Buried under the noise of leadership contests, arguments about the future of coal and high-profile ministers calling it quits from parliament, a quiet debate about the fairness of Australia’s economy and society is growing louder in Canberra.

Both major parties are trying to capture the shift in mood. Prime minister Scott Morrison pitched himself as a defender of the fair go in his first press conference in the role. His government would deliver “a fair go for those who have a go,” he promised, using a phrase that came to dominate his first few months in the job.

Labor, meanwhile, has based its election campaign on a “fair go action plan” that pledges to make the economy and government “work” for ordinary people. According to Labor, a fair go means rolling back penalty rate cuts, taxing the “top end of town” and expanding government services.

But has Australia really become less fair? Are we increasingly a society in which some are born lucky and delivered into power and wealth, while others struggle to find opportunity and live a good life?

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