Submission on the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia

On the 22 August, 2014 the St Vincent de Paul Society made a submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs Inquiry into the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia.

Executive summary

The evidence shows that income inequality is an entrenched, and growing, feature of the Australian economic landscape. Those who feel the pain of this inequality are excluded in a number of key ways, including access to human rights such as housing, health, and education. Moreover, particular groups of Australians are more likely to experience this disadvantage than others, including Indigenous Australians, older and younger Australians, people experiencing illness, refugees, and women.

The Society is deeply concerned by a range of current Federal Government policies, many contained in the 2014 Budget, which we believe will increase income inequality in Australia. Instead, we believe that government should be focussing on a Jobs Plan for Australia, and on an adequate minimum social security benefit. Together, this would enable all Australians to live with dignity, create more jobs for those of us experiencing disadvantage, increase social cohesion, and decrease the cost of many social services (such as health and housing) in the future, by empowering people.

Outcome of the Inquiry

On 3 December, 2014 the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs released its report from the Inquiry into the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia.

The St Vincent de Paul Society’s CEO, Dr John Falzon’s oral evidence and the Society’s submission  was referenced and quoted quite extensively in the majority report.

The Committee acknowledged the Society’s points about growing inequality, the negative impact of the Budget on inequality, Newstart being too low, particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage, and the social determinants of health.

The Society welcomed the Committee’s recommendations that many of the Budget measures not be passed and that the tax and transfer system be considered through the lens of inequality.