Election policies must address inequality: Oxfam

Media Releases article written on the 08 May 2016

Oxfam will assess election promises on how the major parties address the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in Australia and overseas.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said Australians believed in equality – a fair go for all – but the past decade had seen a dramatic increase in inequality around the world, with the richest 62 people in the world now owning as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people.

Meanwhile, many of the richest and most powerful companies in the world were fuelling this problem by dodging taxes – both in Australia and around the globe.

Dr Szoke said that while the new measures to crack down on multinational tax avoidance announced in the Federal Budget were a start, they were not the bold action that was needed to stop tax-dodging by the wealthiest corporations.

The Diverted Profits Tax only kicks in if the offshoring of profits reduces tax liability by 20 per cent, which means many companies won’t be affected. The measures also fall short of full transparency on corporations’ taxes and profits in all the countries where they operate, which is what is needed to help prevent the kind of tax abuse revealed in the Panama Papers.

“Globally, the UN estimates at least $100 billion is stripped from the coffers of the poorest nations each year due to tax-dodging – money that could go on hospitals and schools,’ Dr Szoke said. “Fairer tax rules are vital to ensure both rich and poor countries don’t continue to be ripped off by a broken tax system.”

Oxfam will be watching this election to see how policies stack up on other issues of inequality such as:

  • Australia contributing its fair share towards tackling global poverty: As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we should start to repair our aid budget to help the world’s poorest. It is now at historically low levels, at just 23 cents in every $100 of national income. We want to see commitments to rebuild the aid program to at least $5.5 billion.
  • Equality for our First Peoples: Over the past decade, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ending up in prison has increased by 88 per cent. We need a new approach, which is smarter, evidence-based and more cost-effective, which increases safety, addresses the root causes of violence against women and children, cuts reoffending and imprisonment rates, and builds stronger communities. Solutions are available and governments must support and fund them, as well as ensure that communities are involved in developing culturally appropriate and strong services.
  • Stronger action on climate change: Extreme weather is destroying people’s lives and homes and playing havoc with farming, increasing hunger for millions of families. The poorest people, who have done least to contribute to climate change, are the ones being hit hardest. Australia can tackle climate change by cutting pollution, moving to a zero carbon, coal-free economy and doing our fair share to support smart climate solutions for the people being hit hardest, including our Pacific neighbours.

“As a nation, we can come together to solve these problems and build a fairer, more equal world,” Dr Szoke said. “This election offers parties and candidates the opportunity to raise our ambition as a nation to being a champion of equality and a champion of fairness at home and abroad.”

To read Oxfam’s policies, click here

For further information please contact Bianca Wordley on 0407 799 365 or biancaw@oxfam.org.au