2 April 2019

As the Morrison Government prepares to spin its early, last ditch, pre-election budget, it’s worth taking a moment to identify the statistical tricks used to skew our perceptions of fairness. The Grattan Institute reminds us: “‘Average’ (or mean) earnings are often used as shorthand for what the typical Australian earns. But the average can be misleading. More than three-quarters of Australian workers earn less than the average full-time wage of $90,300. The typical Australian worker earns just $57,918. Most Australians earn less than the average hourly wage, and many employees only work part-time. … [And] more than a third of Australian adults aren’t in paid work, so the earnings of workers aren’t a good guide to the incomes of all people. The typical adult’s income is only $36,893, according to the ABS.” Meanwhile, references to “taxable” income are used to hide aggressive tax minimisation schemes used by extremely high income earners; Greg Jericho notes, “in 2016-17 a growing number of millionaires were able to avoid paying tax. Sixty-nine people who earned more than $1m in 2016-17 paid $0 in tax – an increase from 62 in 2015-16, and 48 in the year before that.” And the simplest way to make wages seem higher is to just make up the numbers, which has been Treasury’s approach to wage growth projections throughout since the Coalition took office.