It’s paradoxical that while Australia topped a recent World Giving Index of 153 countries in terms of people’s willingness to give money, volunteer and help strangers, wealthy Australians are apt to be relatively stingy when it comes to philanthropy. This state of affairs is roundly castigated by, among others, Daniel Petre, a former Microsoft executive who describes Australia’s wealthy as ‘morally bankrupt’.
‘Generally speaking,’ he claims, ‘they don’t see a moral obligation to give generously to the society in which they’ve built their wealth.’ The average worker, he says, gives more than the super rich, a state of affairs he describes as ‘just appalling’. Simon McKeon, investment banker and corporate philanthropist, who works part-time to pursue philanthropic interests such as the Global Poverty Project and who has been named Australian of the Year, agrees, though in less categoric terms. ‘We really are not overly generous,’ he says, adding that fostering giving among the rich is a ‘national challenge’.