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I WANT TO TALK about well-meaning celebrities and their charities and I want to be less than charitable. Obviously I’m talking about Shane Warne and the foundation he has just shut down in a fit of convenient pique. And I'll get to him in a minute.
Warne’s dropped the bomb and the ball and gone off to be paid a huge amount of money ( maybe millions of $$) to appear on a reality TV show.
Talk about ‘I'm a celebrity get me out of the charity jungle’.
But first, and I don't want be guilty of self-aggrandisement here, I want to tell you a story to make a point.
More than 30 years ago during the Ethiopian famine, I held a charity fundraiser on radio station. 3AW. I called it the STIC appeal after John Lennon’s So This is Christmas.
I asked listeners to give their kids one less Xmas present and give me that money. And they did. And we raised $400,000 in a week.
We used that money to buy cooking oil and high energy biscuits and blankets. It was interesting being an entrepreneur. Qantas offered me a cargo jet for $130,000 to get the goods to Africa. I shopped around and found an Air Romania Charter for $70,000 so we had an extra $60,000 for food for the famine victims.
most of them died
We flew into the capital of Addis Ababa and then took a rickety DC 3 to a northern town called Alamata. Here, we saw 25,000 starving homeless refugees and most, if not all of them, died.
That's the lasting searing image I have of Ethiopia. But there is one more.
Back in the capital I was in the World Vision office and happened to be standing next to a Telex machine (well, it was 1984) and I happened to see some travel arrangements and hotel details chattering off the Telex. It hit me. In the middle of all this poverty the charity’s executives were all flying First Class and staying in Five Star hotels. I never forgot it. And I wondered what all the people, whose hard-earned dollars were selflessly going to the cause, would think of that.
At the time, I was also chairman of the Variety Club in Melbourne and we had earnest discussions about how much of the money we raised could morally be spent on administration. The figure we agreed on was 10 per cent.
Ninety cents of every dollar we were given went to the people to whom you donated the money. And that's the way it should be.
I accept that times change. Raising charity dollars is harder. Charities now employ professional fundraisers and we accept, reluctantly, that you have to spend money to raise money.
come under scrutiny
But even massive charities like the Red Cross come under scrutiny for how much they spend on salaries and expenses and how for years they stock-pile funds that we thought had gone out to the desperate and the needy. After an earthquake or tsunami.
The Age newspaper has done some sterling work recently in exposing just how little of the money raised by some famous charity functions actually gets to the people it is being raised for. The foundation named after legendary footballer Ted Whitten is one.
And then there is Shane Warne. When the newspaper claimed in November that as little as 16 cents in the dollar went to disadvantaged children Warne went apeshit.
Move on, nothing to see here. It was an outrageous slur. A personal vendetta against him. He was still saying it as he baulked at a Government audit and closed his foundation down. He said on Facebook ‘We have absolutely nothing to hide’.
king of spin
But, as Stuart Bocking observed on PM Live the other night: He is the King of Spin.
I'm sure good things came out of the Shane Warne Foundation. Children did benefit. Hearts were in the right place.
But it is not a good look when your brother is on the payroll. When, according to The Age, he was paid $80,000 in a year when only $54,600 went to beneficiaries. And when you pay your parents for office space.
And look at Warne’s own figures in his defense. He says that since 2004 his foundation has handed out $4,300,000. But he says they raised nearly $8 million. What happened to the rest of it?
I look at overheads and expenses like that and my mind goes back to that office in Ethiopia.
[This is an edited version of my editorial on HINCH Live on SKY News on Foxtel Ch. 601, Sunday, January 31, 2016]