It’s time for a fairer Australia: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 20 Jan 2020

The richest 1 per cent of Australians have more than double the wealth of the entire bottom 50 per cent – or more than 12.5 million people – Oxfam has revealed today ahead of the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said the top 1 per cent of Australians, just 250,000 people, owned a staggering nearly USD $1.6 trillion – equating to 22.2 per cent of the nation’s wealth and demonstrating there is still serious economic inequality in Australia.

“Oxfam is committed to tackling poverty and inequality – but 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,” Ms Morgain said.

“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.”

“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.”

Oxfam has calculated that developing countries lose an estimated USD $100 billion a year in tax revenue as a result of tax avoidance by multinational corporations — money that could fund much needed public services like schools, hospitals and other social services.

Given the state of inequality in Australia and abroad, and the context of worsening climate related disasters, such as the bushfires, 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 and better respond to disasters, both here and across the world.

Ms Morgain said one way to achieve this is for the Federal Government to crack down on unconscionable corporate tax avoidance.

“Australia needs to introduce public country-by-country reporting of tax affairs for large multinationals as well as a public register of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts. Without this transparency, the Government is potentially losing out on billions of dollars of revenue every year.

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, many of whom made their fortunes in the fossil fuel industry. These are the vested interests preventing meaningful action to tackle inequality, cut emissions and avert the worst of the climate crisis.”

EDITORS NOTE: An Oxfam global report on inequality will be released on Monday 20 January at 11.01 AEDT. For interviews, more information on the Australian statistics or copies of the global report, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or