Friday, 22 April 2016

So you think Australia is an egalitarian society? Think again.

Based on the World Population Clock as of 16 April 2016, a total of 74 million people (The 1 Per Cent) are said to own approximately 48 per cent of the entire world’s wealth.

In 2015 the Credit Suisse Group calculated total global wealth at US$250 trillion. 

An est. US$7.6 trillion of this was held offshore in low taxing jurisdictions (tax havens) and the majority of offshore wealth is managed by just 50 big banks, with the 10 busiest banks managing 40 percent of these offshore assets, according to Oxfam Briefing Paper 210

How much this represents in lost tax revenue to the countries in which profits were generated is unknown.

However, there is some indication that despite many of the extremely rich having residences in more than one country and often living in constant movement between these homes, they are not above seeking political influence in those countries in which they may not be citizens.

In countries in which they conduct business they are also politically active. In Britain the Sunday Times Rich List for 2015 revealed that: In total, 197 people who have featured in Rich Lists between 2011 and 2015 contributed £82.4m, just under half of the £174.7m donated in private and corporate cash. 25 gave more than £1m. Seven donors gave more than £2m.

What this all means is that by 2015 The 1 Per Cent had amassed US$120 trillion for their own exclusive advantage and use and, of these an est. 7.4 million individuals have the biggest share of that very large slice of the global riches pie.

In that 7.4 million strong group there is old money and new money - heads of royal houses, heirs of fortunes established in previous generations, hedge fund billionaires, investment bankers, oil barons, mining tycoons, industrialists, shipping magnates, the odd digital genius or two, oligarchs, financiers and other disreputable individuals.

Oxfam pointed out in that in 2015, 53 men and 9 women out of these 7.4 million rich individuals had a total combined wealth of $1.76 trillion.

According to the Institute for Policy Studies, by 2015 in America the 20 wealthiest people owned more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined - that is more wealth than a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.

For the same year, Forbes listed Australia’s 50 richest residents (our very own 0.00020 per cent) as having a combined personal wealth of $85.41 billion - which would roughly equate to 5% of this country’s gross domestic product for 2015.

Also in 2015 reported that the chief executive officers of Australia’s biggest corporations earned more than 100 times the annual salary/wage of the average worker - in some cases earning as much as $367,000 a week.

Going into 2015 Westpac Banking Corporation's CEO was already receiving an annual remuneration package worth an est. $13 million.

The gap between the very rich and the rest of Australia continues to grow.

In November 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that between 2003-04 and 2014-15 the 20% of individuals in the highest income quintile received 42 per cent or nearly half of the total growth in wages and salaries.
In September 2015 The Guardian reported that: The latest figures for Australian household incomes and wealth released last week showed that income inequality has risen in the past two years. The average annual income of the richest 20% rose by 7%, while median households saw their income rise by just 1.3% in the same period.

When one looks for evidence of political influence - it was not unknown for very large political donations from billionaires and millionaires to occur in years past, such as those from Lord Ashcroft and Reg Grundy. While in 2014-15 at least five of the first ten Australian billionaires included on the Forbes Rich List made more modest political donations - between $10,000- $100,000 and predominately to the Liberal-Nationals.

The rich tend to cluster together in life as well as politics. In 2015 Business Insider reported suburban clusters with the highest taxable incomes, of which the following are examples:

* Claremont-Claremont North-Karrakatta-Mount Claremont-Swanbourne, Western Australia, with 10,885 residents having a total combined average taxable income of est. $1.16 billion pa.
* Balmain-Birchgrove-Balmain East, New South Wales, where 10,515 have residents have a total combined average taxable income of est. $1.14 billion pa.
* Middle Cove-Castlecrag-Willoughby-North Willoughby-Willoughby East, NSW, with 10, 295 residents having a total combined average taxable income of est. $1.09 billion pa.
* Darling Point- Edgecliff-Point Piper, NSW, where 5,980 residents have a total combined average taxable income of est. $1.06 billion pa.
* Castle Cove, Roseville, Roseville Chase, NSW, with 8,985 residents having a total combined average taxable income of est. $976.68 million pa.
* Kooyong-Malvern-Malvern North, Victoria. where 7,755 residents have a total combined average taxable income of est. $817.36 million pa.

With all this conspicuous wealth in the top tier of a supposedly egalitarian society, one would expect that any journey towards the bottom of the pile would be more a gentle downward slope rather than a high drop from a cliff. 

However, in January 2015 there were 795,000 ordinary people at the bottom of that proverbial cliff, without a job and living on about $140 per week, and on any given night an est. 1 in every 200 men, women and children were without a permanent roof over their heads.

So when multi-millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull and Treasurer Scott John Morrison begin to explain on 3 May this year how the approximately 90 per cent of Australian households (who don’t have net worths calculated in double digit millions or billions) should start to live on less or expect diminished public health and education provisions in order ’to assist' the national balance sheet, I strongly suggest that every low-income household in this group consider giving both these gentlemen the raised middle finger.

For the last three years it has been those on the bottom tiers of the wealth pyramid who have borne the brunt of punitive federal budget measures and it is time to say “No more!”.

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