Australia’s billionaires grew their combined wealth by $100 million a day last year, Oxfam has revealed as it calls for tax changes to close the growing gap between rich and poor.
The nation now has 43 billionaires worth $160 billion between them, while the top one per cent of Australians have more wealth than the bottom 70 per cent combined.
“Oxfam Australia is concerned there is no end in sight to this harmful trend that is concentrating ever more wealth in the hands of the already rich and powerful,” the charity’s chief executive Helen Szoke said on Monday.
“Australia is among the wealthiest nations in the world, yet the pervasive gap between the haves and have-nots persists. This inequality simply cannot – and does not need to – continue.”
Mining magnate Gina Rinehart remains the nation’s richest person, despite her cash pile recently being cut by $2.5 billion, but the overwhelming majority of Australian billionaires are men.
The Oxfam figures were published on Monday, ahead of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos, where political leaders and corporate chiefs meet every January.
Oxfam unearthed several troubling trends through its latest research on wealth, including economic disadvantage among women and indigenous Australians.
The charity highlighted the persistent gender pay gap across all industries and devastating infant mortality rates among indigenous women.
“The yawning gap between health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Australia … is a symptom of this stark inequality,” Dr Szoke said.
Oxfam has called on the federal government to crack down on multinational companies who avoid paying tax in Australia.
The charity also wants a keener focus on the impact of budgetary decisions on women and an increase in spending on indigenous health programs.
On a global scale, Oxfam argues getting the world’s richest one per cent to pay an extra 0.5 per cent tax on their wealth would be more than enough to educate the 262 million children who are currently not attending school.
“Governments must now deliver real change by ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax,” its executive director Winnie Byanyima said.
Ms Byanyima suggests this money could be used for education and healthcare to lift people out of poverty.