Rarely has there been a bigger gap between the economic policies of Labor and the coalition than at the coming federal election, says Labor national president Wayne Swan.
Mr Swan used a speech to the Melbourne School of Government on Thursday night to outline why economic inequality is the key issue for the poll expected in May.
The former federal treasurer noted the International Monetary Fund had warned: "To get growth going through supply-side measures and deal with distributional issues later is a dangerous gamble and policy makers should focus simultaneously on the size of the pie and its distribution."
"There has seldom been a bigger difference between the economic policies of Labor and the coalition," Mr Swan said.
"On the one side, more of the same. More inequality. More attempts to mask it with appeals to social and cultural division.
"On the other: winding back negative gearing for existing properties, an ending of negative taxation for the wealthiest retirees who don't need it, support for a stronger minimum wage and protecting penalty rates for the growing army of casual workers."
He said the global economy was still at a point where the "aftershocks of the great recession have yet to stop", which demanded a careful examination of equality if Australia was to avoid political fallout.
"The lesson of history is that big economic shocks have big political consequences," he said.
"And that the resentments and anger caused by unemployment, poverty and widening inequality are dangerous for democracy."
Australian Associated Press