Rising Inequality? A Stocktake of the Evidence

The Productivity Commission’s report Rising inequality? A stocktake of the evidence shines a light on the economic resilience of modern Australia. And what it tells us, is that despite Labor’s ongoing political posturing and claims of engrained poverty, the nation is performing above expectation in almost every key economic marker. Outgoing chair of the Commission Peter Harris’s final address at the National Press Club, recently outlined Australia’s progress, even through the tumultuous global financial crisis.

One of the key findings from the report is that Australia’s level of income inequality sits in the middle of developing countries. We’re well ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom, and only just behind Germany and Denmark. From there, our economy has excelled, with growth that is described as “unprecedented” – almost three decades of uninterrupted economic success. It’s an impressive track record, and one that’s made possible by getting people into work. Across the country Australians are rolling up their sleeves and putting in the hard yards, contributing to our economy. The Federal Government too, is doing its bit – since its election in 2013, more than one million jobs have been created and every day one thousand new jobs are made available.

Social commentators are quick to seize upon inequality, and Labor often jumps on the bandwagon. Of course, it’s fashionable and easy to whip up hysteria instead of working to solve the problem. Bill Shorten claims there’s been a rise, and Government action is “aggravating” the so called inequality crisis. But we know that this is simply another Labor lie. The Productivity Commission has debunked the myth, and in doing so, they’ve dismantled Labors thinly veiled plan to make inequality the battleground at the next election. It’s a mistruth, it’s a lie, and it’s deceitful – because the problem isn’t there.

Of course, in recognising the strength and diversity of our economy, we don’t dismiss the struggles of Australians doing it tough. Nine percent or 2.2 million Australians experienced relative income poverty in 2015-2016. For most people, economic disadvantage is only temporary and they are able to move up the income spectrum. There’s no doubt these figures need to be addressed. In terms of exactly how we drive down the numbers of those struggling is complex. There is no single or simple answer. We know that funding key services and investing in our future will guarantee real change.

Our public hospital spending has increased to $22 billion, and every Australian school student will benefit from an extra $23 billion in education funding over the next decade. These initiatives provide the foundations to create a better life. Beyond hospital beds and school books, the Government is also funding initiatives to improve housing affordability, and increase youth outreach services.

Understanding the drivers of economic disadvantage is the key to unlocking the problem. The report from the Productivity Commission shows that our Government’s decisive, tailored action is making a difference, and we remain committed to delivering real solutions. We know there is still room for improvement but we are on the right track.

While the Opposition is peddling its vacuous lies and relentless rhetoric on inequality, the Federal Government is getting down to business. Living standards have improved across the nation, and every Australian in this generation is still better off than the last.  That is something worth celebrating.