Australian Greens to propose 6% wealth tax on billionaires to combat inequality

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The mining magnates Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer would be slugged by tax increases of $2.2bn and $586m respectively under a wealth tax on 122 billionaires proposed by the Greens at the next election to combat economic inequality.

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, and Queensland senator Larissa Waters will launch their Fight for the Future campaign in Brisbane, in a bid to reset the national conversation as Australia emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic in what may be an election year.

© Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images Adam Bandt will ask voters to give the Greens the balance of power in both houses of parliament so it can push the next government to tackle inequality and the climate crisis.

Although Scott Morrison has suggested the government will go full term and wait until 2022 to call the next poll, the Greens want to stake out a progressive campaign agenda early.

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The Greens will call for a jobs and income guarantee; funding dental and mental health through Medicare; making public schools, universities and Tafe free; and producing 700% of the nation’s energy needs through renewables, to export electricity.

The release of the policy signals the Greens will target Labor for abandoning policies from the 2019 election designed to redistribute wealth, including controversial franking credit changes.

The pitch to progressive voters suggests they should aim to elect a minority Labor government, with the Greens holding balance of power in both houses.

The Greens believe if they can reproduce their vote share in the 2019 election they are in line to win a Senate seat in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, where their current senators are not up for re-election this term.

The minor party is targeting nine Liberal and Labor-held lower house seats, although historically they have only broken through with the aid of Liberal preferences and Bandt remains their only MP.

The centrepiece of Sunday’s announcement is a 6% wealth tax on billionaires. The Greens cite the fact Australian billionaires grew their wealth by a third to $68bn during the pandemic to call for the measure.

The Parliamentary Budget Office estimated the new tax would raise $41bn over the decade, although it warns of a “high degree of uncertainty” as billionaires seek to avoid it.

To stop billionaires shifting assets offshore, the tax would still apply to 90% of their original wealth. The Greens also want a super-profits tax on all companies earning over $100m.

The Greens propose to lift the jobseeker rate above the poverty line to $80 a day, up from the $44 a day that the Morrison government proposed, and passed with Labor’s help, after it ended the coronavirus supplement.

In its campaign brochure, the Greens claim that “more than a million” jobs would be created in industries ranging from clean energy to aged care. By contrast, the Coalition plans to pull back economic supports even with two million Australians out of work, it said.

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The Greens call for a $20bn investment in transforming the electricity grid and $25bn for public transport. No set timeframe is given on achieving 700% renewable energy, although the Greens claim it can be done by 2040.

Dental care and free public education have been centrepieces of the Greens’ policy offering since Bandt was elected in February 2020 after Richard Di Natale’s resignation.

In a statement, Bandt said “the next election will be closer than people think”.

“At the last election, Australia was only 828 votes away from a minority parliament,” he said.

“At the next election, people can kick the Liberals out and put the Greens in balance of power in both houses of parliament, where we will push the next government to go further and faster on tackling inequality and the climate crisis.”

Nick McKim, the Greens economic justice spokesperson, said “billionaires massively increased their wealth during a pandemic, while hundreds of thousands of people lost their job or had their hours slashed at work”.

“The very least they can do is start paying their fair share of tax.”

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