New figures measuring Australian perceptions of social justice and equity have deteriorated since the former Abbott government came to power in 2013.
According to the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion report on Thursday, indicators measuring trust in government and the gap between rich and poor took a big hit after the 2014/15 federal budget, which was perceived to unfairly target those on lower incomes.
When asked whether the gap between rich and poor was too large, 44 per cent of those surveyed in June/July 2015 strongly agreed – a jump of 10 per cent since 2013.
“The way they sold that budget turned out to be disastrous,” report author Professor Andrew Markus told AAP.
“You can see now the treasurer is gone and the prime minister is gone, but it’s quite unusual in this country for treasurers to go.”
Trust in the federal government remained at just 30 per cent, with the election of the Abbott government failing to produce the turnaround that was expected after the turmoil of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.
But Markus expected new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to drive a rebound in trust, as recent polls suggest he is as popular as Kevin Rudd once was.
The report shows the economy remains the number one concern among Australians.
But concerns over national security, defence and terrorism have spiked, ranked most significant by 10 per cent of Australians, compared with less than one per cent in 2013 and 2014.
The report shows strong national support for multiculturalism and immigration compared with the UK, US and Europe, showing that the perception of Australia as a racist country is “pretty stupid”, Markus said.
That’s because unlike other countries, Australians have confidence in their government’s ability to control the borders, signifying strong approval of current asylum seeker policy, he said.
Most Australians support immigration as long as migrants arrive legally and assimilate when they do, the report shows.
But the report shows that outside capital cities, there are less positive attitudes toward immigration, asylum seekers and Muslims.
Top concerns for Australians in 2015
1. Economy, unemployment, poverty – 33 per cent
2. Social issues – 11 per cent
3. Defence, national security, terrorism – 10 per cent
4. Quality of government, politicians – 9 per cent
5. Environment – 7 per cent
6. Asylum seekers (negative comments and sympathy) – 5 per cent
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