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Tag Archives: age of entitlement


In a time when “Team Australia” is being asked to pull together to fix the “debt and deficit disaster we inherited from Labor,” when we are told “the age of entitlement is over” and “nothing is free,” is it any wonder that people are asking who is on the Team because some of us aren’t doing the hard yards.

In July we heard that Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s second-richest parliamentarian, has invested in a ”vulture fund” based in the tax haven Cayman Islands. Whilst this is legal, it seems in conflict with the Coalition’s current campaign against corporate tax dodging and the offshoring of profits.

We then heard of how we are paying off Joe Hockey’s investment property in Canberra. Not only does he claim $270 a night to stay in his own home, he has also collected rent from a host of other MPs who have stayed there.

This is not an unusual practice. As reported in the Telegraph:

“The double dipping of MPs who claim travel allowance to stay in properties owned by themselves or their wives and in some cases reduce their tax by negatively gearing property is well-known in Canberra. In 2007, it was revealed Malcolm Turnbull, then regarded as Australia’s richest MP, rented a house from his wife Lucy when in Canberra. It was reported Mr Turnbull paid $10,000 a year to his wife under the arrangement and claimed another $10 a night when she stayed in Canberra.”

This practice of ‘take whatever you can’ is so entrenched that Tony Abbott freely admitted yesterday that the reason he had kept Cabinet waiting for an hour was because he flew to Melbourne the night before for a party (even though it was a sitting day of Parliament) and to justify claiming expenses he had to fit in a photo opportunity the next morning. Tony’s photo shoots cost this nation millions.

When the Greens called for an independent National Integrity Commissioner to oversee entitlements and parliamentary corruption both major parties scurried away.

The Prime Minister dismissed calls for reform of the entitlements system, saying:

”It doesn’t matter what the rules are. There is always going to be an argument at the margins.”

That’s like saying the rorters are always one step in front of the rules.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the Department of Finance should investigate politicians’ entitlements across the Parliament, in the wake of the expenses scandals (perhaps before his trip to the snow was noticed). But he did not back the Greens proposal.

“I’m not convinced that there is a need for yet another integrity officer,” he said. “The Auditor General is already able to look at entitlement claims.”

Either the Auditor General is not doing their job very well or, more likely, they need more staff and some political backing.

With the large number of repayments of “incorrectly” claimed entitlements made in recent times, it seems that Tony Abbott and other members of the Federal Parliament may have violated Section 135.3 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act (1995) by “obtaining a financial advantage that they were not entitled to receive.”

Section 135.2 is the criminal code most frequently used by Centrelink to prosecute welfare recipients at the rate of 10 or more people PER DAY for wrongly claiming welfare allowances.

Politicians already have most of their bills paid for them – travel, accommodation, petrol, phone, publications, staff and office expenses – they also draw a hefty wage with a generous retirement package that they can access early. The base pay for Joe Hockey is $366,000 a year and Tony Abbott gets $507,000 before all the extras are considered.

Before you ask the rest of us to pay half a packet of cigarettes to go to the doctor, how about you give up buying Havana cigars with money taken from pensioners. Before you cut $44 million from the National Partnership on Homelessness, how about you pay for your own investment properties. Before you hike up the cost of petrol, how about you pay for your own travel and accommodation to go to parties.



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Joe Hockey, which planet do you live on?

To Joe Hockey.

The news that a young homeless couple were found dead in their car was news that you would, in an indirect way, find offensive.

It was not their death that offended you, but a certain reaction to it.

But first to the young couple:

Police say the 27-year-old man and 24-year-old woman, both from Ballarat and believed to have been living in the car, were using a butane gas heater to keep the chill away when they died.

Most decent people – upon hearing of these tragic deaths – would have in all likelihood been deeply saddened. The life situation of this poor young couple was also tragic. As too it is with thousands of young Australians living like this. Jobless. Homeless. Penniless. Desperate.

It is a sad reality that some jobless, homeless, penniless people die. Thankfully, the numbers are small. The welfare system in Australia has always provided something for those desperate people; a fortnightly dole payment which could ensure they at least could have access to the most basic of human needs; food, shelter, medications and clothing.

But now back to you.

You were offended that Wendy Harmer (of ‘The Hoopla’ fame) tweeted that this incident (the deaths in Ballarat) may not be the last as your budget starts to bite. You fired back, with this ignorant, pathetic response:

Really, which planet do you live on?

So it is your opinion that Wendy doesn’t think before she tweets. Well I think she does. She obviously thinks more about the social horrors that your budget will cause than you yourself have given a moment’s thought to.

If you cannot fathom that people with no money for food or shelter may die of hunger or exposure then you live on a different planet to the one I do, Wendy does, or anybody I could care to name.

There is something else you don’t seem to understand: desperate people do desperate things. Sleeping in a car is a measure of desperation. As is by need going without food or medication.

None of this bothers you. If it does then I’m yet to see, read or hear any indication of such. Yet you’re offended over a tweet though: a tweet that spells out the bleeding obvious.

It’s not as though Wendy’s claim is any revelation. Since the budget was handed down (and even before it was handed down) to a shell-shocked nation the media has been filled with the predictions this horror budget will cause. People could die. People could also turn to crime if their survival depends on it. You can read such predictions on Or here on Or here from the Or on dozens of other sites, if you care to look, as I have.

And don’t just stop at the articles: have a look at reader’s comments. They have been predicting the same social destruction echoed by Wendy.

If you had been alert to what people were saying then I can assume that you would have been offended long before Wendy’s tweet. I can’t find any indication that you’ve been aware of not only how people feel, but of the tragic fate that awaits many of them. I’m guessing that you haven’t listened to anyone, except of course, the highly paid bureaucrats that are paid to tell you what you want to hear.

That you should only now stop to listen, and in response spew forth the shock and horror of being offended at the cold hard truth, is behaviour I find difficult to comprehend.

If the ‘age of entitlement’ is over – as you have been constantly trumpeting in an effort to justify your cruel budget – then I guess it means that people are no longer entitled to secure and basic needs. I find that truly offensive. Repulsively so.

Mr Hockey, brace yourself. Your days of being offended have only just begun.

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No ‘love’ in the Abbott Government’s ‘tough’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have taken to describing their budgetary cruelty as an act of “tough love” for which we may well rail against them in the present, but will respect them for in the years ahead, presumably when we can see how their tough love has achieved the goal of all tough love, that is to bring the poor amongst us to their senses and force them to live non-vulnerable, standing-on-their-own-two-feet lives, or die.

Tough love is a phrase usually associated with advice given to parents of drug-addicted offspring: refuse support in order to achieve a drug-free outcome. It demands that one have sufficient strength to withdraw all assistance that might enable the addict to continue on their self-destructive path. It requires the stamina to watch another spiral into an abject desolation and marginalisation that is allegedly entirely his or her own doing, and in which, the theory would have it, the addict will hit their own personal bottom line and in so doing begin the long trip back to sobriety and a decent life. I have no idea if it works or not.

There is no love in the tough Abbott and Hockey are dealing out to the vulnerable who will bear the brunt of their withdrawal of government support. Indeed, it is very telling that Abbott and Hockey appear to equate (with no evidence whatsoever to support their bigoted assumptions) economic vulnerability with anti social addictions, and have set about “curing” the vulnerability by withdrawing already meagre support in the deranged belief that if you make people starve, they will stop being vulnerable. Vulnerability is, in the Abbott and Hockey ideology, a choice, and people must be forced to stop making it by using the harshest possible methods until they hit their bottom line, and wake up one morning enlightened, repentant, and ready to get a job.

This government has no interest in equality. The admirable ethos of the “fair go”, so inimical to what we fondly think of as our national character, has been mangled beyond recognition in the first few months of the Abbott incumbency. Instead, we have Hockey thundering why should you pay for someone else’s education, completely overlooking the fact that someone else paid for his. We contribute to the costs of educating others because it benefits all of us. Educating people gives us the professionals who are absolutely essential to our daily lives and well-being.

Abbott and his government are in the business of installing a new regime of truth, one that is foreign to us, a regime that casts fairness and concern for others in a negative light, a move that is made even more inexplicable by the Christian affiliations of the PM and his Treasurer. The marriage of religion and neo liberalism apparently spawns an extreme of wilful ignorance, and the inevitably cruelty that accompanies the trait.

In his excellent piece in The King’s Tribune, Tim Dunlop argues that progressives need to change the current conversation, that there is little to be gained in agitating for a change in LNP leadership, or castigating Abbott, pining for Turnbull or bringing back the ALP in its current configuration. The Australian ALP appears to be in its own downward spiral, following the lead of the UK Labour Party, described by George Monbiot in this Guardian piece as selfishly committed to inequality in its acts of omission, and its commitment to supporting aspects of the obscene Tory attacks on that county’s vulnerable.

What progressives must do, Dunlop argues, is work from the premise that we do want a country in which it is possible to offer everyone a fair crack at a decent life, a premise that will lead us in a very different direction from that offered by the LNP. The way in which we might achieve this revolution is by vocalising our resistance to the government’s imposition of inequality as a way of life in our country, using protest and withdrawal of labour. Where there is power there is always resistance, as Foucault noted, and the most powerful form of resistance available to citizens in situations such as ours is taking to the streets, as often as we have to, and letting the government know we are not a people who desire the increased suffering of the already vulnerable, rather we are a people who will fight for the fair go.

There is no love in the Abbott government’s tough. Much as Abbott and Hockey seek to portray themselves as men of character who are willing to risk short-term popularity for long-term gain, the reality is these men have gone for the jugular of the most vulnerable human beings in our country. There will be no long-term gain for the vulnerable. There will be increasing hardship, despair and disintegration. Abbott and Hockey will deliver us a new underclass, generations of citizens who have never been given a fair go.

Vulnerable people have never experienced entitlement, that is the province of the wealthy and comfortable. The age of entitlement is not over, it thrives. The age of the fair go has come to a sticky end, and we will all be the poorer for its death.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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The Age of Entitlement is moving up in the world

In 2002, Tony Abbott’s hostility to paid parental leave reached a crescendo, when he declared to the press: “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

Writing for The Australian in October 2008, he claimed that paid parental leave – like abortion – was part of a “radical women’s agenda” championed by extreme feminists in the Labor movement. He spoke out about his opposition to the scheme based on the ways it reduced stay at home mothers to second class citizens, lambasting then Prime Minister Rudd’s commitment to women workers as an example of “Political Correctness”; extreme lip-service to the feminists in Labor ranks.

In 2009 the Productivity Commission released its report into Paid Parental Leave stating that:

“Payment at a flat rate would mean that the labour supply effects would be greatest for lower income, less skilled women — precisely those who are most responsive to wage subsidies and who are least likely to have privately negotiated paid parental leave. Full replacement wages for highly educated, well paid women would be very costly for taxpayers and, given their high level of attachment to the labour force and a high level of private provision of paid parental leave, would have few incremental labour supply benefits.”

It went on to say:

“A paid parental leave scheme needs to give particular attention to lower income families:

• The beneficial employment effects of a leave scheme are most likely to be experienced by less well-educated and lower skilled females. Empirical evidence shows that higher effective wages do more to encourage these women to work than more educated, higher paid women.

• Poorer families have less recourse to savings and cannot necessarily support themselves on a low single income, hastening their return to work.

• Lower income families face the greatest barriers to work given the incentives of the welfare system.

Altogether these aspects of poorer families suggests that a statutory paid parental leave scheme must be sufficiently generous to encourage parents to be employed, and when employed, to take a sufficient leave of absence from work around the time of the birth of their babies.

Replacement wages — sometimes the basis for paid leave schemes overseas —would provide weak incentives for lower income families to work, depending on the nature of welfare payments available to those out of the labour force.

Simple provision of replacement wages or prorating of a fixed entitlement based on hours worked would not create the appropriate work incentives for the (probably) most responsive group of people.

The minimum wage typically exceeds the replacement wages of lower income parents (since many work less than full-time hours) and would have generally desirable labour market impacts:

• It would create good incentives to work for lower income females, since the payment is significantly more than the value of income support for women working in the unpaid sector.

• A payment equal to the adult minimum wage for 18 weeks would allow lower income families to extend their leave to an adequate length, yet would avoid skill losses associated with very long leave periods. (In any case, the skill losses for lower skill jobs are likely to be small.)

• Capping of benefits at roughly the minimum wage would limit the benefits paid to well-off families who often already have access to privately negotiated paid parental leave and have a strong capacity for self-financing leave.

• Unlike means-testing of welfare payments, capping is not likely to elicit undesirable labour supply responses by women earning above the capped amount. This is because they would still earn the capped amount provided they took leave (whereas in mean-tested systems, people start to lose benefits when their income exceeds a threshold).”

The Labor Party listened to this advice and introduced the scheme suggested by the Productivity Commission – 18 weeks of parental leave paid at the minimum wage.

In the lead up to the 2010 election, after attending a luncheon on International Women’s Day, Tony Abbott did the most amazing backflip, without consulting his party colleagues, and announced his “rolled gold” PPL scheme which would pay new mothers their regular wage for six months, up to a maximum of $75,000, to be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on more than 3000 big companies.

In May 2013 he explained it is “all about” encouraging women of “calibre” to have children. In the scramble to hose down the justifiable backlash to this elitist comment, we were assured it was all about “workforce participation” for women even though the Productivity Commission Report had stated otherwise. It then morphed into some sort of “workplace entitlement” argument.

When asked if the policy should be reviewed, Malcolm Turnbull said “This is a key policy of Tony Abbott’s and it is something that we have as part of our policy and I don’t see any probability or likelihood that of that policy being shelved. Tony is very committed to it.”

Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke called it an “albatross” that must be “scrapped”. Writing for the Institute of Public Affairs he blasted it as an “unjustifiable impost on business” and said the policy should be reviewed. “An expansion of the PPL scheme is ill-suited to an economically Liberal agenda,” Mr Hawke wrote. “Most importantly for Australians, the policy does not pass the fair-go test.”

Big business joined critics of Mr Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme with the head of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox saying: “There are no positives, no upsides in this policy that we can see for business. It’s inequitable,” Mr Innes told ABC TV.

“Only the top 3000 or so companies would be paying and they’d be subsidising for everyone else. That doesn’t make sense on that level. The current system is operating well. It has very broad business and community support. We don’t see any reason to change.”

Even John Roskam of the economically dry Institute for Public Affairs said “There’s widespread concern that the Coalition is supporting a tax increase. And at this time, the Coalition should be talking about cutting taxes and cutting spending, not increasing taxes.”

Considering our supposed “budget emergency” and our “debt crisis”, and the cry for us all to help in the “heavy lifting” now that the “age of entitlement is over”, this hugely expensive and inequitable attempt to show us Tony “gets” women reeks of hypocrisy as do so many of his decisions.

Why not listen to the experts? It’s quality affordable childcare we need Tony – not handouts to rich women of calibre and grandstanding from hypocritical politicians!


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Words Matter – But Don’t Call Rupert Murdoch Un-Australian

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“Paid parental leave is a workplace entitlement, it’s not a welfare entitlement, and that’s why it should be paid at people’s wages in the same way that sick pay or holiday pay is paid at people’s wages.” Tony Abbott

Then, is the entitlement in this sentence from Mr Hockey, different? “I say to you emphatically, everyone in Australia must do the heavy lifting. The age of entitlement is over, the age of personal responsibility has begun,”

Words matter.

“We will strive to govern for all Australians, including those who didn’t vote for us.” Tony Abbott on being sworn in as PM

Of course, when you think about it, it’s a fairly meaningless statement. Can one ever imagine a PM announcing: “We will govern for those who voted for us, the ones who didn’t can please themselves about whether we’re the government or not.”

Yes, I know that Tony is trying to imply that he’ll be trying to help everyone. He does go on to say:

“We won’t forget those who are often marginalised; people with disabilities, Indigenous people and women struggling to combine career and family.

“We will do our best not to leave anyone behind.”

But I can’t help wondering what it means to not be left behind. I mean, where are we going apart from into the future. And, if anyone’s been left behind when it comes to the future, does that mean that they’re stuck in the past? Mm, stuck in the past, now where have I heard that…

Then again, our Prime Minister – who it’s alleged dropped out of the priesthood when he discovered that, even if he achieved his ambition of becoming Pope, some Catholics would still consider God in charge – did suggest that the ABC was un-Australian when it reported certain stories. Should one conclude that – in governing for all Australians – the government won’t be governing for those who are “un-Australian”? Surely, if all those foreign owned news outlets can suppress stories that are unflattering to Australia, then surely, surely the ABC should do the same.

For example – apart from the un-Australian ABC – should we also consider those people who gain citizenship here but still want a connection to the country of their birth, in-Australian? Now, I don’t mean our English PM, Abbott, who argues against a republic and wants to maintain our links to Britain. I mean, Italians and Greeks who cheer for their heritage in the World Cup instead of the Socceroos.

When one takes on the citizenship of another country, one should forget all affection for one’s previous homeland. Take Rupert Murdoch, who after renouncing us to become a US citizen has never shown the slightest concern about Australia. He’s the sort of role model that we want for our migrants.

Cory Bernardi had it right when he expressed concern about Muslims who want to impose sharia law which is opposed to sexual permissiveness, promiscuity and gay marriage. We shouldn’t allow Muslims to tell us what should and shouldn’t be allowed in Australia – that’s the job of Christians like him.

Words matter. They have meaning, but when Joe Hockey says that we all have to the “heavy lifting” I have no real idea what he’s talking about. When Abbott talks about being “un-Australian”, I find it as confusing as when he suggested that the asylum seekers were “un-Christian”. When Barnaby Joyce talks, I’m just confused!

So when we hear that the age of entitlement is over, that wages are too high, that penalty rates are unnecessary and that because some unions are corrupt we need a Royal Commission (why was there no Royal Commission into the AWB?), I can’t help but wonder if Joe’s actually saying that the age of work place entitlements is also over. We were told that Work Choices was dead. How long someone tries to argue that meant eliminating choices in work was part of the Liberals’ mandate?

Words matter.

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“The Beadles” – a sensational new group featuring Joe Bumble, Tony Fagan, Scott Sykes and Malcolm the “Artful Dodger”

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Image courtesy of

“Around the time of Oliver’s ninth birthday, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, removes Oliver from the baby farm and puts him to work picking oakum at the main workhouse. Oliver, who toils with very little food, remains in the workhouse for six months. One day, the desperately hungry boys decide to draw lots; the loser must ask for another portion of gruel.” Wikipedia

From time to time, it’s suggested that the school curriculum is too left wing and that we should go back to the “classics”. John Howard was particularly concerned that we no longer studied Dickens. So for your consideration, I offer this excerpt from “Oliver Twist”.

For the next eight or ten months, Oliver was the victim of a systematic course of treachery and deception. He was brought up by hand. The hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities. The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether there was no female then domiciled in “the house” who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist, the consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities replied with humility, that there was not. Upon this the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be “farmed,” or, in other words, that he should be despatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.
Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he got his own horse down to a straw a day, and would unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rampacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air.

Of course, Oliver Twist fails to realise that the Age of Entitlement is over.

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

“What!” said the master at length, in a faint voice.

“Please, sir,” replied Oliver, “I want some more.”

Not only is Oliver failing to understand that he’s not entitled to more, he fails to see that he’s not entitled to any. If he wants food, what’s he doing in the orphanage? Personal responsibility and all that…

But some of Dickens is far from appropriate for today’s youth. Take the old idea of the workhouse, which. of course, is very much an outdated one. For those of you whose history is rusty, the workhouses were where those unable to support themselves were forced to go for accomodation and support. Life in the workhouse was meant to be harsh in order to deter all but the most destitute from using it. It was rather like a work-for-the-dole scheme except that – in the those days of entitlement – they actually provided you with a roof over your head. We don’t want today’s unemployed expecting luxuries like that.

However, many of Dickens’ tales will be ok with a rewrite. For example, in “A Christmas Carol” when Scrooge is shown the scene at Bob Crachet’s table by Christmas Future and notices that there’s a place missing, well, obviously, he’ll understand that with the abolition of penalty rates, there’ll be no problem in asking Bob to work on Christmas Day.

Of course, not all the concepts from Dickens’ time have no potential application today. For example, the “Bastardy Clause” in the Poor Law effectively made children the responsibility of the mother until they were sixteen. If she were unable to support them, she would have to enter the workhouse. Perhaps, we could apply this principal now – but only in relation to single mothers, of course – and raise the age to thirty, thus removing a large number of people from the dole.

Yep, with so much I’m sure that we can find a place for Dickens in the curriculum. I think I’ll leave the last word to John Howard who said in 2006

“…we also understand that there’s high-quality literature and there’s rubbish.”

Unfortunately, nobody has since asked him if he considered the Liberal “Our Plan. Real Solutions for All Australians” high-quality literature, or whether it’s part of the latter category. Or, indeed, whether he considers the coming publication: “Zombiechoices – dead, buried and cremated, but still it rises!” one of the classic works of fiction this century.

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“We will decide what rights you have, and the circumstances under which you have them.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey has bluntly warned Australians that the days of governments saving businesses and jobs had passed, telling them, ”the age of entitlement is over, and the age of personal responsibility has begun”.

Mark Kenny “The Courier”, 4th February, 2014

So I guess, he’s also talking about this:

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce billed taxpayers more than $4600 for ”official business” travel to attend rugby league games, including the 2012 State of Origin. The revelations come as the Abbott government hinted it will tighten rules on politicians’ entitlements.

Mr Joyce, who was given free tickets to watch the 2012 State of Origin and NRL finals in corporate boxes, claimed flights to Sydney, Comcars and overnight ”travel allowance”, costing taxpayers $4615. His spokeswoman told Fairfax Media that attending the matches was legitimate ”official business”.

The Sydney Morning Herald November 6, 2013

But what exactly does Hockey mean by the “age of entitlement”? In the lead-up to the election, he used to refer to what he called “middle class welfare”. And, of course, those people on the dole need to forget any ideas of entitlement.

So, basically the Government’s subtext seems to be: We don’t owe you anything – get over it!

And in the debates about company bail-outs, middle-class welfare and work-for-the-dole schemes that message might be lost. Yes, we’ve been told over and over again how the Liberals believe in “small government” but like so many words that are used we often overlook their actual meaning. Does small government mean reducing the number of MPs or reducing their staff and entitlements? Of course not, just the number of public servants, because public servants are just a burden. You want to speak to a public servant? The Age of Entitlement is over! I mean, trying ringing Centrelink, they don’t even answer the phone, so who’s going to notice that there are less?

But let’s just remind ourselves of what words mean because, as I said before, when we hear them over and over they can lose their meaning.

Entitlement: the fact of having a right to something

Oxford Dictionary

So, is Joe Hockey saying that the age of having a right to something is over?

Ok, maybe I’m just being tricky with language by pointing out the actual definition of what he’s saying. Maybe we shouldn’t presume that Hockey means what he’s saying. After all, that’d be rather unusual for a Minister in the Abbott government. (Although one of their backbenchers, Sharman Stone was rather forthright.)

But it’s also the concept of corporate and middle-class welfare that probably needs to be questioned. Again, consulting the dictionary:


  1. the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group.
  2. statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need.

When we talk about middle-class welfare, then we’re clearly either using the first definition, or we’re using an oxymoron. As I don’t think that many in or out of government wish to eliminate or reduce the health, happiness and fortunes of the middle class, let’s presume that it’s the second definition of welfare that we’re talking about. Therefore, if it’s the provision of the basic needs of people, then it can’t be given to those who have already provided these for themselves.

So, if we assume when people talk about middle-class welfare that they’re not talking about “welfare” at all, the use of the phrase suddenly becomes loaded. It implies that these people should not be receiving whatever handout, money, subsidy, tax relief being discussed, because it’s not welfare. We’re already being encouraged to think of it as government largesse and extravagant.

Economics is all about making decisions, of course, and all governments have a right to decide how money is spent. However, providing “welfare” is not the only role for a government in deciding who receives what.

When the government announced that it wouldn’t be supporting Holden or SPC-Ardmona, they were making a decision that has consequences. I’m quite prepared to have a discussion about whether it’s the right or wrong thing, but a decision like that can’t be defended with a glib, “the age of entitlement is over”. (With this government, I suspect that the age of reason is also over).

Similarly, just because a person is not on skid row is no reason to argue that they shouldn’t receive any assistance from the government for anything ever. We all pay taxes in some form or other – even if only the GST on what we purchase – and we have a right to expect something back. An entitlement, if you like. And as I said, who gets what and when they get it, is something that needs to be decided by government. Will the money be spent on a non-means tested baby bonus, or would the money be better used building another freeway or supporting the opera? Different people will have different priorities and will see some things as a waste. Whatever, people are entitled to expect that the government will be giving something back in return for our taxes. It’s a large part of what election campaigns are about. You know, that time when politicians sympathise about the cost of living pressures for working families.

Don’t expect anything from us is Joe’s message. Personal responsibility, he says. You’re not ‘entitled’ – unless we say that you are! And that includes what information we think that you should know and the broadband speed at which you know it.

And, by the way, if you’re earning less than $80,000, you’re paid too much!


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