Unpublished letter to the Editor, Politics of envy edition

Your editorial (Politics of envy threatens our economy and ethos, 2 May) claims that “Research by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has shown that all income levels prospered in the Howard years and that under the Rudd-Gillard governments the gap between rich and poor has widened.”  This is close to the exact opposite of the facts. While it is true that all income groups benefited from real income increases in the Howard years, the gains for high income groups were much greater than for low income groups, and the gap between rich and poor widened.  In contrast, ABS statistics show that income inequality fell slightly under the Rudd-Gillard government, partly due to the impact of the GFC, but also because the very large increase in pensions in 2009 helped some of the poorest by the most. I have not been able to find any NATSEM document that actually says what the editorial claims.

Peter Whiteford, University of New South Wales

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10 Responses to Unpublished letter to the Editor, Politics of envy edition

  1. conrad says:

    Given it is the Australian, whose editors (and many of their writers) seem to have stopped worrying too much about reality quite some time ago, perhaps by “prosper” they really mean something like:”Will prosper by having additional reasons to think about how enjoyable it will be to invent new and creative ways of trying to make their pensions, unemployment benefits etc. . go further”. So you are probably confusing prospering monetarily with all the other ways one could prosper. With less money, for example, you could also prosper by becoming healthy by having to eat less!

    On the bright side, I haven’t seen the readership figures for the Australian now one has to log in to read their articles, but I assume that these would have shrunk so it is an even less important paper than it used to be.

  2. David says:

    I had a go at graphing one aspect of this widening-then-contracting effect (referencing single Newstart allowance). It’s here if you want see:

    I haven’t bothered adding the March quarter in yet because the CPI has been so flat since the end of the period covered in the chart.

  3. David says:

    Oh dear, that link didn’t quite work as I imagined. Still goes to the right place though!

  4. Nicholas Gruen says:

    I think Conrad has a good point – and by implication can see why they didn’t publish your letter. The other way that poorer people prosper when they have less money is that they have more time for spiritual matters – and in this sense they are, pretty obviously I would have thought, prospering.

    On the other hand whinging doesn’t get you anywhere. Who ever prospered from whining? Whining is essentially unAustralian.

  5. Mel says:


    “On the bright side, I haven’t seen the readership figures for the Australian now one has to log in to read their articles, but I assume that these would have shrunk so it is an even less important paper than it used to be.”

    I disagree. What is more important than absolute numbers is the power and influence of the readership.

  6. emess says:

    It seems to me that the Australian’s readership demographic is that of those who own smartphones but don’t know how to use them to get news – hence they read the Oz.

    This is as a result of my observing people in the Qantas Club who, on the one hand ostentatiously wave their smartphones round, and then go heads down in the Oz when they could just as easily access more information on their phones. (Probably as good an observation as most interest rate predictions by pundits these days).

    Taking my tongue out of my cheek, I do wonder though exactly how influential the readers of the Oz are? I know they would like to think of themselves as the intelligent and discerning amongst us – but that is just what the PR of the Oz is trying to convince its readers in order to keep them buying. I suspect that it is a bit like watching Wiley Coyote after running over a cliff – as long as he does not look down, he stays up there. At some point in the future, I wonder that the only reason that people read the Oz is because they think it is read by people of influence, without knowing whether or not it is read by such people, nor whether it has any useful information in it. Maybe it is read by the PA’s of people of influence?

  7. Paul frijters says:

    Well done Peter. It is important that this kind of nonsense is opposed.

  8. Alan says:

    Remember that, for The Australian, “truthiness” is more important than “truth”.

  9. With its pseudo-historical element this editorial read like it was written by Paul Kelly. What went wrong with him? The serious worry is that people who have this attitude to facts may soon be shaping national policy: Bush tax cuts & Iraq war anyone?

  10. Peter says:

    I don’t think it was Paul Kelly, because I don’t think he is the “politics of envy” type

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