April 20, 2012
THE government has seized on shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s provocative attack on ”entitlements” to claim a Coalition government would make widespread cutbacks that would hit families.
In a major speech in London, Mr Hockey condemned systems of ”universal entitlement” in Western democracies, contrasting this with the concept of ”filial piety” thriving across Asia, where people get what they work for and families look after their own. Although Mr Hockey was more qualified about the Australian situation, when pressed later about whether the Coalition would look at the whole range of entitlements, he said: ”Yes.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australian families should be deeply concerned about Mr Hockey’s remarks.
She said he was talking about cuts ”to things like family payments to help people with the costs of raising the kids, things like pensions that older Australians rely on, all of the benefits and services that help families along, like relief on childcare fees, let alone of course the great benefits of things like Medicare and free public hospitals”.
The message of Mr Hockey and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to families was ”you’re in for cutbacks and if you can’t cope, well, just try fending for yourself and if you can’t fend for yourself well, unfortunately that’s too bad”, she said.
But Mr Abbott said Mr Hockey was making the obvious point that governments had to live within their means. Australia’s situation had not got to the level of some other countries but ”there is a danger that we ourselves could ultimately go down an unsustainable path … it’s the job of the Coalition to ensure that we never do”. Greens leader Christine Milne said the logical conclusion of what Mr Hockey was saying ”is no universal healthcare, no universal access to public education”.
Ann Nevile of the Crawford school of public policy at the Australian National University said it was unlikely that the policies of Asian countries could be successfully transplanted to Australia because those countries’ social conditions were different to Australia’s.