Position paper

Inequality in Australia: an economic, social and political disaster

Social equality Wages Economics Income tax Australia

Extreme inequality – which is what we are now experiencing in Australia - slows economic growth, creates social havoc and undermines faith in our political institutions.

The vast wealth generated over the last three decades has decisively gone into the hands of the privileged few, and not the many. While some brag about the absence of recessions in the “lucky country” Australian workers have been experiencing anaemic wages growth, the slowest of any sustained period since World War II. That is a terrible indictment on the Morrison Government. The fact is Australia did a better job of providing “a fair go for all” for most of our post war history than we have managed to achieve in recent years, even though profits have sky rocketed and growth has been steady.

Over the last 27 years labour productivity has increased dramatically and every Australian worker has contributed to that achievement. Yet only the powerful elite in the banks, insurance companies, big business and multinationals have significantly benefited from this additional wealth. Profits, executive salaries and bonuses have soared while average real wage growth has remained anaemic. Consequently, workers have been trying to stretch a static pay packet to cover rising energy bills, childcare costs, medical expenses and other necessities of life. The battle to make-ends-meet has become an ongoing nightmare for most working families.

Policy Solutions

  • Wages policy: Ensuring that real wages rise in line with national productivity improvements through the introduction of a new Living Wage, tackling insecure work, restoring penalty rates for 700,000 low paid workers, raising public sector wages and reform the collective bargaining system so it can deliver rising living standards;
  • Tax policy: Making sure everyone pays their fair share of tax including corporations and the wealthiest members of our society. This includes reforms to capital gains, negative gearing and family trusts;
  • Raise Newstart: Lifting the very poorest Australians out of dire poverty including through an increase in Newstart and an increase in the aged pension for those without adequate superannuation;
  • Increased expenditure on health and education;
  • Jobs plan: A comprehensive jobs plan to reduce underemployment and unemployment; and,
  • Measures to tackle excessive corporate power: The Banking Royal Commission has shown the extent of corporate excess and law breaking. Australia is also littered by firms with oligopoly power in certain sectors. Stronger competition policy is required to ensure people are not being ripped off by excessive prices.
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