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Choosing opportunity: a policy blueprint for a fairer Australia

Middle class Working class Economic development Australia

Executive Summary

The strength of Australia’s economy and the opportunities it affords everyday citizens in a global context today is unarguable: our country has enjoyed over two decades of economic growth, with all classes of Australians enjoying the associated benefits. But it is becoming increasingly clear to economists, policy makers and the general public that the Australian economy is undergoing a challenging transformation. And making sure everyday Australians continue to benefit from future economic growth requires constant, honest appraisal of Australia’s existing policy settings, and a clear focus on important, equitable economic reform.

This report provides a policy blueprint for ensuring greater equality of opportunity in Australia and promoting the economy’s continued growth into the future. The strength of today’s middle class – the backbone of the Australian economy – is in large part due to the hard policy decisions that were made throughout Australia’s recent modern history. Australia is often dubbed the ‘lucky’ country, but in fact, the strong economic growth and rise in living standards Australians are now accustomed to is not simply the result of good fortune. Active public policy choices - ones that suited the challenges of the previous generation – helped pave the way to the stable period of economic growth that is only now under threat.

Today, new global challenges are emerging that risk the future stability of Australia’s economy and society. Bold, creative and innovative new reform agendas must now be conceived, debated and legislated. Key areas of public policy need to be reexamined and reformed to orient Australia’s economic and social trajectory towards a stable and prosperous future.

This report begins by highlighting eight key priority areas for reform that will help grow and secure the middle class of Australia: prioritising wage growth, ensuring strong and equitable superannuation growth, improving the access to and quality of education, improving housing affordability, ensuring equal access to transport services, strategically investing in the ‘new economy’, modernising Australia’s healthcare system, and reorienting Australia’s taxation system towards a more equitable setting.

The first section of this report defines what equal opportunity means in the Australian context, and what is really meant by the term ‘middle class’. A distinction is drawn between the global middle class and Australia’s middle class. By international standards, almost all Australians are in the global middle class, which is often crudely determined through measurements such as car ownership or living above the global poverty line.

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