Maybe Geoff Dixon’s most significant announcement last week had nothing to do with the Qantas takeover. Dixon announced he is starting a charitable trust with the bonuses paid to him as Qantas CEO, which could mean as much as $60 million of philanthropy going from the Dixon asset base.

If this happens, it will catapult him to the top of Australia’s most philanthropic wealthy. Dixon wasn’t in this year’s BRW Rich List (starting point: $130 million), and by our estimate his potential donation could, at its most generous, represent over 50% of his wealth. Measured in terms of percentage of wealth donated, he’ll be in a league of his own.

So why aren’t Australia’s uber-rich — the billionaires — doing what Geoff Dixon is proposing? Why aren’t they following the examples of the two richest Americans, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who are in the process giving away a large part of their multi-billion-dollar fortunes?

It’s an issue addressed by philosopher Peter Singer in yesterday’s New York Times magazine who writes: “When we read that someone has given away a lot of their money, or time, to help others, it challenges us to think about our own behavior.”

According to BRW, the rich 200 are sitting on more than $100 billion in wealth. Singer thinks the most wealthy should be giving away a third of their income. Dixon has led. Who will follow?

Peter Fray

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