Three years ago, thousands of Australians signed an online petition to get Malcolm Turnbull to take a A$1 ($1.08) salary — or donate his entire pay packet to charity.

Now the Prime Minister is doing exactly that.

Turnbull is donating his entire A$528,000 annual salary to charity, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Labor recently hit out at the leader, accusing him of campaigning for company tax cuts to benefit his own wealth.


The Opposition targeted him in recently-launched attack ads, which state that he has "millions invested in funds which hold shares in dozens of big businesses which would benefit from the tax cuts".

"Who exactly is he looking after?" the ads ask.

Turnbull slammed Labor in response, saying the party's previous leaders would describe the campaign as "mean-spirited" and "politics of envy".

"That's apparently not the Labor way any more. You are not allowed to have a go or be successful," he said.

He also noted that many Australians, including Labor MPs, have similar investments.

"Virtually every member of this house who has interests in Australian superannuation funds … has investments in all of the big multinationals, all of the big companies and banks and so forth," he told parliament yesterday.

Senator David Leyonhjelm suggested Labor's actions were childish.

"It's a purile debate. The idea that because you're rich you're not qualified to have an opinion about what's in the best interest of Australia is just ridiculous," he said.


"It's a ridiculous idea. Your personal success in life has got nothing to do with your ability to make good judgments for the country."

Senator David Hinch added: "I think the Labor Party's attack is pretty low. We all know he's a self-made millionaire, and the fact that he gives his salary to charity is very commendable. Wish I could afford to."

But just how exactly did Turnbull get so obscenely wealthy — and who gets the credit for that?

How Turnbull made his millions

When Turnbull first became Prime Minister in 2015, a big question we all had was whether he would downsize — yes, downsize — to Kirribilli House.

Turnbull and his wife Lucy live in a multimillion-dollar waterfront mansion in Point Piper, a 1930s Mediterranean-style home named "Le Gai Soleil", which some reports estimate is worth A$50 million. The average price-per-square-metre is about A$61,000.

The Prime Minister's family has an estimated worth of A$180m - more than anyone else in Parliament.

But how did he get so loaded?

Turnbull pictured at his waterside mansion. Photo / News Corp Australia
Turnbull pictured at his waterside mansion. Photo / News Corp Australia

Turnbull has previously noted he did not have a wealthy upbringing. He was raised solely by his father, Bruce (his mother, Coral Lansbury, left the family home when he was 10 years old) and said he had very little money, and spent most of what he did have on sending Malcolm to a good private school.

"My father and I went through times of great financial insecurity," he told Fairfax Media back in 1993. "We had a two-room flat. He was frugal. Yes, it was very important. The reason is, financial independence gives you freedom. If I made a hundred million next week it wouldn't change my lifestyle. The key thing, the only thing, is that it gives you independence. You can't do things unless you have a bit of brass."

Since school, Turnbull has worked his way up to a series of lucrative jobs — working as a journalist, a barrister, a banker, a businessman, a Rhodes scholar, an Oxford student and finally Prime Minister.

In 1987, he established an investment banking firm, Whitlam Turnbull & Co Ltd. He left 10 years later to become a managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia.

But it was one key investment that really inflated his bank balance.

In 1994, Turnbull made a A$500,000 investment in internet service provider OzEmail.

In 1999, before the dotcom bubble burst, he sold it to Worldcom for A$60m.

According to the Herald Sun, the Turnbull family now boasts an impressive property portfolio, including four office units in Sydney's Elizabeth Bay, a lavish apartment at Canberra's Kingston Foreshore, and around 20 rural NSW properties in the Hunter Valley.

His Point Piper home on Wolseley Road is ranked among the world's top 10 most exclusive residential streets.

They also own an investment apartment at Manhattan's The Century, an apartment building in the heart of New York.

How much does Turnbull donate to charity?

You might argue that foregoing a half-a-million-dollar salary is less impressive when you're sitting on A$180m in assets.

But Turnbull is known for being a generous donor. According to the Daily Telegraph, he puts around A$550,000 to charity through the Turnbull Foundation, and makes additional donations to the Wayside Chapel and the Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation in Redfern.

Back in 2001, when he and his wife set up the Turnbull Foundation, he told the public broadcaster of the importance of philanthropy if one is wealthy.

"I've always been a philanthropic person. We've always been very generous. I think it's a good thing to do. I think it's — you know, if you're a Christian you could say it's a Christian thing to do, but every religion, every ethical system recognises the value of providing support to people that, you know, that are not as well off as you are," he said.

"Or to causes, institutions that serve the community, be they hospitals or schools or, you know, more sort of social work oriented organisations like the Redfern Foundation."

At the time, he said he didn't believe there was enough philanthropy in Australia. "I think we've got a much less developed tradition of philanthropy in Australia than in the United States."