Reporting on inequality leaves out the big picture

Some of the data from the most recent Census was released last week, and much was made about which areas were the most advantaged, or disadvantaged. Some nice number crunchy data maps were made, and the ABS numbers were able to be reworked for each media market.

But, and it’s a big but, what this data and reporting left out was the distribution of this income. While there was a few nice coloured maps, showing how incredibly concentrated advantage is by geography, it didn’t show how skewed the income scales actually are.

I wasn’t going to touch it – I’m used to being annoyed about the inability to report on inequality – but the combination of Joel Fitzgibbon’s ludicrous notion that a family on $250,000 a year is not rich and Simon Crean’s less than helpful pleading on behalf of the superannuation tax lurks for wealthy folks just pissed me off.

The fact that senior members of the ALP can actually say this kind of rubbish with a straight face, and journalists don’t question it, is more than annoying. It is dangerous and misleading; papering over the very real challenges for most people, when the world is structured for the rich.

Tim Dunlop laid bare this profound shift in the focus of all governments this week – moving the goal posts so far from the ample evidence of the harm unregulated markets do.

“there is a significant section of the political class who believe that fidelity to an economic nostrum is more important than a fair go. Unemployment, to this way of thinking, and the societal hardship that goes with it, is a price worth paying for being able to tell international markets that our books are in order: precisely the austere logic that is condemning a generation to poverty and marginalisation in Europe and the US.”

Go read the whole piece.

One reason for this disconnect is that most people engaged with the political and media machine are in the very top of the income pile and have absolutely no idea about average weekly wages, let alone casual or contracting work, minimum wages or the dole. They are blinded by their own comfort to how skewed income distribution actually is. This leads to poor policy decisions, that actually cost more in the long term.

So after getting pissed off, I did what any wonky sort would do. I messed about with the stats on income distribution by local government area (LGA) because I wanted to see if I was right – that the areas that have the highest incomes actually represent a really tiny percentage of the total Australian population. (I used the same data that Fairfax used for its nifty maps.)

income distribution by lga

Yep, I was right. The top income bracket represents 0.01% of the Australian population. As I looked at the graph, I realised that it looked very familiar. So I went looking, and found the 2009-10 (most recent figures I could find) distribution of income by individual.

income distribution

None of this is a secret. None of this information is hard to find. So how can ALP politicians really get away with saying that they have to make sure that the rich are ok? I have no expectation that the LNP will do anything OTHER than look after the market. But more fool me for expecting that the ALP would use any kind of data, fact, history or FFS decency when they choose who to go into bat for.

As I’ve said before, as long as the ALP continues to advocate for LNP policies,  people will keep voting for the LNP. Even just on the basic logic of numbers, it makes little sense for both major parties to make policy only for the few rich folks at the top of the pile.


About bluntshovels

Freelance writer, with an unhealthy interest in Senate committees.
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2 Responses to Reporting on inequality leaves out the big picture

  1. Thank you Thank you Thank you 🙂 I kept feeling it was all wrong as what they were reporting is not what I was seeing, felt I was in the twilight zone, but not smart enough to reassess the figures available. So glad people like you are!

    As you rightly say, you don’t expect any less from the LNP, BUT, the ALP are supposed to be looking after the masses, not the rich, so failure to do so & to buy into the rubbish like Crean & Fitzgibbon have is just plain insulting…

  2. Signe says:

    Great Piece, similarly to above, glad people like you get sufficiently Pissed off to check the facts as you say, one would think the ALP would use actual data ….alas they are reading too much from the LNP Hymn book these days… sad really 😦

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