Three reports published in January this year for the World Economic Forum Davos meeting of business and political leaders demonstrate how our government is going in completely the wrong direction and how their actions are wilfully destroying our economy.
Oxfam’s report, ‘An economy for the 99 percent’, details how big business and the super-rich are fuelling the inequality crisis by dodging taxes, driving down wages for their workers and the prices paid to producers, investing less in their business, and using their power to influence politics, all in order to maximize returns to their wealthy shareholders.
The report calls for a fundamental change in the way we manage our economies so that they work for all people, and not just a fortunate few. Shockingly, eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.
Their blueprint for a more human economy calls on governments to increase taxes on both wealth and high incomes to ensure a more level playing field, and to generate funds needed to invest in healthcare, education and job creation. Governments should work together to ensure workers are paid a decent wage, and to put a stop to tax dodging and the race to the bottom on corporate tax. They must help to dismantle the barriers to women’s economic progress such as access to education and the unfair burden of unpaid care work.
They also call on governments to support companies that benefit their workers and society rather than just their shareholders.
Echoing that call was a report by a group of some 35 CEOs and civil society leaders calling themselves the Business and Sustainable Development Commission entitled ‘Better Business, Better World’ which was described as “a call to action to business leaders”.
They warn that a failure by businesses to pay more attention to the world in which they operate will result in malign consequences, fuelling environmental collapse, the continuing backlash against globalisation and some very bad politics (which we’ve already started to see).
The report insists that businesses must win back trust by fulfilling their part of the social contract.
We anticipate much greater pressure on business to prove itself a responsible social actor, creating good, properly paid jobs in its supply chains as well as in its factories and offices. Business will need to demonstrate that it pays taxes where revenue is earned; abides by environmental and labour standards; respects the national politics and customs where it operates; integrates social and environmental factors in its investment decisions; and, above all, engages as a partner with others to build an economy that is more just.
Sustainable competition depends on all the competitors facing prices that reflect the true costs of the way they do business. The idea of pricing pollution at its true environmental and social cost has been around for a long time. But the need for strong carbon pricing is becoming ever more urgent to tackle the risk of runaway climate change.
Were business to move to more sustainable models, focussing on the long term and playing a part in achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals, it says, businesses could unlock up to $12 trillion of economic opportunities and create 380 million jobs by 2030. They even list the 60 biggest market opportunities related to delivering the UN Global Goals
The third report was the Global Gender Gap Index produced by the WEF where Australia ranked a shameful 46 overall out of 144 countries. In 2006 we ranked 15. Despite there being no gender gap in educational attainment, “Australia is affected by the updated estimated earned income scale, highlighting the continued existence of a gender gap in income for Australia.” We ranked 72 on health and survival gender gap and 61 on political empowerment.
While everyone from the World Economic Forum to the Pope recognise that climate change and inequality are two of the greatest challenges facing the world today, the pitiful lack of leadership in our country is taking us in completely the wrong direction.
Rather than pricing carbon, the Coalition continues their unconscionable devotion to coal and their headlong dash towards runaway climate change.
Rather than households sharing in growth, wages aren’t keeping up with price increases and jobs are increasingly becoming part time.
Without unions to amplify their power, ordinary workers’ welfare is a low priority for today’s short-term managers. Mining profits in the March quarter, for example, soared 504 per cent from a year earlier. The average wage of the miners producing that wealth rose 0.6 per cent.
Rather than lifting people out of poverty, penalty rates and family payments have been cut, the superannuation guarantee frozen, and the unemployed subjected to increasingly onerous obligations with penalties for non-compliance.
Rather than reining in property tax concessions and providing more affordable housing, the federal government washes their hands and dumps responsibility onto the states.
Rather than taxing the wealthy higher, the government just cut the rate for those earning over $180,000 by 2% and increased by 0.5% the rate for everyone who doesn’t pay millions to an accountant to hide their income.
Rather than insisting that corporations pay tax to help pay for a healthy skilled workforce, infrastructure, and security, and despite the fact that many of them pay very little to no tax, the government are insisting on slashing tax rates for big business by 5%.
Rather than investing in the education of our youth, they are saddling tertiary students with huge debts.
Instead of insisting on transparency and accountability, this government has taken secrecy to a whole new level. They despise the ABC and Fairfax press and are trying to legislate to give Rupert Murdoch complete control over our media. They have placed gags on public servants, and NGOs will only be funded if they forego any advocacy.
Unless they heed the message resonating around the world and change direction, this government will send us on a path towards the destruction of our environment, our democracy and our social fabric.
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