Oxfam welcomes Treasurer Joe Hockey’s comments on inequality and Ebola

Africa, Campaigns and Advocacy, Emergencies, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 13 Nov 2014

Oxfam has today 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.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said these comments were a far cry from the statement released at the most recent G20 Finance Ministers meeting hosted by Mr Hockey in Cairns, which failed to mention inequality or poverty. These comments from Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey are a big breakthrough.

“Treasurer Joe Hockey has hit the nail on the head – we all know these are major global issues – and these remarks represent significant progress,” Dr Szoke said.

With President Obama, the Pope, the head of the IMF and even Rupert Murdoch joining the call for action to tackle growing inequality, getting the Australian Treasurer on side could be the final hurdle overcome to ensure the G20 take action on the matter.

Oxfam is calling on the G20 to acknowledge inequality as a serious global problem requiring action in the Brisbane Action Plan, and make a commitment to address inequality, and promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth policies.

Mr Hockey said that the tax dodging practices of multinational companies strip poor countries of the funding they need to pay for essential services.

For example, in 2012, the tax incentives for multinationals operating in Sierra Leone – where Ebola is currently raging – were equivalent to 59 per cent of the country’s entire budget, and more than eight times the government’s spending on health.

It is essential services like strong public health and education systems that are the key to tackling inequality and poverty – and can play a long term role in creating sustainable economic growth.

Oxfam also welcomed recognition from Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey today that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a risk to both African and global economies.

Speaking to journalists in Brisbane ahead of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Mr Hockey acknowledged the economic impacts of the deadly disease and said he did not doubt the issue would be discussed at the meeting.

“It is encouraging to hear the government recognising that Ebola is not just a health crisis, but a serious economic crisis as well,’’ Dr Szoke said.

“The window of opportunity to bring the spread of Ebola under control is closing fast. The G20 is in a prime position to provide the leadership and resources desperately needed. Action needs to happen now, while these leaders have the opportunity to influence each other to coordinate their responses face to face.”

For interviews please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428367318 or angush@oxfam.org.au