14 June 2017

Federal Labor will introduce a Bill today to require the Productivity Commission to consider inequality in its work.

The Bill will be introduced by Senator Jenny McAllister and builds on a proposal by Chris Bowen that the Productivity Commission regularly report on how we are tracking as a nation in improving equality of opportunity and social mobility. Chris Bowen announced this approach in his The Case for Opportunity speech last year.

This is the key challenge for our generation. Inequality is at a near seventy five year high. The three richest Australians own more than the million poorest put together, Senator McAllister said.

We need to retool our institutions to address the alarming level of disparity in wealth and income between Australians. Inequality needs to be a regular conversation for Australia.

Mr Bowen said: Properly measuring and tackling inequality is not simply a matter of social justice, as important as that is, its good for productivity and the economy.

You cant improve something unless you have the data to measure your progress, so having the Productivity Commission examine and measure inequality is essential.

The OECD has estimated that from 1985 to 2005 inequality reduced growth amongst member states by almost five percent. IMF Chief Christine Lagarde warned leaders at the World Economic Forum recently that economic growth could only be sustained if it was equitable.

The Bill would add inequality to the list of issues the Productivity Commission must have regard to in undertaking its work. It would also require the Commission to produce an Inequality Report every five years, aligned with the Intergenerational Report, which would assess:

  • the effects of economic inequality on intergenerational mobility and access to opportunity
  • economic inequality in Australias regions and cities, and its impact on both individuals and the performance of the Australian economy
  • the extent to which current Government policies affect economic inequality.

The Productivity Commission is highly regarded and influential. They are already required to consider factors like as the ecological sustainability of industry. Inequality should be part of their core concern, said Senator McAllister.