New research by Oxfam Australia shows that the wealthiest one per cent of Australians together have more money than 60 per cent of the nation’s population, showing that the ‘lucky country’ is not immune to the creeping inequality that is snaking around the world and slowing the fight against poverty. An Oxfam poll, also released today, shows 79 per cent of Australians surveyed think the gap between the richest and poorest Australians has widened over the past decade, with the majority of those saying this is making Australia a worse place to live.
Oxfam’s report, Still the Lucky Country?, shows that Australia’s richest nine individuals have a net worth of $58.6 billion (US$54.8 billion), more than the bottom 20 per cent (4.54 million people). Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said the numbers were a staggering illustration that the wealth gap in Australia was stark and mirrored a global trend that needed to be addressed by the Australian Government and governments around the world. “Oxfam’s poll results show that inequality is clearly on the minds of many Australians,” Dr Szoke said. The poll has also found:
70 per cent of Australians surveyed think it is unfair that the richest 1 per cent of Australians owns more than 60 per cent of the poorest Australians
76 per cent of Australians don’t think the very wealthy pay enough tax
75 per cent think it is important that the Australian Government take action to close the gap between average and poor Australians, and the richest Australians
79 per cent of Australians think the rich have too much influence over where this country is headed.
79 per cent of Australians want world leaders to tackle the growing issue of inequality
Oxfam is releasing the research in the lead-up to Friday’s Civil 20 (C20) Summit in Melbourne, the first of the G20 ‘satellite’ conferences in the lead-up to the G20 Leader’s Summit in November. G20 officials from around the world are also in Melbourne meeting over three days from Sunday.
Dr Szoke said Australia, as president of the G20 this year, had a major opportunity to tackle inequality – which was growing globally and in all but four G20 countries. “Tackling inequality and sharing the benefits of economic growth has been on the G20’s agenda before and it should be now, with the wealth gap ever-widening and evidence that inequality can be bad for growth itself. The Prime Minister should put inequality on the agenda for G20 leaders in Brisbane.”
Dr Szoke said the G20 could help curb inequality by cracking down on tax dodging of multinational corporations, something that 88 per cent of Australians surveyed want the Australian Government to take action on. “These results clearly echo major concerns right around the world that the gap between rich and poor is growing and making the world a worse place to live,” Dr Szoke said. “We’ve recently seen US President Barack Obama, IMF chief Christine Lagarde, the World Economic Forum, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and even the Pope call for action to address inequality.
“By concentrating wealth and power in the hands of the few, inequality robs the poorest people of the support they need to improve their lives, and means that their voices go unheard. If the global community fails to curb widening inequality, we can expect more economic and social problems, undermining efforts to eradicate poverty.”
In January, at the World Economic Forum, Oxfam released a landmark report showing half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion – own the same wealth as the 85 richest people. Since then the number has dropped to only 66 people owning half the world’s wealth.
Dr Szoke is on the steering committee of the C20. For interviews or more information, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801. Visit the Oxfam website.