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Wealth of three richest Australians has doubled since 2020 as cost-of-living pressures for many continue to bite: Oxfam

Oxfam Australia 4 mins read

Analysis finds that in the same period, five billion people around the world have been made poorer

The wealth of the three richest Australians, Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest and Harry Triguboff, has more than doubled since 2020 at a staggering rate of $1.5 million per hour, new Oxfam analysis reveals, as the human rights organisation steps up its calls for inequality-busting tax reform starting with scrapping the stage three tax cuts.

Data-crunching also found that the total wealth of Australian billionaires increased by 70.5% or $120 billion in that same period. Meanwhile, many Australians have struggled with the rising cost of food, energy and housing, and five billion people around the world have been made life-threateningly poorer. 

The stark figures are being released today alongside a new Oxfam report on inequality and global corporate power, ‘Inequality Inc’, and as business elites gather in the Swiss resort town of Davos for the World Economic Forum. The report found that if current trends continue, the world will have its first trillionaire within a decade, while poverty won’t be eradicated for another 229 years.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said the amassing of unimaginable wealth is driving alarming and growing inequality in our society.

“Across the globe, we have begun a decade of division, with billions of people shouldering the perilous economic shock of the pandemic, inflation and war, while billionaires’ fortunes boom.

“At the same time as billionaires are hording more wealth, rocketing cost-of-living pressures mean that everyday Australians are being forced to cut back on food for their families and heating and cooling for their homes, just to keep their heads above water.

“We cannot accept a society that promotes the gross accumulation of wealth alongside widespread global poverty. One of the best mechanisms we have to address this is progressive taxation.

The shame of our woeful global response to catastrophic disasters, displacement, famine and the climate crisis cannot be attributed to a scarcity of resources, it is distribution - and that’s the problem all governments, including the Australian government, need to tackle urgently,” said Ms Morgain.

Oxfam analysis also found:

  • Globally, billionaires are almost $5 trillion wealthier than in 2020, and their wealth has grown three times faster than the rate of inflation, while global poverty remains mired at pre-pandemic levels.
  • The world’s five richest men have more than doubled their fortunes from $610 billion to $1.3 trillion since 2020 —at a rate of $21 million per hour
  • 148 top corporations made on average $18.24 billion in annual profits, 52% up on the 3-year average, and dished out huge payouts to rich shareholders, while hundreds of millions faced cuts in real-term pay. These corporations are worth $15.35 trillion, equivalent to more than the combined GDPs of all countries in Africa and Latin America.
  • Jeff Bezos’s fortune of $252 billion increased by $49.2 billion since the beginning of the decade. The US government has sued Amazon, the source of Bezos’ fortune, for wielding its “monopoly power” to hike prices, degrade service for shoppers and stifle competition.

According to Oxfam, only governments have the power to rein in runaway corporate power and inequality—shaping our economic system to be fairer and free from billionaire control.

Oxfam is calling on the Australian Government to rapidly and radically reduce the gap between the super-rich and the rest of society by fixing the broken tax system. This should include:

  • Immediately scrapping the stage-three tax cuts, which will deepen inequality, increase inflation and fail to respond to the current challenges of the cost-of-living crisis for low and middle-income households.
  • Better taxing wealth, including implementing a progressive wealth tax of 2-5% on Australian multi-millionaires and billionaires, which could generate $32.36 billion dollars each year. With this tax revenue, Australia could simultaneously increase the aid budget to meet the rate development experts believe is fair for a country of our size and build over 75,000 houses annually to address the housing crisis in Australia.
  • Implementing a permanent windfall profits tax on big corporations, so that when crises hit, corporations can’t profiteer as they did during the pandemic. Oxfam research in July 2023 revealed 722 mega-corporations raked in $1.5 trillion a year in windfall profits in 2021 and 2022 globally. Here in Australia, many corporations landed superprofits, including Woolworths, Santos and Woodside.
  • Ending fossil fuel subsidies, which mostly benefit big corporations making super profits. In 2022-23, the government provided $11.1 billion in fossil fuel subsidies – money far better spent on tackling the climate crisis.

Notes to editors

All amounts are expressed in Australian dollars.

Download Oxfam’s report “Inequality Inc.” and the methodology note.

It will take 229 (almost 230) years to ensure the number of people living under the World Bank poverty line of $6.85 was reduced to zero.

According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Database, the combined GDP of economies in Africa in 2023 is $2,867 billion, while that of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is $6,517 billion, for a total of $9.4 trillion.

Oxfam defines windfall profits as those exceeding the 2018-2021 average by more than 20 percent.

Australia’s 2023-24 budget for Official Development Assistance (ODA) is AUD $4.77 billion. According to analysis by ACFID, this represents 0.19% of Gross National Income (GNI), far away from the United Nations target ODA/GNI ratio of 0.7%.

According to UNSW City Futures Research Centre, the cost of building one dwelling for social housing is AUD $262,000. 

Almost three quarters of people receiving income support in Australia are eating less or skipping meals due to the low rate of payments and rising cost of living, according to ACOSS research.

For interviews, contact Lucy Brown on 0478 190 099 / lucyb@oxfam.org.au

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