By Adam Bandt
How was your 2020? Did you buy a new jet? Did you go on holiday overseas? Or was it more Zoom meetings, homeschooling and doomscrolling your bank account?
Well, while your year was tough, billionaires in Australia did better than billionaires anywhere else in the world. They made out like bandits. Gina and Twiggy did better than Bezos and Gates. And now The Australian newspaper thinks they’re celebrities. That paper’s rich list last weekend revealed just how much these billionaires have made. But it failed to share what they did with it. And what did they do with it? Well, Gina Rinehart spent millions of dollars on Trump’s corona cures and denying climate change. Clive Palmer spent millions trashing the vaccine rollout, money he surely could have paid to his workers. Gerry Harvey pocketed millions in taxpayers’ money intended to help small business survive the lockdown periods. And Kerry Stokes took millions from the taxpayer, cut his workers’ wages, made a few billion and bought a new jet.
We’ve seen the photos of the billionaires in their pools, in their planes and on their islands, and giving money to their charities. They think they’re better than everyone else, but being extremely greedy isn’t something that we should celebrate. What we haven’t seen is them paying much tax. How can they claim to be proud Australians if they don’t even offer to split the bill, let alone pick up the tab? One of the reasons that these people are on this rich list is that they’re always first in line for public handouts yet they refuse to pay their fair share of tax. It’s time to call games up on this game of greed.
Extreme wealth leads to extreme power. We saw who was looked after during the pandemic, who society is geared towards. The list of wealth-mongers give millions of dollars each year to politicians who, frankly, suck up to billionaires, meaning that the power balance in this country is all out of whack.
And because they have too much power, they think that they don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. What has happened over the past year, where billionaires have made massive profits while everyone else couldn’t go out to have dinner with their family, is outrageous. It distorts the economy and it damages our democracy.
But we can turn it around. Right now in this country inequality is at a record high. As a result, wages are too low, work is too insecure and climate change is getting out of control. We need a bigger tax base to provide people with jobs, make essential services free, and ensure that everyone has a home. The age of extreme greed will come to an end. By putting the Greens in the balance of power and making the billionaires pay their fair share, we can put that money to ensuring that everyone has a well paid, secure job, education is free again and dental and mental health care are part of Medicare. We can afford this if we have the courage to make the billionaires pay their fair share.
There is a reason that we are one of the richest countries in the world but millions of people live below the poverty line, can’t get enough work and have to pay too much for basic services. That reason and the people who form part of that reason are all listed on the pages of The Australian. By making the billionaires pay their fair share every Australian can have a better life, not just the greedy gluttons of wealth and privilege.