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A Letter to the People of Australia

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Increasing inequality of both wealth and income are growing problems in Australia. A country with such inequality is worse for both rich and poor. Reducing this inequality must be a priority for the next federal government. The issues highlighted in the 2018 report of an Expert Roundtable, sponsored by two independent think tanks, Australia21 and The Australia Institute, have not been addressed and the situation is now more extreme than it was four years ago. Using the Gini Coefficient as an indication of income inequality for 16 OECD countries, Australia in 2017 ranked 4th worst after the US, UK, and Spain. And in a figure which compared 35 OECD countries in their ratio of tax revenue to GDP, Australia ranked 28th lowest with a figure of 28.2% compared with the OECD average of 34.3. In Denmark, the figure was 45.9%. Among the issues highlighted in the 2018 report were the following:

  • The social and economic disadvantage of Australia's First Nations people is profound and unacceptable. This has long been the case. It is time to make the rapid reduction of this inequality a top priority in line with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

  • Current tax and transfer policies are profoundly unfair, especially to Australians on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

  • Every Australian should have basic entitlements to food, clothing, shelter, health and education from birth.

  • We support a return to the notion of a “living wage,” a policy supported by most Australians. No Australians should be living below the poverty line.

  • Gross Domestic Product was never intended to be a measure of total wellbeing. It is time to add to GDP a measure that reflects the sort of country we want to be.

  • We need to review the industrial relations system and establish new way of empowering workers to engage with employers about their conditions of work and remuneration.

  • Current investment in early childhood development in Australia is grossly inadequate and should be increased as an investment for the future wellbeing of all Australians. Our children are our future.

  • Economic inequality is also interlinked with health as well as social inequalities.

  • Australia must commit nationally to the principle of equal pay for equal work by men and women.

  • We need a positive story about the change that has to take place outside the bounds of conventional politics, and it must include a statement of the values for which Australians stand

  • Humans are social beings and the economic impacts of inequality result in social fragmentation. While there has been a lot of research undertaken into the health implications of inequality, studies into the right of everyone to lead a meaningful life are also required.

After the results of the election are known, Australia21 (in collaboration with our partners) will be working to promote a high-level national discussion about these matters and how they can most effectively be addressed by the new government.

Contact: Em Prof Bob Douglas AO, Director Australia21. Tel 0409 233 13


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