Australia’s richest 1% have double the wealth of bottom 50%

Oxfam has released new data claiming that Australia’s richest 1% of Australians have more than double the wealth of the entire bottom 50%:

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said the top 1 per cent of Australians, just 250,000 people, owned a staggering nearly USD $1.6 trillion – equating to 22.2 per cent of the nation’s wealth and demonstrating there is still serious economic inequality in Australia.

“Oxfam is committed to tackling poverty and inequality – but we have a broken economic system that is concentrating more wealth in the hands of the rich and powerful, while ordinary people struggle to scrape by,” Ms Morgain said.

“Although there was a slight decrease in the number of billionaires in Australia to 36 in 2019, the number has more than tripled over the past 10 years and their wealth is still increasing. The wealth of Australian billionaires, who are mostly men, grew by an average of USD $460 million from 2018 to 2019.”

“This concentration of wealth in the hands of the super-rich is occurring while the share of wealth of the bottom half of our community has decreased over the last decade and workers’ wages continue to stagnate in Australia…

“The wealthiest 1 per cent of people in the world have more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people. This is not fair or sustainable. The vast gap between the few rich and many poor in the world can’t be resolved without deliberate policies aimed at tackling inequality, and too few governments are committed to implementing these – ours included.”

The below table from The ABC shows the 10 wealthiest Australians:

Oxfam has called on the Australian Government to crack down on multinational tax avoidance:

Given the state of inequality in Australia and abroad, and the context of worsening climate related disasters, such as the bushfires, the Australian Government must ensure that multinational corporations are paying their fair share of tax. This would boost public funding to allow it to provide better services to all Australians and better respond to disasters, both here and across the world.

Ms Morgain said one way to achieve this is for the Federal Government to crack down on unconscionable corporate tax avoidance.

“Australia needs to introduce public country-by-country reporting of tax affairs for large multinationals as well as a public register of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts. Without this transparency, the Government is potentially losing out on billions of dollars of revenue every year.

The Australian Tax Office estimated that in 2016-17, large corporations avoided paying $2 billion in taxes – the same amount as the entire National Bushfire Recovery Fund.

“It’s time to tackle inequality and climate change together. The only people who benefit from the status quo of economic inequality and weak action to cut fossil fuel emissions are a select group of companies and the super-rich who run them, many of whom made their fortunes in the fossil fuel industry. These are the vested interests preventing meaningful action to tackle inequality, cut emissions and avert the worst of the climate crisis.”\

The full international report is downloadable here.

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  1. Why are you linking this to tax avoidance? All these folk are fine, upstanding citizens. Pillars of the community. Especially that Harry Triguboff. If you can’t trust a developer, who can you trust?

    • Individually, yes. But collectively, they have no class consciousness.

      Almost everyone has convinced himself that he is a temporarily embarrassed millionaire, not a member of a working class, the disenfranchised class or any other class.

      Acknowledging class is like acknowledging race. But whereas acknowledging race is equated to racism, acknowledging class is so bad that it has no specific name. It has been taken out of the language – Orwell style. It can not be changed if it can’t be talked about.

      Terrorism, perhaps comes close?

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Australia’s gambling culture plays a big part in diverting attention away from thinking about this kind of Shyte.

      Ha Ha,…Your one of us!

    • Strange EconomicsMEMBER

      SO forGetting the top 10, There will be no revolutions or even wealth taxes.

      So 250,000 own $1000 000 000 000
      This means the average of these only own 4 million,
      or median after the top 10 would own $ 2 million.
      ie Baby boomer parents of some 500,000 lucky dudes and their 500,000 small kids waiting on their inheritances.

      There will be no call for a wealth tax, when 1 million of the 30 million Australians want the wealth undistributed.
      Look what happened when they mentioned franking credits ! The kids got told how to vote.
      There will be no revolution in Australia when the parents have got them in a vice…

      • These kids are not part of the bottom 50%. If so only because they are so young and we don’t include a portion of the parents wealth, living at home with all expenses paid in a luxury house till the late 20’s makes you in the top 50% in reality. So many in the bottom 50% do not have rich parents to lean on. Do not assume everyone who cannot afford a house etc is just waiting for their parents hand me downs.

        • Strange EconomicsMEMBER

          Since 50% e.g. 15 million of Australians rent in say average 2 adult family households,
          that gives 7 million adults dreaming of buying..
          But 1 million have parents who have benefitted from the inflation…
          So there are still 6 million who , yes won’t benefit – and they can protest and try to change.

          Still 20% wont. Enough to swing any election (like the last one?).

    • I assume that you are being sarcastic?
      Oxfam telling us what anyone with half a brain already knows; right?
      As if it will change ANYTHING.

  2. all of the rich people in Australia are rent seekers, exploiting monopoly of either real estate, mineral, intellectual property, licencing, …

    and they have twice more than bottom 50% whose wealth is mostly inflated housing paper wealth – imagine the ratio once house prices fall just 20% and bottom 50% owners lose all of their equity

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      The administration of Australia is little changed from penal settlement days.
      The John MacArthurs of the Rum Corp still flourish.
      These days they are called the News Corp.

  3. Targeting the “top 1%” is highly disingenuous and misleading

    Most of the entrants in that bracket will be hard working professionals and small business owners in the bottom 249,000

    250,000 own 1.6 trillion

    But the top 10 alone own 70billion (ie 10 out of 250,000 – the top 0.005% of the top 1% owns 5% )
    This is the top 0.00005% of the population

    The top 250 own around 350 billion (ie 250 out of 250,000 – the top 0.1% of the top 1% owns 22% )
    This is the top 0.001% of the whole population

    What do you think the top 2500 hold? I’m willing to bet its more than 50%.
    That is still 0.01% of the whole population

    Wealth stratification is even more obscene the higher you get to the top
    Including the bottom of the top 1% in this bracket is not doing any of the poor any favours, because when the average pleb thinks of rich people they think of their doctors and local business owners whom they might consider even “deserve” to be there

    Anger and jealousy needs to be target at the top 0.01% at least (who probably hold >50% of the 50%)

    At least 99% of the top 1% are very literally “working class”

  4. If you distribute all the wealth in the world evenly then almost all Strayans will become poorer for sure.

  5. Who cares? As an economist you should know better. Wealth is not a fixed pie where what some gain others lose.

    What matters is how many are poor and what we do about it. The inequality argument is tired ideology masquerading as really caring about a problem.

    For an economist, the right question is not Why is there poverty? or Why is there inequality?, but rather, Why is there wealth? And how do we lift the poor out of poverty? Pinker, a progressive liberal, points out, “The need to explain the creation of wealth is obscured… by political debates within modern societies on how wealth ought to be distributed, which presupposes that wealth worth distributing exists in the first place.” In other words, placing the focus on economic inequality tells us nothing about how to create more wealth, and has been wholly irrelevant to the project of lifting the poor out of poverty.
    It is undeniable that economic inequality has increased in the majority of Western countries since its low-point around 1980, especially when we compare the very richest to the rest. As Pinker points out, in the U.S., the share of total income going to the richest one percent went from 8 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2015, while the share going to the richest one tenth of one percent went from 2 percent to 8 percent. And yet, because the total amount of wealth has also greatly increased over that time, the poor, despite increased inequality, have become richer and better off by most dimensions since 1980.

    Oxfam’s report is a waste of space

    • You as an modern economist can’t know better. Until the last few decades economics was happy to discuss distributional issues. It has been whitewashed out of the texts. How else has labour productivity increased and yet there has been no growth in labour’s share of the pie? Wealth doesn’t need to take from others if the pie is growing but what we are talking about here is taking the appropriate share of pie and then more and more of labour’s share.

      We have successfully cured the kingdom of leprosy by stopping teaching our doctors to diagnose it.

    • You are ignoring the effects on our democracy of enormous concentration of wealth. I care little if a rich person has more consumer trinkets than I do, but I care greatly if he can use his wealth to buy my government. I would question whether most people are better off from the time when a family could buy an average house with a garden for 3 to 4 years of median income and afford to let mothers stay home with young children. Which would you pick? A cheap flat screen television or an affordable house?

      • Then focus the criticism on the undue influence of rent seekers – your other points are irrelevant to the disparity in wealth and you can question what you like – only evidence matters

  6. Gary HollandMEMBER

    Call it what you will – Pareto’s principle, Zipf’s law, Benford’s law or Power law distribution (as opposed to a Gaussian Distribution) and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.