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Australia's Richest One Percent Have Double The Wealth Of Half The Country

Australia's billionaires each got more than half a billion dollars richer last year, according to startling new figures showing the wealth gap Down Under.

The country's richest one percent now have twice the wealth of the poorest half of the country, with the top 250,000 richest people now holding $2.3 trillion.

That's double the wealth of the bottom half of Australians, more than 12.5 million people.

Oxfam Australia's chief executive, Lyn Morgain, said the startling wealth gap -- revealed in new data shared by the charity -- showed Australia's economic system was "broken".

Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, was worth nearly $15 billion last year. Image: AAP

"This concentration of wealth in the hands of the super-rich is occurring while the share of wealth of the bottom half of our community has decreased over the last decade, and workers’ wages continue to stagnate in Australia," she said.

"At a global level, inequality is shockingly entrenched and vast, often affecting women and girls the most."

Australia had 36 billionaires in 2019 -- a small dip from 2018 -- but don't go crying for the super-rich.

Between 2018 and 2019, the wealth of those Aussie billionaires skyrocketed by an average of $670 million.

Oxfam figures show the wealth of billionaires (orange line) sharply increasing between 2016 and 2019. Image: Oxfam

According to the 2019 Forbes rich list, mining mogul Gina Rinehart was Australia's richest person, with nearly $15 billion in wealth.

Next was real estate developer Harry Triguboff ($9 billion), manufacturing and recycling tycoon Anthony Pratt ($6.8 billion), former Westfield chairman Frank Lowy ($6.5 billion), and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes ($6.4 billion).

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Forbes reported there were 38 Australian billionaires in 2019, and 31 of them were men.

“The number [of billionaires] has more than tripled over the past 10 years and their wealth is still increasing," Morgain said.

The share of wealth among each 10 percent of Australia's population. The top 10 percent have more than half the nation's wealth. Image: Oxfam

The figures were released by Oxfam ahead of the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, and show Australia is part of a global trend of wealth swelling amongst the super-rich.

Last year, Oxfam reported the 26 richest people on Earth had as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire world -- some 3.8 billion people.

“The wealthiest one per cent of people in the world have more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people. This is not fair or sustainable," Morgain said of the 2020 statistics, released Monday.

"The vast gap between the few rich and many poor in the world can't be resolved without deliberate policies aimed at tackling inequality, and too few governments are committed to implementing these - ours included."

Recycling billionaire Anthony Pratt, with U.S. President Donald Trump at the opening of Pratt Paper Plant in Wapakoneta, Ohio, in September. Image: AAP

Oxfam detailed that Australia's top one percent -- 250,000 people out of the country's 25 million population -- accounted for USD$1.6 trillion, or AUD$2.33 trillion. That's around 22.2 percent of the total wealth figure in Australia, a statistic Oxfam said represented "serious economic inequality".

"Oxfam is committed to tackling poverty and inequality -- but we have a broken economic system that is concentrating more wealth in the hands of the rich and powerful, while ordinary people struggle to scrape by," Morgain said.

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Oxfam analysis claims tax avoidance from big multinational companies costs developing nations USD$100 billion a year, while the Australian Tax office estimated the costs of corporate tax avoidance locally to be $2 billion in 2016-17.

Morgain called on governments worldwide, including Australia's, to crack down on what she called "unconscionable corporate tax avoidance".

Australia is missing out on billions of dollars due to corporate tax avoidance, Oxfam and the ATO said. Image: Getty

"Australia needs to introduce public country-by-country reporting of tax affairs for large multinationals as well as a public register of beneficial ownership of companies and trusts. Without this transparency, the Government is potentially losing out on billions of dollars of revenue every year," she said.

"It’s time to tackle inequality and climate change together. The only people who benefit from the status quo of economic inequality and weak action to cut fossil fuel emissions are a select group of companies and the super-rich who run them, many of whom made their fortunes in the fossil fuel industry."

"These are the vested interests preventing meaningful action to tackle inequality, cut emissions and avert the worst of the climate crisis."