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    Tim Woodruff

    Despite the very poorly written stories in the daily broadsheets in the last few weeks about how we are not doing too badly in Australia, the real story is about inequity. The appalling support for those on Newstart is just one example.
    When one looks at how fair this country rates over the last decade or so we see Federal Governments which have presided over increasing inequity. The rich/poor divide is increasing. The Australian Bureau of Statistics measures this in various ways, one of which is the Gini coefficient. It has risen substantially since 1996 ie more inequality (with a slight fall since the GFC probably because the very rich lost a little which would only affect their egos).
    Economist Saul Eslake has written of this increasing inequality
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/on-the-money-occupiers-raise-fair-point-20111028-1mo1p.html, referring to data from a Federal Labor member (Andrew Leigh). The fact that this Government still has done so little about the issue is a sad reflection on Labor values which appear to have essentially accepted that safety nets are the way to address structural inequity (notwithstanding the minor changes to the PHI rebate and the introduction of the watered down mining tax),
    This is all despite a clear understanding that health issues in Aboriginal communities are not just about access. The social determinants are crucial. Poverty is a major barrier to health. But in the general community the maintenance of relative poverty continues as is well illustrated by the approach to date on the Newstart Allowance.
    If we think that all Australians deserve a fair go, it is time to look much harder at not just the Newstart Allowance, but at all the policies which perpetuate and increase inequities in our society.

    Tim Woodruff
    vice president
    Doctors Reform Society

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