While apparent flaws in the Centrelink welfare crackdown have been a focus of public discussion, the controversy has rightly prompted indignation at a policy targeting members of our community who are struggling to make ends meet, while at the same time, more than one in three large corporations paid no Australian tax in the past financial year.
The debate provides a timely opportunity to look at the top end of town, where wealth is concentrated in Australia.
Oxfam’s analysis shows that in Australia today, the richest 1% of the population own more wealth than the poorest 70% of our citizens combined.
Turning to the absolute extreme, the two wealthiest billionaires in Australia – between them worth US$16.1bn – have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 20% of the country. That is, they have more wealth than 4.8 million of the poorest people in this country. Meanwhile, the people in the bottom half of the Australian population have just over 6% of national wealth between them.
But there are ways to bridge the divide and fix the broken system that is breeding discontent, destabilising political institutions, fracturing societies and risking further economic instability.