enough to purchase a luxurious three-bedroom apartment in Point Piper, not far from Malcolm’s current dwelling.

Aged 28, with a couple of Sydney property deals already under his belt and his marriage into the wealthy Hughes family, Turnbull was left some $2 million according to reports, by his father.

There were undoubtedly a few tough years when Malcolm was small, but Bruce navigated them past those hardships well before Malcolm finished school. The reality is, Turnbull had the kind of good fortune most of us can only dream of, and he is the beneficiary of inherited wealth.

The ALP ad asks the question, how does a multi-millionaire Prime Minister justify introducing tax cuts that benefit him personally, as well as benefiting his multi-millionaire peers at the expense of ordinary Australians? This is not a “personal” question. It is a question any one of us is perfectly entitled to ask.

Let’s not forget as well, that in the 2016 election campaign Turnbull donated $1.75 million to the struggling LNP, who went on to win government by a margin of one seat in the House of Representatives. That donation could well have made the difference between winning and losing, we will likely never know. However, the question that has never been adequately addressed by the media is, is it good for our democracy that a wealthy Prime Minister can pay for his party to survive, and to retain his job?

A Prime Minister who used his personal wealth to keep his party afloat so that he could keep his job cannot at the same time claim his financial affairs are private. When a man has so much wealth he can buy himself the PM’s job, that is not a personal matter. It is entirely political. When that man, now in government, passes legislation that benefits him personally, that is also not a private matter. It is entirely political.

It is beyond me how any journalist can argue otherwise.

Opponents point out that there are wealthy men and women in the ALP ranks. This entirely misses the point. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having money. As far as I’m aware, the ALP are not promoting tax cuts that benefit themselves and their wealthy peers, while cutting penalty rates for ordinary workers, and defunding vital services to subsides those tax cuts. We don’t know the details yet, but they have to be paid for somehow. The Guardian’s Greg Jericho addresses this fundamental question here.

As far as I am aware, ALP policy is a better deal for all (other than refugees, and that’s another story) not exorbitant privilege for the 1%.

Oh, and it appears that Turnbull did indeed have a price. It was $1.75 million.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Keitha Granville

    The argument is NOT that Turnbull has a few bob, it is simply that he stands to benefit significantly from a proposed tax deal for companies. Good on him for having made squillions, we should be so lucky. The fact is most people will not have that opportunity, and for them to have stagnant wages, cuts to penalties and the increases in the cost of living totally unmet by government support means that most people will never be in that happy and fortunate place.
    It is the duty of those in government to care for everyone in their society, not just the fortunate few. Malcolm is failing in that duty.

  2. diannaart

    Well said, Jennifer and Keitha

    I’ve always seen money as a very useful tool – something which can make life easier, not something for its own sake. Which is a good thing considering how my life has turned out.

    I would really like to have the surety that money can bestow – a secure home, really good food, travel, restaurants, dinner parties with friends, theatre, cinema … I also know that even if I did, somehow, become wealthy, there are things that would not change; my chronic illness is not curable, I am still going to get old as are my friends, family and other animals. Mega dollars would not change many important aspects of life – I would still not have enough energy to go out to a restaurant or go bush walking, or even attend protest marches.

    Which is why I do not get this hoarding up of wealth by the minority for the very few. I am not envious; I am very angry.

    How much wealth does one person need? Why does generosity and compassion tend to devolve the wealthier a person becomes?

    Turnbull, I know you will never understand, even when you are no longer PM and that will happen just as surely as you will age. Will there be a moment when you reflect that perhaps investment means more than just the stock market or tax havens?

  3. Pierre Wilkinson

    Thank you for an informative well written article, I just wish that the MSM was allowed to highlght the hypocrisy of Turnbull at every opportunity, instead of extolling his wealth and demeanour.

  4. paul walter

    Got his money through banking fiddles and tax dodging.

  5. Ill fares the land

    And let’s not forget that whilst the LNP dredge up every possible thing they can about Shorten that they can turn into accusation about improper behaviour, Turnbull’s own sordid corporate past seems to be above scrutiny – accompanied of course by the usual squealing from the LNP. Freedom of speech apparently means they can say what they like, but no-one else can and anyone who dares to be critical can be “drowned out” by the caterwauling from the government side of the House.

    For example, I understand he was a director of a company that was allowed to log timber in the Solomon Islands – but said company essentially pillaged that country’s native timbers and, according to allegations, blatantly ignored the agreed logging guidelines. No mention of that anywhere.

    Working hard? A large chunk of Mr Tin Man’s wealth came from one deal – the sale of Ozemail. I believe that little deal, coming as it did on the back of a hacking disaster for Ozemail’s biggest commercial rival (the timing of which was more than a little convenient – the Ozemail shareholders did very, very well out of their rival’s ill-fortune), netted Turnbull around $50.0 plus million – in a single deal. Sure, he took the risk, but the investment was $500,000 – how much of his 2,000% windfall is down to his “hard work” or his corporate genius and how much a result of “hard work” and being in the right place at the right time is surely an interesting question. Lot’s of people in business work very hard and some work very, very hard – but don’t get that kind of financial windfall. And don’t get me started on the pretentiously humble Lucy (who insists, as many wealthy people do, that money is not important to her. Staggering how many say that, but still live in waterside mansions in Sydney or mansions in Toorak or Hawthorn). Perhaps it is my inner curmudgeon, but I find the endless images of Lucy swanning before the cameras nauseating.

    On his aspirational aged care worker in Burnie. How about the crushed aspiration that followed cuts to penalty rates and how the measly tax cuts for low paid workers won’t compensate them for lost penalty rates? How about the government allowing floods of migrant workers on dodgy visas to infest the aged care sector, thereby ensuring a large pool of labour and the resultant (deliberate) suppression of wage rates. How about the fact that worker is unlikely to be able to move to a “better job” – there aren’t any. How about the fact that at 60, she has to work in a physically demanding sector until she is 67 before she can think about retiring on a pension that is inadequate for maintaining anything other than a subsistence lifestyle. How about those things Mr “self made” Tin Man?

  6. Carol Taylor

    Another point about Turnbull’s rhetoric is that he wants to portray himself as ‘a normal hardworking Australian’. Perhaps hardworking, and decidedly an Australian, but ‘normal’ he is not. Turnbull has worked long and hard on this image; think of all those selfies and train rides he took, but the minute he puts in place legislation which favours the wealthy, then the PR image so carefully nurtured over the years begins to be seen for what it is…ladies and gentlemen, the description would be ‘a whole lot of bullsh*t’.

  7. paul walter

    Ahhh..It’s a Wilson. Good. Usually has something interesting

  8. Phil

    Turnbull is a strange one for sure – far too many of his ilk for my liking. A pure toff desperate to be seen as ‘ordinary’ – and a failure at that.

    I detest the way the hyper-moneyed pricks in society define their devious, deceitful money grubbing ways as ‘work’ – it is nothing of the sort and they know it.

    Work is what people who produce things do – the very people whose skills these toffs could not survive without.

    Ever see a banker or financier physically build a house, lay plumbing, instal electrical systems, set up a computer network, design and construct roads, bridges, railways, hospitals? These arrogant toffs who have placed themselves into the upper echelons of society – these self styled lords of the manor – these petty princes and princesses – they are merely self aggrandising pricks whose heads would serve the nation better were they to be bodily separated and domiciled in a huge wicker basket.

    Turnbull is the most pathetic of Australia’s offs – he fails the toffs creed and he fails the workers creed – he’s neither one nor tother. I hold him in contempt

  9. Stephen G B

    Agree with all of the above, I have to say though that this turnbull attack add 8s by far the most stupodest idea that Labor has come up with.

    It just lowers Labor to the Tory level.

  10. percy

    I am sure he has 2 dicks because no way he could get that STUPID just pulling one

  11. silkworm

    Turnbull has often said that he had it hard and that his father worked hard to pay for his school fees at Grammar. This is mostly a lie. I went to school with Turnbull and I know he won a scholarship that paid for his last five years at Grammar.

  12. paul walter

    Self-made man? Sounds like Bounderby from Dickens “Hard Times.

  13. Zathras

    For me it’s not that Turnbull has money and donates his salary to charities but that his money is stashed in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying tax in Australia, thereby exploiting a loophole he has no intention of closing.

    When he was in opposition, taxpayers were paying his wife rent via Travel Allowance for his accommodation while in Canberra.

    He not only recently loaned money (not donated) to the Liberal Party to keep his job safe, he bought his position in Parliament by using his own funds to campaign and displace the sitting Liberal member in his electorate.

    For him, money talks very loudly but he’s happy to disparage ALP members who associate with other wealthy people as some sort of social climbers.

    Apparently the ALP are not worthy enough to mix with people of his class yet he accuses them of conducting “class warfare”.

  14. exTen

    Wonderful article but for the concluding couple of sentences with which I violently disagree:

    “defunding vital services to subsidise those tax cuts. We don’t know the details yet, but they have to be paid for somehow. The Guardian’s Greg Jericho addresses this fundamental question here.”

    They do not have to be “paid for somehow”. They in no way impair the capacity of the federal government to spend on what is needed. It issues the currency. The need to balance the “budget” of a currency issuer is a self serving right wing myth and a self administered left wing uppercut.

  15. Kaye Lee

    I don’t know how Malcolm can call what he has done hard work.

    One example…..

    Turnbull and Neville Wran’s cleaning company, Allcorp, lost in a tender a contract to a competitor, Tempo, to clean a State Bank building. Three days before Tempo was to begin the contract, a State Bank officer rang a Tempo executive: Tempo no longer had the contract, Allcorp would be retaining it, even though Tempo consultant James Cook claimed it had bid up to $70,000 a year less than AIlcorp. (“Odd things happen,” says Tumbull, “but whether that’s odd or strange I don’t know.”)

  16. Kronomex

    I would like to nominate Trembles for sainthood. He could become the patron saint of tax dodgers.

  17. diannaart

    Self made man?

    Or Made man?

    From Godwin Grech onwards Turnbull has needed help and connections.

  18. Cyber1bo

    The reign of Malcolm the first has been an absolute disaster.

  19. Zyg

    He says that he pays plenty of tax I wonder it that’s the case why does he have his money hidden in an offshore tax haven?
    Or does he mean no tax is plenty enough for him?
    What a toad, does he really think that he is so clever and that we the Aussie public are that stupid?

  20. Kyran

    Your reference to ‘confect[ed] outrage’ and Mr Walter’s reference to Dickens reminded me of another Dickens piece, ‘Oliver Twist’. Mr Bumble’s confected outrage when the ingrate, Oliver, asked for more, is appropriate on so many levels.
    “Oliver, who toils with very little food, remains in the workhouse six months. One day, the desperately hungry boys decide to draw lots; the loser must ask for another portion of gruel. The task falls to Oliver, who at the next meal comes forward trembling, bowl in hand, and begs Mr Bumble for gruel with his famous request: “Please, sir, I want some more”.
    A great uproar ensues. The board of well-fed gentlemen who administer the workhouse hypocritically offer £5 to any person wishing to take on the boy as an apprentice.”
    Who would have thought Mr Bumble of Dickensian England would have reincarnated as Mr Trumble, overseer of Australia’s workhouse, where the indentured poor don’t dare ask for more, else they face the confected outrage of the privileged and be sold off. Our very own bumbling Trumble leads the uproar at such effrontery. “Hard Times” indeed.
    To be fair, the bumbling Trumble’s donation to his own survival was to forestall the financial collapse of the LNP.
    “But the biggest drop was suffered by the Coalition, which received just over a half of the money going into the 2016 campaign than it had in 2013. In the financial year of the 2013 election the Coalition received $141 million but in 2015/16 it received only $77 million. Payments to the Nick Xenophon Team also decreased, while payments to One Nation increased from $48,000 to $295,000.”

    The LNP are doing it so tough, they have had to sue their own captive donors. No surprise there is a Murdoch influence in the Cormack Foundation either. What is a surprise is that captive corporate has taken to giving money to other political parties.
    “But for the first time in its 30-year history, the foundation last year donated to parties other than the Liberals – giving $25,000 each to the conservative Family First and the libertarian Liberal Democrats, ….”

    As for the $1.75 million, isn’t it tax deductible? Not to mention our illustrious MSM have yet to seek clarification on the status of the ‘donation’. From memory, it was allegedly done in two parts and there was speculation the first payment was a donation, with the balance being a loan.
    Ah well, nothing here that a good tax accountant/government policy adviser from the Big 4 accounting firms can’t work out. There will only ever be enough taxation law to hold the ‘loopholes’ together. It’s a bit like Trumble’s donating his salary to charity. Admittedly, it’s his own charity and it’s also tax deductible.
    “Senator Hinch was also full of praise for Mr Turnbull over reports he donates about $550,000 to charity through his Turnbull Foundation – slightly more than his $528,000 prime ministerial salary
    “The fact that he gives his salary to charity is very commendable,” he said.”

    Hmmmm. $180mil wealth, $550k tax deductible donation. Is that 0.3%? That must rival Twiggy Forrest’s generous philanthropy, $440mil donated from billions in government subsidized income based on assets ‘loaned’ from our First People over a period of decades. These blokes will have this workhouse sorted in no time.
    Ah well, they’ll keep calling it tax reform, to be bolstered by cuts in everything else. Oh, except defence of course. Or our Boarder Security. My bad. Broader Security. Bloody autocorrect has gone all PC on me.
    Thank you Dr Wilson and commenters. Take care

  21. David Bruce

    As I recall it, Turnbully had shares in the company that made the copper cable for the NBN fiasco he created. The copper has to be 99.999 % pure, free from arsenic, lead and zinc. Regrettably the copper cable is not up to standard and is now exported to the South Pacific islands for their fast (?) broadband connections. No wonder they prefer to deal with the Chinese! Does anyone else see a conflict of interest with this weasel?

  22. paul walter

    Kyran has it, as usual.

    Here is more testimony:

    Mr Brocklehurst, the Headmaster, Miss Scatcherd (Bishop, Cash?)

    Some on the Opposition benches could fill in for Miss Temple and a vast heap of the public for Helen Burns.

  23. New England Cocky

    So let us turn the spotlight onto our favourite representative of the National$ Party, the self-confessed adulterous Member for New England, the first of the regional communities to experience the effects of the “economic policies” of this NLP misgovernment aimed at driving the country into a 19th century colonial export economy for the benefit of foreign multinational corporations and their shareholders living overseas.

    How much did Barnyard claim from the Parliamentary Allowances Scheme since he was improperly elected to the House of Reps in 2013 when a Kiwi citizen?

    How much of the income paid by the Australian government and people during his term as Senator for Queensland has been repaid to the people?

    Barnyard would have us believe that he also is a self-made man after an inauspicious career as an accountant in downtown Manilla NSW and St George Queensland.

    But what has he done for New England since his election??? Where are the government jobs to provide the economic backbone for the regional city economies?

  24. Henry Rodrigues

    The media led by that bastard Murdoch has never given any attention to the details of Turdball’s wealth and his fiddling of the books at FAI, and his shareholding of an company which went bust just after he sold his shares, and his authorization of a $10m grant to Murdoch’s nephew whose company was researching cloud seeding. The same media who reported in blood thirsty details about Bill Shorten and the unions Royal Commission. Surprised ???? Bloody hell !

  25. John Lord

    The account he gives of his early life seems to be far from the truth.

  26. nexusxyz

    Don’t care that much if Trumbull has money. What irks me the most is the smug git has changed his opinion in a highly duplicitous and self seeking manner.

  27. Matters Not

    That Turnbull has lots of money is perhaps beside the point. That he is in a position to add to his wealth and has (perhaps) taken that opportunity becomes the issue. (Objectively, he now, and in the future, has added to his wealth.)

    Seems that there is and was a real or potential conflict of interest in play. Anyone recall when Turnbull admitted that? Anyone recall, when a journalist asked about real or potential conflicts of interest?

    Perhaps the concept is too difficult?

  28. diannaart

    Matters Not

    “Conflict of interest” has joined the other elephants in the neo-conservative room.

    “Nothing to see here, move along …”

  29. Filz

    Late to the argument, so apologies.

    There’s no disputing that Turnbull (and/or his financial advisers) is/are smart with money. He’s also been very fortunate in having been left an inheritance of about $2 million (roughly $7 million in today’s terms), which would have been a nice little starter. What irks me, though, is not his wealth, but how he attained it and what he does with it. All his wealth has been obtained by speculative investments, i..e. any wealth creation has benefitted Turnbull and nobody else, he doesn’t “do” productive investment, which shows a benefit to others, even though Turnbull could have taken the profits. His motives are entirely selfish.

    To top that, he then has his investments held in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, which, according to his wife Lucy, was to avoid any potential “conflict of interest”. Yeah, right. The only reason anyone offshores their wealth is to hide it and/or avoid paying tax. There’s no other justification.

    As far as Turnbull donating his salary to “charity” is concerned, why hasn’t the media asked him: “Is that 100% of your salary?”, or “How much of what’s paid in to your Foundation gets given to charity?”, or even: “If you pay in 100% of your salary to “charity” (his own Foundation), then WTF do you live on?”

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