Inequality always around us, says senator

Even as Australia faces its highest levels of inequality in the better part of a century, a crossbench senator denies it exists at all.


An ACTU report has found the proportion of workers on the minimum wage is up from 15.2 per cent in 2010 to 23.9 per cent in 2016.

Australia was at risk of becoming a society of working poor unless people were given a pay rise, the trade union body warns.

The report says the top 10 richest Australians have more than $77 billion between them, while workers share of national income is at its lowest level in more than 50 years.

“Very unfairly, we have unequal amounts of hair,” bald-headed Senator David Leyonhjelm told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“Inequality is all around us … I support equality of opportunity. I certainly don’t support equality of outcomes.”

Labor senator Sam Dastyari conceded the hair joke was very good but he argued a sense of inequality and unfairness in Australia continued to grow.

It hit young people especially hard when it came to jobs and housing affordability.

“It’s not only the gap that’s grown between those who are incredibly rich and everyone else,” Senator Dastyari told reporters.

“You have a generational gap now or a generation of young Australians who are starting to have to accept they’re not going to get the same deal their parents got and we cannot let that happen as a society.”

Labor senator Doug Cameron said rising inequality was caused by continuous attacks on the trade union movement, making it difficult for workers to get wage increases.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus called on the Turnbull government to ensure companies and individuals paid their fair share of tax and stop targeting unions.

“Pay rises are at record lows, workers are getting a record low share of national income, jobs are being casualised, penalty rates cut and wage theft is a business model,” Ms McManus said.