This week the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, delivered a speech on our ‘entitlement society‘. On its own, this idea that we have come to expect more and more entitlements is something that should be discussed: that is, we need to have a serious policy review about what should each and everyone of us expect from the government?
The problem for Joe Hockey, however, is that you cannot discuss this on its own: there is a flip side – the collection of taxes. Yes, successive governments (including the Howard Government which Joe refuses to criticize) have increased the level of middle class welfare and this is problematic. But what has made it worse, it has been done with no discussion of a need to redistribute wealth through a tax system at a time when inequality is growing in Australia. Further, it has been done at the expense of the most vulnerable: holding back increases in unemployment benefits for example.
The hypocrisy does not end there however. In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Phillip Coorey lists the many things that the current Abbott Opposition (with the support of Joe Hockey) have done to stop the Gillard government from limiting middle class welfare.
This hypocrisy does nothing for Joe Hockey’s credibility. Neither does the fact that Joe did not speak about the entitlements that the mining companies demand; the free pollution rights that electricity generators have ; or, the fact the along the Murray Darling River, many communities where given free water entitlements which have been abused for generations.
Then there are the entitlements politicians think they deserve. Apart from all the perks and benefits, they have come to see our trust in them as an entitlement. I wrote about this recently in The Punch, noting that one of the reason that political debate is so poor in the country, is that we have not only lost trust in them, but they have lost trust in each other.
Sure, review the entitlements that are undeserved: but the first place to start is those who are free riding and not paying their dues… such as the mining companies, big polluters, massive irrigationists and so on. And do it in an open and transparent way… because we lack trust in what you have done so far…