The widening gap between rich and poor

Has Australia become a nation where greed is officially good? And the rich are now allowed to take it all?

Has Australia become a nation where greed is officially good? And the rich are now allowed to take it all?

There are two debates going on at the moment which seem to be about the same core question – should our government further reward the rich or has Australia lost its way when it comes to genuine income equality.

The first debate was triggered by an article the Federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan wrote for The Monthly magazine. This article, titled The 0.01%, discusses what Mr Swan sees as a growing gap between rich and poor in this country and his concerns that billionaire activists – namely Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart – have disproportionate power and influence because of their wealth. Mr Swan goes on to say that this tiny 0.01% is trying to drown out others and blind the national interest by pouring their considerable personal fortunes into advertising, lobbyists and media. Many in the mining industry have seen this as an attack on all miners, even though that is not the statement in Mr Swan’s article, In fact he notes, “I know that 99% of businesspeople want the best for Australia and that most people want us to remain the nation of the fair go.”

The other debate centres on the determination of Opposition Leader, Tony Abbot, to pursue a $2.7 billion paid parental leave scheme. Some of his own party members have described this as a ‘Rolls Royce’ scheme and expressed concern about supporting this policy when the coalition is currently delaying endorsement of Labor’s National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Fun Fact
According to a study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Australia is the 9th most unequal country when it comes to the rich-poor gap.

More information
Read the full article by Wayne Swan on the rising influence of vested interests in Australia.
Read Daily Life’s article Liberals split on paid parental leave.
Learn more about the need for NDIS at the NDIS website.

Have your say
What do you think? Is the divide between rich and poor growing ever wider? If so, which side are you on? Read Kaye's blog post The rich take all and have your say.


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    9th Mar 2012
    I believe it is definately widening, and seems so unfair. I think we ought to all become politicians as they have the best deal ever! Having two young daughters who are both teachers (one primary, one secondary) neither can afford to buy a $350,000 home even though they have 20% deposit because there pay won't allow them to pay the mortgage and bills. That to me is disgusting! Two young people who have worked since they were 16 part time saving their money for a dream - to buy a unit, have a hecs fee, and because they earn so little working 12 hour days, weekends and yes, school holidays folks, go on camps and get no time off, no extra pay - and they can't afford to buy a small unit.
    Why go to uni? Young people who haven't gone to uni and gone on to do a trade or work as a PA the same age, have homes and earn more than teachers. My girls have a real passion for teaching - one specifically wanted to be a teacher of the deaf, but it will cost her over $15,000 to do her Masters to qualify to do that. How ridiculous is that?
    People earning over $100,000 complain they don't have enough money - well they ought to try being a teacher and living on what little money these hard workers get. Politicians complain because they work long hours, big whoop, so do teachers and other workers with no additional pay, no free flights, no dinners, and normal superannuation.
    Wake up pollies - start giving the low income workers a go. People earning more need be taxed more, pay more for all government services, and how about this - maybe they could try to be generous. How lovely would it be for a family to go out for a meal and when they went to pay the bill, find someone paid it anonymously.....just small things like helping those who are in need...children who are ill and their parents, siblings, people who work so hard to make a living they have no life and cannot get ahead, the elderly people in society - there is a huge gap, and something is terribly wrong, and this gap is growing by the minute. It is not fair, and action needs to be taken.
    10th Mar 2012
    I believe there is no doubt that the gap between rich and poor in the early 1900's was wider then than it is today. However I believe that if we are looking at the question "Is the gap between rich and poor widening?" and relating it to the last two decades in Australia, then you would have to argue that it is.

    I feel poverty is defined through indicators such as income, health, education, access to services and infrastructure and social exclusion and have no doubt more and more people are experiencing poverty. Right across Australia more and more people are working part-time, or casual jobs and income insecurity is becoming an issue. Our health system is stuffed and it is becoming harder and harder to access services in our public hospitals. Education, especially higher education is becoming unaffordable for poorer families and many young working class people who do choose tertiary education struggle for years with debt. Our infrastructure is breaking down...and this is especially visible in terms of accessing affordable housing (shelter is a basic human right). Our 2006 Census revealed 105,000 people were homeless, and the prevalence of home ownership is dropping... one cd go on and on... and Indigenous Australians still die earlier, have higher rates of infant death than the rest of the population, higher unemployment & poorer standard of living and this gap is not changing fast enough! And the richest top 1% of our population are becoming more powerful by controlling our media, by buying into it or paying off our journalists and media personalities (Andrew Bolt's a good example) and pushing their views to try to change public opinion and public policy to better serve their own ends. Look at the money they have poured into advertising over recent times to challenge the governments attempts to make positive change.
    The elderly, single mothers, youth trying to live on the pathetic Newstart allowance, the homeless, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities and Indigenous Australians are all worse off than they were 20 years ago and the rich continue to get richer. The evidence? Private school education is flourishing as public education wanes. Private health is booming as our public hospitals crumble and waiting lists grow. Richer suburbs enjoy multiple service infrastructure whilst those in the outer suburbs and the bush experience cut backs across all fronts. Home ownership is becoming a dream just for the rich, rentals become scarce and those in public housing struggle to find enough to eat and as for the homeless...they live off the food vans. And just look at Gina Rinehart who's wealth
    recently topped the $10 billion mark and ask the question...who could possibly argue that the gap between rich and poor isn't widening...and how much does she, and those like her, even care about those living in poverty?
    10th Mar 2012
    She doesn't, and that's the problem. If I wore lucky enough to buy a lotto ticket and lucky enough to win, I would share ... yes, firstly with my family, and secondly I would like to do things for people anonymously. Don't need a big hoo hah about it.
    The mentally ill and homelessness is an absolute disgrace. How many people I've known personally who have being "let out on leave" or "dishcharged" from these small so called "psychiatric units" only to go and kill themselves within hours. Closing down psychiatric hospitals was possibly a good idea, but replace with it new ones, better ones, funding has to go into more care - for mentally and physically ill.
    I have PD and am on disability support, my partner left work early to become full time carer for me. My drugs cost the earth as many aren't on PBS, my husband is a diabetic type one and to top it off both are coeliac who require medically a specific gluten free diet which costs the earth. Why are we penalised? We've done nothing wrong to be sick. My husband and I are neither overweight or never exercised.
    Giving 16y/o living away from home allowance is a silly thing, as so many young ones, just have a fight with mum and dad and take off and apply, get it, and live on the streets. Stupidity again. Yes, there are times when this is needed, but surely we all know that teenagers angst means they will argue with their parents at every opportunity given - the government don't seem to believe that.
    Teachers and nurses need higher respect, and more resources. In the four years one of my girls has being teaching she has spent of her own money over $15,000 (yes, she can claim on tax but doesn't get much back). Simple things like a rug for the preps to sit on, a comfy chair for her to read to the children - these are basic items which I believe ought to be supplied.
    The government is wasting our infrastructure, pathetic public transport system, waiting lists for hospitals, elderly people in nursing homes who can no longer afford private health they've had all their lives end up going public and waiting in those horrid outpatient clinics for hours on end treated by an intern when they deserve our utmost respect (the elderly), advertising is disgraceful (the obesity ads are causing more obesity, why can't they see that, children as young as five are being diagnosed with anorexia!), make fast food expensive and fruit cheap, Indigenous Aussies I agree totally with above - government decides to build housing for them, with no input from them, so what did the Indigenous Aussies do but tear down walls, throw out dishwashers etc....they wanted shelters, not posh homes, waste....How about fireworks, how much money is spent on them each year? My gosh, a disgrace!
    So I believe the government ought to be run by people who have experience in their areas of what they are governing ie Health Minister (should be doctor or manager of hospital or nurse etc), that way at least they know what the hell they are talking about. How much money is spent on consultations.....many of which I reckon I could think in my head anyway...common sense prevails.
    Look at our banks and corporate companies that make billions of dollars each year and give their managers huge bonuses - come on! Why don't they donate that money to a hospital for a specific purpose, you know why - because the government would require so much paperwork and the money would be lost in the paperwork.
    We donated to the bushfire appeal in Victoria a few years ago, and live locally, but am appalled to find people still living in caravans, some homeless, a tent city - where did our money go? Probably in policy writing so people can't build economical houses any more in that area. Again a disgrace.
    Australia, the Lucky Country! Yes, in many ways it is a beautiful country and peaceful without war, but in many ways, I believe we could quickly end up a third world country if the gap continues to grow, and government doesn't govern and listen to the people.

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