Who You Should Have Voted For

Happy new financial year!

Actually, the start of the new fiscal year won’t be that happy for everybody.

I’ve always thought that politics was showbiz for ugly people, and the weekend’s non-election had more twists and turns that an episode of House of Cards.

It seems like the only real winner from the election so far is Nick Xenophon, who looks like he’ll be able to wield a big stick in the new parliament. Over the years I’ve had a bit to do with him, and I quite like the guy.

So, how will he influence your hip pocket?

Well, negative gearing reform is all but dead and buried.

Xenophon is pro-negative gearing … he’s apparently got eight investment properties himself.

He’s also in favour of a Royal Commission into the banks, and for cutting super entitlements for the wealthy. Though we’ll have to wait a while to see what happens with the Coalition’s proposed changes to superannuation.

The bigger problem is this:

With a potentially hung parliament, whoever becomes Prime Minister will spent much of their time just trying to keep their job (and the rest of their time massaging the egos of the cross benchers).

So in terms of reform, don’t expect much to happen in the next three years (or until we get sent back to have another go at voting). And if there’s crisis, like a GFC Mk 2, don’t expect any strong leadership at the helm.

Of course we don’t actually know how any of this is going to pan out yet … but we’ll keep you informed.

And now, here’s my nationally syndicated newspaper column.

Who You Should Have Voted For

As a finance guy, I look at both political parties the same way I look at a separated couple who have leased BMWs and $48,000 each in credit card debt, but are trying to one-up each other to win their kids’ affection.

“Hey Tammy, do you want a pony?”

“Hey Timmy, do you want … umm… Delta Goodrem to play at your eleventh birthday party?”

Let’s be honest: what both sides really care about is who gets to drive around in the fancy white car with the little Aussie flags on the bonnet (hell, even the Greens want flags on their Prius).

It’s enough to turn you into a ranty-tanty Alan Jones. Or, in my case, to feel fed up with the lot of them.

So today, in honour of the political Punch-and-Judy show, I’m going to share with you the stories of two people who genuinely deserve your vote.

They’re not wealthy. They’re not seeking election. They’re not wanting handouts.

They’re people like you and me.

The Country Mum Who Built a Hospital

“What am I going to do now?”

Helen Brown was a typical stay-at-home mum, wondering what to do with herself after her fourth and final son left the nest.

“We are not wealthy. We live in Kyabram, and my husband runs a small signwriting business. We’d never been overseas before, so when the boys left we decided we should have a holiday”, says Helen.

So in 2007 Helen and her hubby saved up and went to Uganda.

They quickly realised they were more interested in meeting people than watching animals, and they struck up many friendships during their travels. They stayed in touch with one bloke they met, a community leader called Ssenwogerere (or David for short).

After they got home, David wrote to them and mentioned that five elder women from his village needed to raise $200 as seed capital to get into the chicken business. Helen decided she’d do some fundraising in the Kyabram community, and ended up raising the dough.

The following year, she saved up and took two of her sons to the Ugandan village to meet the women.
That trip was a turning point for Helen and the village of Lubanda. When she returned home she started up HUG (Help Us Grow) as a not-for-profit organisation to help the village community help themselves.

Helen is not religious, she believes passionately in a hand up rather than a handout, and she doesn’t draw a wage from HUG. “Every last cent goes to the community”, she tells me.

Small chickens?


Since 2008, HUG has built the village a community centre where the locals come together and learn new skills, a secondary school, and a medical clinic that serves a population of around 50,000 people.

How’s that for a legacy?

“I go every year. This is my tenth year … and I spend three months there each time”, she tells me.

“Why do you do it?”, I ask.

“Because it fills me with absolute joy.”


The Man Who Never Forgot

Chennupati Jagadish grew up dirt poor in a small village in southern India.

He may never have gone to high school if it weren’t for a kind teacher who invited him to live with his family and study.

And you could say that Chennupati made the best of it. He went on to become one of the world’s leading physicists, lauded for his pioneering work in nanotechnology. He’s even received an Order of Australia for his contribution to physics, engineering and a whole bunch of other stuff that goes straight over my head.

The dude is seriously accomplished (and what’s more he’s a Barefooter, which is how I heard about him!). For a boy who studied by a kerosene lamp, he’s come a long way.

Now there are plenty of people who get to the top of the tree, only to forget the kind people who helped them along.

Not Chennupati.

Despite being on an academic’s wage, he wanted to repay the favour by giving students from the developing world the same opportunity he had all those years ago.

So he and his wife ploughed $140,000 of their own cash into an endowment fund. It pays all the students’ costs — airfares, living expenses, the whole enchilada — while they’re studying away from home.

“It’s important to remember the people who helped me, and to express our gratitude. I want to leave my mark behind me, and our endowment will continue for ever.”

Again, how’s that for a legacy?

“I’m a scientist, and I publish a lot of papers”, says Chennupati, “but the most satisfying thing in my life is helping young people.”

Living Your Legacy

I’ve shared these stories with you today for two reasons:

First, for the past 55 days you could be forgiven for thinking you live in southern India, or Uganda, with all the problems the pollies have spooked us with.

The truth is we live in the greatest nation on earth. I mean, where else in the world could one of the biggest election issues be changes to super: “You mean I can have only $1.6 million in my super fund tax free … THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!”

Second, you don’t have to be a politician to make things happen. Hell, you don’t even need to be wealthy.

And that’s the real story here: Helen and Chennupati have, each in their own way, created a legacy that will live much longer than the next election cycle.

Tread Your Own Path!