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Richest Australian worth as much as the country's poorest 2.27 mn

Published time: June 16, 2014 13:38
A homeless man sittiing on a street in Sydney. (AFP Photo / Peter Parks)

A homeless man sittiing on a street in Sydney. (AFP Photo / Peter Parks)

​Australia’s richest 1 percent own as much as the bottom 60 percent, says an Oxfam study. The organisation concludes that in a world where the richest 66 people own the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion, extreme inequality poses a growing threat.

Income inequality in Australia has been on the rise since the mid-1990s, despite all sections of Australian society experiencing some increase in income during the same period,” the study said.

In 1995, Australia had an average level of inequality compared to other wealthy OECD member countries. Today, we are below average, having become less equal than our peers despite having a better-performing economy than most.

According to an Oxfam poll, 79 percent of the 1,016 people surveyed across Australia consider the gap between richest and poorest citizens has widened over the past decade. Moreover, 64 percent of those consider it makes Australia a “worse place to live”.

Oxfam’s poll results show that inequality is clearly on the minds of many Australians,” Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive said.

As Australia prepares to host the G20 in Brisbane later this year, it has a major opportunity to put the inequality problem as one of the main topics.

Tackling inequality and sharing the benefits of economic growth has been on the G20’s agenda before and it should be now, with the wealth gap ever-widening and evidence that inequality can be bad for growth itself,” said Dr Szoke. “The Prime Minister should put inequality on the agenda for G20 leaders in Brisbane.

The Oxfam poll has also found that 79 percent of Australians want world leaders to address the issue of growing inequality. The same number surveyed consider the rich have too much influence over the direction the country is headed.

The study shows that 76 per cent of Australians don’t think the richest pay enough tax, while 75 percent want the Australian Government to close the gap between the poorest and the richest Australians.