Giving Tuesday a day to celebrate philanthropy - Transcript, 2SM with Marcus Paul



SUBJECTS: China; Giving Tuesday; Charities.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh joins us on the program each and every Tuesday. Good morning, Andrew.


PAUL: Good, thank you, mate. Can we deal with this issue first? No doubt you were shocked by this image that was posted on Chinese state sponsored Twitter accounts over the last 24 hours. What did you make of it?

LEIGH: Utterly appalled. I felt the Prime Minister put it very well when he spoke before. Just shocking to all Australians.

PAUL: What are we going to do about it, Andrew? We've really - we’re lying down in the bed that we've made with China, if you like. We've been so reliant on them for so long. We bet on red every time and now things are coming up not so rosy.

LEIGH: The Prime Minister's rightly demanded an apology from China, and I'd hoped that that would be forthcoming very swiftly. That’s a false image which is repugnant, and disgusting to all Australians.

PAUL: Alright, let's move on to this issue. I've got a couple of callers this morning who mentioned that they saw television reports where people were still in bushfire affected communities living in caravans. Andrew, today as you know is Giving Tuesday and we're a very generous mob. Australians, we give and we give all the time, although I'm starting to feel and I'm starting to worry that the money we're giving isn't reaching those who need it most.

LEIGH: Marcus, it is Giving Tuesday and it’s a great day to celebrate the many givers. There are so many Australians who donate generously through their workplace giving programs, to people who knock on their door, to charities that work locally or globally. And it's a chance to think about whether we're able to give a bit more and about who we give to. I've been very affected by the work of the effective altruism movement. Philosopher Peter Singer is somebody who told me he started off giving a tenth of his income and moved to a third and is now moving to a half. Now that's out of reach for almost everyone, but it's something to think about aspiring to. The giving circles that bring people together with friends and neighbours to decide how to donate have helped a more thoughtful style of altruism, and the work that Philanthropy Australia has done to build a culture of philanthropy right across the business community I think is vital.

PAUL: It is, absolutely. But again, I'm going to press you on this, Andrew. You know, I like and respect you, but you didn't answer the question. My concern is, like a lot of people that write and email and ring into this program, the concern is that we give and give and give but the money is not going to where it's needed. And I go back again to the fact that, you know, so much of the charitable donations made to bushfire affected regions just isn't reaching these people on time. It's caught up in government red tape, so many different regulations, maybe insurance companies are still you know toeing the line here. That is the concern. And as important as it is to talk about Giving Tuesday and philanthropy and certainly altruism, we need to ensure the money that we are giving in good faith Andrew reaches those who need it the most.

LEIGH: Marcus, you’re absolutely right to talk about effectiveness. That's why I went straight to effective altruism, because that does start with the premise that not every charity is created equal. We’ve got to work hard to make sure that you're giving to causes that are making a difference on the ground. I know the Red Cross had challenges in getting money out quickly because they wanted to make sure that they were doing the proper assessments, that people needed the money. And the independent checks that have been done there verified that the Red Cross was acting as it should have done. But we need to be diligent as we look through charities. There are certainly charities that have been set up to benefit the people that run them rather than the people that are most vulnerable in our communities. There are charities that do amazing work. So if you give to the Against Malaria Foundation, they estimate that for about $5,000 you will save a life. It's pretty extraordinary to think that another human being could be alive thanks to your philanthropy. So there's big differences, and I'm an admirer of the site, which tries to do exactly what you're saying - look at the impact of charities on the ground, and say ‘let's not just give for the warm inner glow, let’s also give to change the world’.

PAUL: Well, that's right. I mean I prefer to give to a charity, as you say, that is making effective change and you know that the funds that you're providing are going toward vital research, whether it's saving somebody's life effectively through an operation that's required. The thing that bothers me is that quite often we see in times of adversity - whether it's bushfires, droughts, floods, etc - there's all this groundswell of hope and support that’s garnered by a number of organisations - I won't name them - and they collect millions of dollars from very big hearted Australians. And yet they hold on to the money or it's put in trust. You’ve got to be very careful, I think, Andrew.

LEIGH: You sure do. And you're pointing, I think Marcus, to the case recently where a whole lot of money was raised for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service to do work which the service themselves couldn't actually do. It was a massive outpouring of generosity, the money was raised. But the legal constraints that sat around it meant that the organisation had to take the money and couldn't spend it on certain things that people might have hoped. So we need to be very thoughtful about our philanthropy. One of the things that I hope that we get when crises come is people giving not just to solve the immediate problem, but to deal with the root causes. Dealing, for example, with the root causes of poverty in Indonesia after the Aceh tsunami. Australians were amazingly generous and a lot of the organisations were really good about saying, ‘let's make sure that Indonesia is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient, and where we're investing in health systems and the education systems of a huge and important neighbour’.

PAUL: Absolutely, Andrew, good to chat this morning, as always mate. Thank you.

LEIGH: Thanks, Marcus.

PAUL: Talk next week. There he is – Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.