Australians have seen the biggest fall in living standards in almost 30 years, as unions warn the country is at risk of slipping towards American-style inequality.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions on Tuesday released new research into inequality, based on disposable income data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“This report shows that despite a long period of economic growth, working people’s living standards have gone backwards since 2015,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus told AAP.
The last time this happened was in a recession nearly 30 years ago, and living standards are sliding faster right now than they were then.”
The paper says Australia is currently facing an “incomes recession”, with the fall in living standards in the past three years greater than during the last recession in 1991-92.
The research shows that living standards peaked in Australia in 2011 before a dramatic slide between 2015 and 2018.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison used a speech on Tuesday to attack Labor’s industrial relations policies, arguing unions’ demands would take Australia back to the “dark ages”.
“I don’t want to set Australians against each other. I don’t want to set workers against bosses,” he said.
“I don’t want to set one group of Australians who have had success in life against those who are aspiring to success in life.”
Ms McManus savaged Mr Morrison’s claims, with the research blaming the coalition government for denying inequality was a problem.
“Scott Morrison is standing up in front of a big business audience today and trying to say working people are envious,” she said.
“Actually, we are furious. As this research shows, Morrison, first as Treasurer and now as PM has allowed us to be robbed of our fair share of the nation’s wealth.”
The ACTU report calls for reforms that aim to restore balance in workplace negotiations and public investment in health, education, transport, communications, energy and research
It also argues dole payments should go up, and urges governments to promote policies which create secure employment, as well as curbing excessive corporate power.
Corporations and the very rich should be made to pay their fair share of tax, it says.