Joe Hockey’s Culture of Entitlement

The media has been doing a lot of scaremongering this week about the impending federal budget. Considering the noises being made by federal ministers, particularly treasurer Joe Hockey, about ‘deep cuts’ and the like, it’s probably fair enough. It certainly has been causing a lot of outrage on Twitter, not least because the money being cut from things like pensions and healthcare is, as it turns out, going to be used to buy a bunch of planes that don’t actually work. Before all of this started, we heard a lot from Minister Hockey about a ‘culture of entitlement’ that needed to end. In fact, Hockey’s been complaining about an ‘age of entitlement’ for a full two years now.

The victims of Abbott and Hockey’s rampage against the culture of entitlement will, as ever, be those already doing it tough. Hockey has all but admitted the government’s plan to raise the pension age to 70. Then there’s the new $6 GP co-payment which will affect those who are currently eligible to be bulk-billed. (Never mind the fact that most GPs will only bulk-bill you currently if you demonstrate financial need, for example by holding a Healthcare or Concession card from Centrelink.) No details on any particular areas of budget cuts have yet been released, but we are all waiting with bated breath for the budget announcement on May 13th. The government is allegedly using the Commission of Audit Report, to be released in full to the public next week, to direct their fiscal policy into the future.

Did anyone ever think that perhaps the ‘age of entitlement’ that Joe Hockey seems so concerned about is not so much about working-class Australians, but is in fact about those in our community doing well for themselves? Could it be that, rather than people who rely on Newstart or the Disability Pension to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, it’s people like Joe Hockey himself who feel this overwhelming sense of entitlement?

Take this guy, for example. Despite being in the top 1% of wage earners in the country, he seems to feel entitled to label himself as ‘average’, perhaps even struggling. Never mind the fact that his meagre $21,000 left over after paying for all of life’s essentials is the same amount as my total taxable income for a year. You ‘only’ have $21k each year for holidays and/or savings? Boo hoo. Try living your life on that amount and then come back and talk to me about how hard it is to pay off a mortgage while putting two kids through private school.

How about Gina Rinehart? I think I could make a pretty good argument that she’s one of the most entitled people in the country. Who else could argue that welfare recipients are dragging this country into disastrous debt while being worth 29.17 billion dollars? And who could forget that time she said that workers should work harder for less money in order to compete with third-world producers? This is a woman who feels so entitled to her (mostly inherited) wealth that she has been embroiled in a court battle with her children over a trust for the measly sum of $4 billion. But still she continues to argue that it’s people receiving piecemeal government benefits who are the ‘entitled’ of this country.

Let’s talk about Joe Hockey himself. He’s repeatedly said that current pensioners need not fear any changes to their entitlements, as it is his generation who will bear the brunt of the proposed changes to pensions. Mr Hockey isn’t your average everyday Joe, though. As a Member of Parliament, his base salary is $195,130 per year. This is before we factor in the extra money that comes from holding a senior ministry position. Since 2004, federal Members have enjoyed superannuation contributions of 15.4% per annum – a little more than the compulsory 9.25% per annum that everyone else gets. In fact I doubt that Joe Hockey will ever need to rely on the aged pension, which in turn essentially means that he can retire whenever he likes. But by all means, talk about ‘your generation’ as if you share their future fate, Mr Treasurer.

We live in a Western social democracy. Part of our social contract with one another is that we sometimes have to help people who cannot help themselves. Sometimes, as in the case of the NDIS, we help people who, through no fault of their own, do not have the capacity to work for a living. Sometimes, as in the case of Newstart, we help people who are temporarily out of work. Sometimes, as in the case of the aged pension, we help people who have worked all their lives and who now need a bit of help keeping their heads above water in their final years of life. Sometimes, as in the case of Youth Allowance, we help people get food on the table while they are studying, so that in five or ten years time we have skilled workers in the community, paying taxes and contributing to the economy. And sometimes, as in the case of negative gearing for investment properties, we help people who already have lots of money make more money.

Which of those seems like the odd one out to you?

We have built a culture of social welfare. That much is undeniable. Subsidised medical care; safety nets for unemployed people, the disabled, the elderly and students; universal state-funded education: all of this is welfare. And we do it because it makes society better for everyone. It also upholds the human rights of everyone in the community – to be healthy, to have food and shelter, to have equal opportunity. People feeling entitled to their rights aren’t the problem. The problems come when people feel entitled to rip up this country in search of mineral wealth and expect not to have to share that wealth. When the government and the populace feel entitled to lock up innocent people, including children, for having the audacity to flee peril and attempt to come to this country on boats instead of on planes. When people feel that their tax dollars shouldn’t be used to pay for anything they don’t like or don’t use, despite us having some of the lowest taxes of the OECD nations. Yes, entitlement culture exists, but there shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction punishing those already struggling. Instead, we should be questioning those doing well in our society, who seem to feel entitled to their position even when their success comes at a detriment to the rest of us.

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1 Comment

  1. Good post. Let’s see if any of these dimwits could make it on $21,000 and raise a child single handedly – I seriously doubt it! For some of my own thoughts on the subject;
    http://mugwumpost.wordpress.com/wood-duck-watch-1the-joy-of-surplus-let-us-now-bask-in-the-warmth-of-our-own-bullshit/

    Reply

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  • Things about me:

    My name is Mel, I'm a final year law student from Australia. I'm interested in politics, feminism, sociology and science, among other things. You can find my Twitter account below; I am more active there than here.

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