27 March 2019

John Howard is giving a speech today in which he claims Australia’s economic inequality is a myth. In a publicity interview [$] with “journalist” Simon Benson [$], Howard said: “These figures don’t suggest inequality­ is growing at all. Australia’s wealth per adult is the second-highest in the world.” Great — but averages do not measure inequality. To do that, you need to compare the distribution of wealth on a spectrum. ACOSS reports: “The average wealth of the highest 20% rose by 53% (to $2.9 million) from 2003 to 2016, while that of the middle 20% rose by 32% and for lowest 20% declined by 9%. The wealth of the wealthiest 5% grew even more rapidly, by 60% over this 12-year period.” These facts are important — a recent study shows that “providing respondents with information about inequality and mobility in Australia makes them more likely to desire urgent action from the government to reduce inequality, more supportive of providing free and high-quality health and education, and less supportive of cutting corporate taxes. This effect was largely due to Coalition voters becoming more progressive in their views.” No wonder Howard is being deployed to muddy the waters in advance of the election.