From my perspective 2014 has been a particularly divisive year in Australian politics. And this strident argey bargey and entrenched ideological divide is leading to some pretty horrible policy decisions. So here are some facts which have influenced my belief that social equity should be the number one issue for ALL politicians in 2015. And a plea for all members of parliament to have a rethink over the Christmas break so they return to work with a renewed sense of social equity and a commitment to a fair go for all.
Now what could be fairer than that?
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This is a worldwide phenomenon and Australia is not immune, with the richest one per cent of Australians now possessing the same wealth as the bottom sixty per cent.
Source: Still the lucky country?
A widening of the gap between rich and poor is bad for all, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This was revealed in a trends in income inequality report in December.
“In most OECD countries, the gap between rich and poor is at its highest level since 30 years. Today, the richest 10 per cent of the population in the OECD area earn 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10 per cent… policies to reduce income inequalities should not only be pursued to improve social outcomes but also to sustain long-term growth”
One of the greatest gifts to wealthy Australians are the concessions on superannuation, with the wealthiest benefitting at the expense of the most vulnerable. To quote recent research:
“…tax concessions flow overwhelmingly towards the well-off, with those earning less than $34,000 per annum receiving almost no assistance and those earning over $180,000 per annum receiving the most. Astonishingly, the top five percent of individuals account for 37 per cent of concessional contributions.”
The Australia Institute - The great superannuation tax concession rort
The Australia Institute - The case for a universal pension
In 1908 when the Age Pension became law, an Opposition Minister named Mr Reid stated, “I wish to heartily commend the character of this measure … in so far it removes the idea of old-age pensions from any suggestion of a charitable allowance. An old man, who has done his duty as a citizen for 25 years (is) as much entitled to a pension as a commander-in-chief or a chief justice”.
And that, I believe, should be the case today, with older Australian men and women who have worked and paid taxes for decades looked after in a way that gives them at least a reasonable standard of living in retirement. Governments have many and various levers to fine-tune the collection of revenue and the payment of welfare benefits. So to simply cut the income of the most vulnerable is both crude and shameful. It is high time we looked at the revenue side of the equation and, in particular the tax breaks for those in top income brackets.
A fair go has always been the Australian ethos and no government should be allowed to dismantle this core contract.
What do you think?
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