CEDA: entrenched economic disadvantage in Australia

Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Addressing Economic Disadvantage in Australia, CEDA, Melbourne, 2015

This report was released on 21 April 2015. It was described as ‘a policy perspective examining issues associated with the economics of disadvantage’. In other words, it was another report on growing inequality in Australia.

Honest History calculates the CEDA document is the fifth major report or document released in the last 12 months in Australia on this subject. We have an inequality collection here. We have almost certainly missed some documents.

There have been plenty of shorter articles on inequality (some linked from the link in the previous sentence). Internationally, there have been bulky (Thomas Piketty), slim (Robert Reich) and middling-sized (Joseph Stiglitz) tomes on the subject. There is now controversial television on a particularly disadvantaged part of Sydney (Struggle Street). Fairfax riffed off another article in the Australian Economic Review. The reports show inequality is increasing.

If inequality was not so important, one could be tempted to describe it as a vogue issue. Is there an inequality industry? If there is, it seems a long way off going the way of the Australian car industry. Need the industry be permanent? Presumably it will survive as long as inequality does. When the reports stop coming we may be able to take comfort that there is less of a problem. Or will a lack of reports just show that government and advocates have given up? Honest History hopes to take a historical look at inequality soon.

Meanwhile, the CEDA booklet, launched with much fanfare (and probably cocktails), includes chapters on poverty and social disadvantage, persistent disadvantage, early intervention, indigenous communities, and living with mental illness.

What is most concerning [says CEDA Chief Executive, Stephen Martin] is that governments, both Liberal and Labor, have focused almost exclusively on labour market solutions to this problem – the “big stick” approach telling people they’ve got to get a job or face even further financial disadvantage. I’m sure polling tells government this works because it makes them appear tough on “dole bludgers” and on cutting taxpayer funded welfare. However in reality, it is economically short-sighted and likely to end up costing taxpayers more as the problem is never properly addressed, if not made worse by this approach.

This approach never tackles the heart of the problem. The main problem for many who face chronic poverty isn’t simply that they don’t have a job. Lack of employment or underemployment is often a consequence of a range of other issues, which might range from education levels, mental health, social exclusion or discrimination. Telling someone they have to apply for X number of jobs a month isn’t going to get them into employment.

We know for example that children raised in entrenched disadvantage are at high risk of being trapped in entrenched disadvantage as adults. We need much better early intervention that targets both the parents and children that provides long term support. This type of approach would ensure that children currently living in poverty won’t be the next generation of adults that are unable to escape this miserable existence.

While we were noting all this, over at Macquarie Bank, chief executive Nick Moore’s pay rose to $16.5 million a year. Moore makes more in 12 minutes than the average Australian worker makes in a week. And he is only the second highest paid CEO. David Gyngell at Channel 9 gets $19.6 million, obviously not suffering from the tanking of the Gallipoli show.

Does anyone else think this is obscene? I met Nick Moore once; he seemed a normal sort of guy, certainly not one whose needs would cost that amount of money.

David Stephens

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One comment on “CEDA: entrenched economic disadvantage in Australia
  1. alison.broinowski@anu.edu.au says:

    Obscene is what it is. Worse, they are digging into the budget black hole for another $450 million to spend on spying on us, nominally to catch terrorists. It’s equally likely intended to detect people planning to rise up against gross inequality.

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