11 June 2014, Rising inequality in Australia – John Hewson launches new Australia21 report


At Parliament House on 11 June Dr John Hewson AM launched the report Advance Australia Fair? What to do about growing inequality in Australia, written by Bob Douglas, Sharon Friel, Richard Denniss and David Morawetz.

Dr Hewson said:

The figures clearly show that the land of the fair go is disappearing. I don’t think we should just let it go without understanding how it has happened and what the consequences are – for all of us. Inequality is a significant issue across the globe, but we in Australia have always prided ourselves on our egalitarianism, both in terms of equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. We can protect that proud tradition through the policies we adopt now or we can trash it. Drawing on the contributions of some of our country’s leading thinkers in this field, this report highlights policy directions for retaining the fair go society in Australia.

In his summing up Chairman of Australia21 Paul Barratt said:

Inequality is a choice – not of individuals but of nations. There are well-identified policy levers to address rising inequality if we want to – such as taxation reform, investment in early child development and investment in all tiers of education. The issue for each of us is what kind of nation do we want to become? – one where gated communities of privilege are the norm or one where the fair go still prevails.

Report in a nutshell: The report follows a high level multidisciplinary roundtable held in January by project partners Australia21, The Australia Institute and the Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the ANU. After reviewing the evidence the report concluded that inequality is rising in Australia and that this is not only unfair but poses dangers to community wellbeing, health, social stability, sustainable growth and long term prosperity. It proposes ten ways to address inequality and protect the fair go in Australia.

1.Promote a national conversation about inequality, its effects, and ways of dealing with it.

2. Increase the fairness and adequacy of government revenue raising through taxation reforms.

3.Implement fairer funding for education reforms.

4.Invest nationally in early childhood development, especially for disadvantaged groups.

5. Set all pensions and benefits no lower than the poverty line and index them to average wages.

6.Establish more job creation programs in priority areas.

7.Develop new models of employee management and cooperative ownership of business.

8.Implement World Health Organisation recommendations on the social determinants of health.

9. Encourage an inquiry by the Productivity Commission into the impact of inequality on economic efficiency and growth.

10.Establish a national research program to monitor progress and test the impact of interventions aimed at reducing inequality.

In attendance:

Paul Barratt AO, Chairman, Australia21, participant in the roundtable

Andrew Leigh MP, Author of Battlers and Billionaires, participant in the roundtable

Dr Alex Wodak AM, President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, participant in the roundtable

Vivienne Moxham-Hall, Australia21 Honorary Youth Adviser, participant in the roundtable

Professor Bob Douglas AO, co-author of the report, chair of the roundtable

Dr David Morawetz, co-author of the report, participant in the roundtable

Professor Sharon Friel, co-author of the report, participant in the roundtable

Serena Rogers, The Australia Institute.

Quoted in the report:

We need to respond to the fact that the lowest 20 per cent of income earners in Australia have three times the level of chronic illness of those in the highest income bracket. The World Health organisation in 2008 gave all nations an action plan on how to address health inequalities. Australia simply has not acted on it.

Martin Laverty, CE Catholic Health Australia

It is unacceptable in a country such as ours that one in five children starts school vulnerable in one or more areas of child development, and that the educational performance gap between children in high and low socioeconomic groups is now greater than the OECD average.

Anne Hollonds, CE of the Benevolent Society

A national conversation is essential to ensure that our constituents understand the factors that underpin this growing trend in our economy.

Andrew Giles, MP

A research and monitoring program on inequality should include the collection of baseline data in a number of states and territories of Australia with careful monitoring over time of the impact of specific initiatives on a series of defined health and social outcomes.

Bob Douglas, Australia21 Director, co-author of the report

Our generation deserves to have a future that we can look forward to, and not one that has been driven towards stark equity contrasts, entrenching disadvantage, crime and distrust among the Australian community.

Vivienne Moxham–Hall, Australia21 Honorary Youth Adviser

A copy of the report , embargoed until 11.00am today is available for download here


Contacts: Bob Douglas: 0409 233 138

Lyn Stephens: 0408 651 563





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