Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time on Monday. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time on Monday. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Why attacks on Turnbull’s wealth will backfire

OPINION

MALCOLM Turnbull continues to be chained to the political pillory because he has achieved what millions of his fellow Australians would like. He has become wealthy.

At a time when MPs are randomly accused of being in politics for the money, Mr Turnbull is being attacked for taking a pay cut to enter Parliament.

He gives away his salary to charity because he can afford to as - and this has hardly been a secret - the bloke is Scrooge-McDuck-backstroking-through-a-bin-of-cash rich.

We've known of his complete salary sacrifice to worthy causes since he first revealed it in 2015. That's almost less of a secret than the fact that he has a lot of dough.

But in what might be called an episode of hairshirt politics, Labor is attacking the Prime Minister for being able to afford expensive suits.

So obviously the two don't fit: Mr Turnbull can't be in it for the money while being big-time wealthy. But Labor is hoping the idea the Prime Minister is a Point Piper plutocrat will turn voters against him on the basis he has no idea what ordinary people are enduring.

He's a snob and out of touch, according to the barbs tossed from the Opposition benches, which in many cases are fuelled by focus group opinions and comments from individual constituents.

It's an odd type of criticism that comes without any solid justification - the Prime Minister is guilty of being rich because he's rich. End of prosecution.

The Labor campaign has been pumped up in advance of the by-elections on July 28, particularly in the battler seat of Longman, and as a backdrop to the government's determination to have tax cuts for business approved by Parliament.

The Turnbull corporate tax policy is vulnerable on many grounds. There are only flimsy guarantees big business would use the tax windfall to hire more and increase wages and investment. In fact banks that are beneficiaries are likely to use the saved revenue to employ greater technology, not more people.

But the fact the Prime Minister might make "a few quid" from implementation of his policy is not one of those vulnerabilities. Further, if he was to get more income, so would millions of others through their superannuation funds.

The other question is whether the voters of Longman and elsewhere will mark him down for being successful.

It's an outdated notion which once thrived when Australian had firmly fixed barriers to social movement, based on wealth. Many of those barriers have disappeared.

Times have changed, but Labor is counting on a residual resentment of wealth will work in its favour.

Our former ambassador to Washington, Kim Beazley, says a big difference between us and Americans is that the priority for Americans is freedom and for Australians it is equality.

Among the many aspects of Donald Trump that might have prevented him becoming President, being rich wasn't one of them.

However, Labor is hoping the inequality issue will work against Mr Turnbull and the government.

This doesn't take into account the increasing approval of those who take chances and benefit from hard work. There is a sneaking admiration for Mr Turnbull among voters who also want a chance to get ahead.

Labor might have miscalculated on the magnitude of that admiration.