As the rich get richer we need to organise

Some of the findings from the new Oxfam report into the growing wealth divide. Photo: Oxfam

Australia’s super-rich keep getting richer.

A new report from Oxfam has found that the top 1% of the country’s plutocrats now own more wealth than the bottom 70%.

There has also been a record rise in the number of billionaires — from 33 to 43 — with their combined wealth now at almost $160 billion last year.

Oxfam says this equates to an increase of $100 million a day, or a total increase of $36 billion. It is enough to cover half the federal government’s total health budget this financial year.

Globally, the wealth of the world’s billionaires rose by $900 billion over the past year alone: that’s a whopping $2.5 billion a day.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said the report showed that the most disadvantaged Australians remained trapped in an entrenched cycle of poverty. “The wealth of the bottom half of our community has not changed and ordinary workers’ wage growth has remained stagnant,” she said.

“Australia is among the wealthiest nations in the world, yet the pervasive gap between the haves and the have-nots persists. This inequality simply cannot, and does not need to, continue,” she continued.

Szoke said the federal government should introduce tougher laws aimed at multinational corporations seeking to avoid tax. Recent Australian Tax Office (ATO) data showed that about one third of companies operating in Australia paid zero tax in the 2016-17 financial year.

Oxfam wants the ATO to require companies to provide detailed reports about their tax affairs in all the countries they operate in.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions slammed the rising inequality on January 21. ACTU secretary Sally McManus said: “Working people see how unequal our country is becoming, we see the obscene wealth of the billionaire class, and bonuses on top of outrageous salaries paid to too many CEOs.”

“We see that these people are indifferent to the falling living standards of middle and working-class Australians. How can billionaires who already have too much even justify $100 million daily pay increases whilst wage increases are almost non-existent for most people?

“This is not the fair go. It is a fair go for billionaires, not a fair go for all. The Australian trade union movement will fight to restore the fair go for all, even if this means taking on governments and powerful vested interests, McManus said.

“We need to change the rules so working people have pay rises again. Wealth does not trickle down; strong rules are needed to ensure billionaires share.”

Green Left Weekly supports the ACTU’s campaign to change the rules. But we believe that to be effective it has to tackle the problem of the wealth stolen by the billionaires and the multinational corporations. If that wealth is going to be redistributed to where it is needed — public health, public education, public transport and sustainable energy production in public hands — we have to build fighting movements.

We have always campaigned strongly to expose the rip-offs and dirty deals of the big corporations and the governments that represent them. The systematic exploitation, which is fundamental to the capitalist system, is the cause of the growing inequality in society and explains why the number of billionaires is multiplying while the average wage has flat lined.  

If you want to help get the truth out about the super-rich and their crimes and you support the idea that a broad movement can change not just the rules, but the system, we urge you to become a supporter and make a donation to the Green Left Weekly 2019 Fighting Fund.