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Oxfam Finds Widening Wealth Gap in Australia

22 January 2019 at 4:27 pm
Luke Michael
Australia is in the midst of a billionaire wealth boom while low-income earners, women and Indigenous people are left behind, according to new analysis from Oxfam.

Luke Michael | 22 January 2019 at 4:27 pm


Oxfam Finds Widening Wealth Gap in Australia
22 January 2019 at 4:27 pm

Australia is in the midst of a billionaire wealth boom while low-income earners, women and Indigenous people are left behind, according to new analysis from Oxfam.  

The charity’s Australian inequality report found that in 2018 there was another record increase in the number of Australian billionaires, from 33 to 43, with their collective wealth increasing by $160 billion in total.

Oxfam said as an organisation committed to fighting poverty around the world, it was concerned there was no end in sight to increasing inequality.

“Countries that don’t make sufficient investments into public programs and services that work to reduce inequality and poverty risk falling into a downward spiral towards a further extreme between the haves and have-nots,” the report said.

It called for action from governments and corporations to reduce the inequality divide, by addressing key drivers of inequality – in the tax system, public services provision, and business supply chains.

Oxfam Australia CEO Helen Szoke said as the wealth of Australian billionaires had grown, the wealth of the bottom half of the country had not changed and ordinary workers’ wage growth had remained stagnant.

She added Australian women continued to face economic disadvantage – earning 85 cents for every dollar earned by men – while Indigenous Australians were also being left behind, with stats showing the proportion of Indigenous households with incomes in the bottom 25 per cent was double that of non-Indigenous households.

“The yawning gap between health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Australia – who face a devastating infant mortality rate that is double that of non-Indigenous women, and even worse in remote areas – is a symptom of this stark inequality,” Szoke said.

“These are shameful records showing the circumstances faced by many of our nation’s First Peoples. Tackling this health disparity would be a good place to start in spending some of the millions of dollars that large businesses avoid paying in taxes each year.”

Oxfam is calling for the government to introduce tougher tax laws requiring large Australian companies – a third of which have paid no tax over four consecutive years – to publicly report on their profits and taxes paid on a country by country basis.

The charity also said the government should reinstate the Women’s Budget Statement to better analyse the impact of budgetary decisions on gender equality, and properly resource public health and monitoring services that meet Indigenous Australians’ needs to close the health inequality gap.

“Australia is among the wealthiest nations in the world, yet the pervasive gap between the haves and the have-nots persists,” Szoke said. “This inequality simply cannot – and does not need to – continue.”   

Anglicare Australia last year released a report which found tax concessions for Australia’s wealthiest 20 per cent were costing more than $68 billion a year, while the bottom 20 per cent of Australians received just $6.1 billion in concessions.

Kasy Chambers, Anglicare Australia executive director, told Pro Bono News Oxfam’s latest analysis showed that inequality was not only real, but a choice by government.

“The money we spend keeping the wealthiest households wealthy is greater than the cost of Newstart, disability support, or any other benefit,” Chambers said.

“We should remember this whenever anybody claims that we can’t afford to raise Newstart or take action on inequality. The government must accept that growing inequality is a problem across Australia and spread the benefits of prosperity to those who need it.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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