Gap Widens Between Rich & Poor – ACOSS
Monday, 2nd February 2004 at 12:02 pm
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) claims the results from a Roy Morgan Research poll of Australians show that the divide between rich and poor is growing.
A new poll from Roy Morgan Research, conducted during 2003 and drawing on a sample of 19,014, asked Australians if they agree or disagree with the statement ‘I think the gap between rich and poor is growing’ – 88% agreed.
ACOSS President Andrew McCallum says the poll shows that the vast majority of Australians believe we are a less equal society.
McCallum says the Australian values of egalitarianism and ‘a fair go’ should be the subject of informed debate.
He says the rich-poor divide should not be made worse by the major political parties using the budget surplus and a Federal election to offer some voters a tax cut. This would mean the poorest people in this country – those who don’t have a job – will get no benefit from a cut. At the same time the capacity of our national government to address urgent problems in health, education and welfare would be reduced.
ACOSS says the growing rich-poor divide can be turned around in practical ways.
It says the budget surplus means the government can afford to help low and middle income families by improving the family tax benefit system to get help to those families who need it most. In the past family payments have helped greatly to reduce child poverty, but they fall short of meeting the bare minimum costs of raising a child.
ACOSS says improving the value of rent assistance for jobless people would help reduce the impact of housing related poverty and to move to areas of higher employment (where rents are high).
It says welfare reform that leads to job training and real work is also very important and is an investment that pays a return when people get off of welfare.
Universal services such as bulk billing for doctor visits and free school education are great equalisers because everyone benefits.
A fair tax system that closes loops-holes for the well-off would mean that they pay their fair share.
Professor Peter Saunders, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, says research shows that over the six years between 1995 and 2001, average disposable incomes increased by $50 per person (or 11.9%) but the richest 20% of Australians increased their income by $111 per week (or 14%) while the poorest 20% of Australians increased their incomes by $13 per week (or 7.8%).