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U.N. chief urges tax on pandemic profiteers to address inequality
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly in New York City on September 22, 2020. Source: United Nations via Reuters.
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  • U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged governments on Monday to consider a "solidarity or wealth tax" on those whose riches soared during the pandemic
  • He reiterated that the group of 20 rich nations should extend debt service suspension into 2022
  • Guterres also repeated his call for COVID-19 vaccines to be made available to all countries
  • According to the most recent survey of Australia's richest people, both Gina Rinehart's and Andrew Forrest's net worth doubled in the 12 months to February 2021
  • Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Brookes and Co-CEO Scott Farquhar posted similar gains to their fortunes last year

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged governments on Monday to consider "solidarity or wealth tax" on those whose wealth soared during the pandemic in a bid to cut extreme inequality.

"We must make sure funds go where they are needed most," he said at a U.N. meeting on financing for development. "Latest reports indicate that there has been a $5 trillion [roughly A$6.56 trillion] surge in the wealth of the world's richest in the past year."

"I urge governments to consider a solidarity or wealth tax on those who have profited during the pandemic, to reduce extreme inequalities," he added.

Guterres reiterated that the Group of 20 rich nations should extend debt service suspension into 2022 and expand it to help both developing and middle-income economies recover from the pandemic.

"But we need to go beyond debt relief," he continued.

"We urgently need to strengthen the international debt architecture to end the deadly cycles of debt waves, global debt crises and lost decades."

Guterres also repeated his call for COVID-19 vaccines to be made available to all countries and appealed for additional funds to bolster the COVAX vaccine sharing program.

"Advancing an equitable global response and recovery from the pandemic is putting multilateralism to the test. So far, it is a test we have failed. The vaccination effort is one example," he said.

"Just 10 countries across the world account for around 75 percent of global vaccinations."

According to the most recent survey of Australia's richest people, Gina Rinehart's fortune more than doubled in the 12 months to February this year, from $16.25 billion to $36.28 billion — roughly equivalent to the net worth of 82,000 median Australians, as reported by The Saturday Paper.

Likewise, Andrew Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Metals, more than doubled his wealth, from $13.06 billion to $29.61 billion.

The sharp rise in the fortunes of Australia's two richest people mirrors the price of iron ore, which soared in the latter half of 2020. China's rapidly recovering economy also played a role, as did several mining disasters and a spiralling COVID-19 situation in Brazil, which hamstrung the world's second-largest iron ore producing country.

But it wasn't just those in the mining sector. Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Brookes saw his wealth grow from $12.73 billion to $21.99 billion, while his Co-CEO Scott Farquhar went from $12.54 billion to $21.95 billion.

Likewise, Anthony Pratt's family interests in packaging drove his fortune up 25 per cent to $21.27 billion, and property developers Harry Triguboff and Hui Wing Mau went from $15.5 billion to $17.2 billion and $9.07 billion to $10.15 billion, respectively.

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