Wednesday, October 21, 2015
In any case, I think there's huge goodwill towards Turnbull. Everyone can see how super smart he is, and we're hoping he'll use that smartness to make Australia a better place to live. A nation with less divisiveness, less fear that baddies are out to get us, more unity, a more positive vision of what we can become and more of us doing our bit to make it a reality.
As with any politician, he'll have his share of policies we disagree with, but it would be so nice to have a prime minister all of us can be proud of.
We might even vote to keep him, despite some disagreement on particular issues. Politicians come as a package, and you never like every item that's in the Christmas hamper.
But to say few Australians envy the well-off is not, I hope, to say we don't mind how little tax they contrive to pay, or how hard they struggle to avoid their obligations to the rest of the community.
Turnbull says of himself and his wife, Lucy, that "we've worked hard, we've paid our taxes, we've given back". It's the giving-back bit I like. And, of course, paying your taxes – in Australia, and in full, according to Turnbull – is the first and most basic way we "give back".
What really gets to me is not the people who've done well for themselves, but their seemingly growing inclination to be mean and grasping about it. I hate their selfishness and their self-congratulation.
I've worked hard for all I've got, it's all mine, but now you have the effrontery not just to make me pay taxes, but want me to pay a lot more than other people.
Taxation isn't theft and never was. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilised society, as someone once said. And he was even an American.
Expecting the better-off to pay a higher proportion of their income than the less well-off isn't socialism – as the better-off increasingly tell each other on social media - it's the Australian way. You put more in and you get back less. Why? Because you're fortunate enough to be able to afford it.
The Aussie way is that if you don't need the dole or the pension, you shouldn't get it. What's more, you should be too proud to ask for it.
It's not the Aussie way to boast about how much tax you pay, but perhaps we'd be better off if it was. Tax-paid as a status symbol. I paid far more tax than you did last year – see how successful I am?
As for self-congratulation, the bit I liked best in Turnbull's defence of his wealth was his lack of it.
"The fact is that Lucy and I have been very fortunate in our lives ..." he said. "I don't believe that my wealth, or frankly most people's wealth, is entirely a function of hard work.
"Of course, hard work is important but, you know, there are taxi drivers that work harder than I ever have and they don't have much money. There are cleaners that work harder than I ever have, or you ever have, and they don't have much money."
The world is full of people – mainly men – claiming to be "self-made" who are anything but. They seem utterly oblivious to the extent to which their wealth is owed to good fortune rather than hard work.
We're all fortunate to live in Australia. Baby boomers are fortunate to have been born at a time when few were required to go to war, when you could get a good education at little cost, leading to a good job and little unemployment. When buying a home wasn't all that hard and you got in early for a 40-year stint of ever-rising house prices.
It's only relatively recently that many people have begun inheriting sums of money worth talking about. But to see yourself as self-made merely because you inherited no wealth is self-delusion.
IQ is, to a large extent, inherited. And EQ – self-discipline and the ability to get on with other people – is often something we gain from our parents' example. It's good fortune to be born into a family of readers.
All this is why "equality of opportunity" is a worthy goal for public policy, but something no government could ever get anywhere near attaining.
Back to Turnbull: "There is a lot of luck in life and that's why all of us should say, when we see somebody less fortunate than ourselves, 'There but for the grace of God goes me'."
You don't have to be any kind of believer to believe that – and be better for it.
Giving a helping hand to those who weren't issued with as much grace as we were is why, brothers and sisters, we should pay our fair whack of tax and do it cheerfully, grateful we can so easily afford it.