Ironman Abbott and his G20 lifeguards can save lives by tackling rising inequality

Media Releases, News article written on the 14 Nov 2014

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with Barack Obama, David Cameron and four other world leaders are on patrol at Southbank today and responsible for saving people drowning in the rising tide of inequality.

Well, sort of.

International aid and development agency Oxfam will today use their famous political leader ‘big heads’ dressed as lifeguards at Liana Lounge, Southbank, in an effort to draw G20 leaders’ attention to the power they have to tackle inequality.

Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said it was vital that the G20 meeting in Brisbane this weekend placed inequality squarely on the agenda, and in the Communique.

“The rising tide of inequality is a critical issue not only affecting the world’s poorest nations, but almost all G20 countries as well,” Dr Szoke said. “Getting people to Southbank dressed up as our world leaders in lifeguard costumes is a light-hearted way of making a very serious point.”

Oxfam revealed in January that 85 of the world’s richest people held as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population.

“From the IMF to the Pope, from President Obama to the World Economic Forum, there is a growing consensus that inequality is the challenge of our time and that failing to act will have enormous economic and social consequences,” Dr Szoke said.

“G20 countries are home to more than half the world’s poorest people – the G20 leaders need to heed the warnings and acknowledge that inequality derails work to end poverty and seriously threatens economic growth and stability.

“As leaders of major economies, they have the power to turn back the tide.”

Oxfam has welcomed comments from Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey that the G20 needs to crack down on tax dodging if nations want to reduce poverty and turn rising inequality around.

“We hope this shift is the start of Australia, as G20 President, showing leadership at this weekend’s summit to firmly acknowledge rapidly rising inequality as a threat to growth, and commit to a two per cent growth target that not only benefits the rich but also the poorest,” Dr Szoke said.

Dr Szoke called on the G20 to address inequality by finishing the job of clamping down on tax dodging by multinationals and going beyond the global tax reform underway to fully include developing countries in decision making and broadening the scope of tax negotiations so that all countries benefit.

“Oxfam calculates that poor countries miss out on US $100b each year because of corporate tax avoidance,” Dr Szoke said.

“It’s an outrage that tax incentives for multinationals operating in Sierra Leone – where Ebola is currently raging – are equivalent to 59 per cent of the country’s entire budget, and more than eight times the government’s spending on health.”

“The gap between the rich and the poor is extreme and growing. Since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has more than doubled. During the same period, more than a million mothers have died in childbirth for want of decent health services,” Dr Szoke said.

“G20 Leaders meeting in Brisbane need to tackle rising inequality head on or risk leaving millions of people trapped in poverty.”

The leaders represented will be Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, British Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Jacob Zuma.

For interviews or more information, please contact Laurelle Keough at Oxfam Australia on +61 425 701 801 or, or Angus Hohenboken on +61 428 367 318 or