Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has used the nasty little phrase ‘politics of envy’1 used by the nasty little former Prime Minister John Howard to attempt to keep the plebs under control and stop them, like Oliver Twist, asking for more of the economic gruel. Morrison did admit that not all Australians are feeling the benefits of 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth, but says that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s claim that inequality has reached a 75 year high is a ‘lie’1. Morrison followed this with a lie of his own, stating that Shorten had ‘given up on growth’ and that inequality was not getting worse. He then stated that the Gini Coefficient2, the accepted global measure of income inequality around the world hadn’t gotten worse, and that “it’s actually got better”1. This also was a lie.
The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development3 completed its most recent Economic Survey of Australia4 in March this year and this showed that the “Gini coefficient has been drifting upwards and that households in the upper income brackets have benefited disproportionately from Australia’s long period of economic growth”. It also showed that top income groups have benefited most from Australia’s long period of growth with the highest income earners having an increase of about 42% of real income in the decade 2003/4-2013/4, while those in all other quintiles having increases of 25-30%. The largest growth has been in net wealth, with those of the highest quintile having an increase in real net wealth of 38%, while those in the lowest two quintiles not managing an increase of 5%4.
The Gini Coefficient for Australia in 1995 was 0.31, almost reached 0.34 in 2008, improved slightly by 2012 (0.33)4 and has since taken off again, with the most recent figures indicating it is nearly at 0.35.
One of the most egregious outpourings by a conservative was by MP Andrew Laming. His outburst criticised Shorten’s assertion about inequality as being “nasty egalitarianism”1. Laming continued: “Inequality is staring over the fence and noticing another guy has a jet ski and you don’t have one.” Despite this disgraceful outburst, Laming did agree that the Gini Coefficient is indeed rising, thereby contradicting his Treasurer. While whether one has a jet ski may be important to a private school boy like ‘Churchie’ Laming, he should realise that for most people inequality it is not about jet skis, but decent food for their children; it is not about Mercedes cars, but decent shoes and socks for their children; it is not Hayman Island holidays, but a roof over their head. Such disgraceful statements from Laming simply exemplify how out of touch with reality he is.
The Howard phrase ‘politics of envy’ used by Morrison is simply to cover up the politics of greed.