All forms of media has been nothing short of drowning in Joe Hockey’s suggestion that Australia has an entitlement mentality which needs to be cut back. I am only going to link to one article, for the benefit of our many overseas readers, because this is my personal perspective. I am not entering into the argument of is Joe Hockey right or wrong.
Citizens of many other countries would be astounded at the level of benefits we enjoy in Australia. My husband often shakes his head and says “This would never happen in Nigeria”. No, it wouldn’t, but the whole economy is different, as are the economies of many other countries. For example, you don’t have to be rich to have house maids in Nigeria. We certainly can’t afford one in Australia (not yet anyway). Back in the ’80s, I could afford a housekeeper once a week. I was talking to someone from Vietnam today and he said the same thing about Vietnam – everyone has house maids. Except the house maids, I assume!
In Australia we get 20 days paid annual leave a year, most people get 10 days paid sick leave a year. After 10 or 15 years service with one employer (depending on industry) there is 3 months paid long service leave. We have about 12 paid public holidays a year. We have compulsory superannuation, currently 9% of pre-tax wages/salary paid by the employer. Over the years this has become included in the calculation of total remuneration.
When I arrived in Australia in 1974 there was no such thing as the baby bonus ($5,000 from September 1) or the first home owner’s grant (currently $7,000). There was child endowment, but it wasn’t much.
Back in 1980, sending a child to a government school did not cost an arm and a leg as it does now. Health insurance was a lot cheaper. Interest rates were a lot lower too.
We have a wonderful public health system. Yes, it is stretched to the limit, but we have health care for all. Our education system is also pretty good, apart from the fact it is now so expensive to send children to school. Every subject has a levy. Then there is a development levy and a myriad of excursions and camps. School uniforms and books, plus of course the transports costs to get them to and from. Sports gear is another added expense. Yes, some of this is tax-deductible, but you must have it in the first place to pay. The uniform shop is not impressed if I suggest I pay AFTER I get my tax return!
We have an unemployment benefit no-one could actually live on if they are a single person with no children. I know – I tried for 4 months many years ago. The costs of job hunting are quite high: you MUST have a mobile phone, an email address, clothes to go for interviews, keep your hair neat and tidy. Depending on your field of work, maybe you have to keep a car running: insurance, registration and fuel. People hope to get a job before the car needs maintenance.
Yet I well know we have a certain demographic that claims unemployment and works for cash. People with large families can pull in enough money to live on by the time you add up unemployment benefits, tax benefit A, tax benefit B, large family allowance, rent assistance, concession transport, medical concessions: the list goes on.
With our family, four kids and only one income while John was studying, we qualified for Tax Benefit A, Tax Benefit B, large family allowance and rent assistance. Sounds good? Well, no, not really, because despite my best efforts, it seems now we may have to repay $4,000 because once John got a job, that put us over the threshold for the financial year. If we had kept him unemployed for another few months, we wouldn’t have to pay anything back! The period of time during the year when there was only one bread-winner is not taken into account. I cannot claim John’s school fees on my tax.
Despite all this, I do detect an entitlement mentality among some people. If it were me, I would scrap the baby bonus. We have more than enough damn people on this planet. If we want a bigger population, accept more migrants, don’t bring even more children into this world. The first home owner’s grant should be scrapped and the taxes levied when a property changes ownership should be reduced accordingly. Let’s save some wage costs in the public service, shall we? All we are doing at the moment is borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and keep a large number of public servants employed.
Then let us look at the wonderful Tax Benefits A and B. Back in the day, if we had dependents, we claimed them on our tax. If we had dependents, less tax was taken out of our pay each pay period. A simple and relatively inexpensive system. Now? Heaven help me! We have a whole Family Assistance Office managing a massive system where I ended up getting TWO (wouldn’t one have been enough) direct credits to my bank account each fortnight. The whole process of even applying was a nightmare.
So scrap the whole damn system and go back to people simply claiming on their tax. Far cheaper to the taxpayer. We could even use the saved funds to provide some more tax relief for families, one would think.
Work for the dole? Too damn right! If I am slaving away and paying tax to provide the unemployment benefit, I see no reason why recipients shouldn’t do some community work or undertake some education to improve their chances of employment. Yet we saw how the latter works out when John was studying – the people given the opportunity just didn’t complete courses. Taxpayers are paying for those too!
I believe we should take care of those GENUINELY less fortunate than us. We should have public education and public health systems. These are mandatory in a civilised society, in my view. We should have better dental care available. I do not think I am responsible for providing baby bonuses, first home owner’s grants or lavish bureaucratic systems that have replaced perfectly good, cheaper to run, systems of the past.
Do I think Australia has an entitlement mentality? In a way, yes. I suggest there is a demographic that has: sick leave is treated as an entitlement, rather than a safety net, by many. I once watched a documentary about work for the dole and the interviewees were horrified they might actually have to lift a finger to earn MY hard-earned dollars! The REALLY rich have developed an entitlement mentality too – the entitlement not to pay a fair rate of tax! The rest of us are stuck in the middle!
I think we need to make our welfare leaner, cheaper to manage and deliver. Rationalise. The home owner’s grant is the classic example in my view: we pay huge transfer fees and get a grant back. Can you imagine the cost of actually managing that?
I am still very angry that I receive no restitution for the battle we had to fight. That has cost us dearly, yet we qualify for nothing. Even Miss O 1 is not entitled to concession fares like Australian students. We had to pay overseas fees for John’s schooling. We battle on and we will manage. I know there are people out there that do need assistance and they should receive it. I have no tolerance for people who bludge off the systems we have. I have no tolerance for inefficient systems that cost more than they should to run, wasting taxpayer’s money.
There is no good reason why we pay for airline travel for ex-members of parliament for life either! After they die, the benefit can be transferred to their spouse. Trim THAT before trimming some of the other benefits to the “average working Australian”!
I haven’t quite come to grips yet with the fact Joe Hockey’s leader is offering subsidised nannies (something else I have to fund by can’t actually afford myself??) and Joe took paid parental leave (so I read on Twitter), yet he is talking about cutting “entitlements”. Will he get a subsidised nanny and is not planning on any more children? Hmmmmmmmm.
In closing, I’d like to throw to an American writer, Nancy of Spirit Lights The Way, who sometime ago wrote a great thought-provoking article: The Right to Life. Joe Hockey may love this article. :D I find it very applicable to this discussion in Australia.
Some of our Twitter followers will disagree with my perspective, I know this already! Don’t be shy! Share your thoughts! Let’s have a discussion! :)