Some advise to the Australian government from the world’s biggest philanthropist.
From the Sydney Morning Herald
By Tim Lester and Asher Moses
December 16, 2011
Mr Gates, who is on holiday in Sydney with his wife Melinda and their three children, took time to speak to the Herald about his future plans and his passion – global philanthropy.
He also ruled out speculation that he might return to the helm of Microsoft.
”Australia is making good increases,” he said, referring to the plan in the budget in May to almost double the country’s $4.8 billion foreign aid budget over the next four years. The planned increase lifts aid from .35 per cent of Australia’s gross national income (GNI) to 0.5 per cent in 2015-16, just enough for Australia to reach the OECD average for aid budgets and still modest against some of Europe’s leading donors.
Mr Gates calls the impact of Australian aid ”phenomenal”, but singles out Britain’s plan to reach 0.7 per cent of GNI by 2013 as ”a shining example” because its economy is ”much weaker” than Australia’s.
”Australia’s in a very wonderful position where you have some flexibility; not total flexibility but some,” he said when asked whether the government could afford to postpone its planned return to surplus in 2012-13.
”There are levels of deficits that are not that damaging.
”If your deficit’s growing at less than, say, your economic growth, that’s OK.”
He revealed he met the mining billionaire Andrew Forrest last week. ”I enjoyed his enthusiasm and energy,” Mr Gates said of the meeting organised at Mr Forrest’s request. ”He’s thinking about how he wants to give money away.”
Mr Gates believes billionaires around the world are showing a stronger interest in philanthropy.
”You are seeing a trend outside the United States, including in Australia, where people are thinking more along these lines, and I think that’s fantastic.”
He applauds the Gillard government’s plans to price carbon.
”It’s a very positive thing that in looking at the future, they’ve been willing to do what they did on the carbon tax.
”It requires some people like Europe and Australia to get out in front, and it’s frustrating when other people are not doing their part on that.”
Last week the Fortune website reported rumours that Mr Gates was considering a comeback to Microsoft.
”I’m part-time involved with Microsoft including even being in touch this week to give some of my advice,” he said, but he says the philanthropic foundation he formed with his wife will remain his priority.
”That will be what I do the rest of my life.
”The foundation requires all of my energy and we feel we’re having a great impact.”
Mr Gates also reflected on fellow computer pioneer and rival Steve Jobs, who died in October.
Mr Gates and Mr Jobs, founders of the personal computing revolution, mixed some mutual respect with pot-shots at one another. Mr Jobs recently said Mr Gates was ”unimaginative” and had not invented anything.
Mr Gates said Mr Jobs was ”brilliant”. He enjoyed working with him on Mac software and also competing with him, but ”because the Microsoft machines outsold his machines by a lot he was always kind of tough on Microsoft, but that’s fine, he was a brilliant person”.