It is time to tackle inequality in Australia

It is time to tackle inequality in Australia

Ahead of the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, it is staggering to note that the wealthiest 1 per cent of Australians, just 250,000 people, have more than double the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the rest of the population - or more than 12.5 million people.

Oxfam is committed to tackling poverty and inequality, but figures such as these reveal that we have a broken economic system that is concentrating more wealth in the hands of the rich and powerful, while ordinary people struggle to scrape by.

Although there was a slight decrease in the number of billionaires in Australia to 36 in 2019, the number has more than tripled over the past 10 years and their wealth is still increasing. The wealth of Australian billionaires, who are mostly men, grew by an average of USD $460 million from 2018 to 2019.

This concentration of wealth in the hands of the super-rich is occurring while the share of wealth of the bottom half of our community has decreased over the last decade and workers' wages continue to stagnate in Australia.

At a global level, inequality is shockingly entrenched and vast, often affecting women and girls the most.

On a global scale, the wealthiest 1 per cent of people in the world have more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people. This is not fair or sustainable. The vast gap between the few rich and many poor in the world can't be resolved without deliberate policies aimed at tackling inequality, and too few governments are committed to implementing these - ours included.

Given the state of inequality in Australia and abroad, and the context of worsening climate related disasters, the Australian Government must ensure that multinational corporations are paying their fair share of tax.

This would boost public funding to allow it to provide better services to all Australians.

The Australian Tax Office estimated that in 2016-17, large corporations avoided paying $2 billion in taxes - the same amount as the entire National Bushfire Recovery Fund.

It's time to tackle inequality and climate change together. The only people who benefit from the status quo of economic inequality and weak action to cut fossil fuel emissions are a select group of companies and the super-rich who run them.

These are the vested interests preventing meaningful action to tackle inequality, cut emissions and avert the worst of the climate crisis.

Lyn Morgain is Oxfam Australia Australia chief executive.