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London: Former treasurer Joe Hockey said politicians who shun cutting government spending to stay popular with voters are a cancer in the community, and that the age of entitlement has only worsened since he gave his landmark speech more than a decade ago.
He was speaking in London to the Institute for Economic Affairs, the same centre-right think tank where he delivered his Age of the End of Entitlement speech when in opposition and said that nothing had changed since warning that societies had to curb entitlement culture in order to make life sustainable.
“Today I am warning our legislators and leaders that it is their entitlement that is the problem,” he said.
Former Treasurer Joe Hockey speaking at the Institute for Economic Affairs in London, Monday, October 23, 2023.Credit: Latika Bourke
“The entitlement to hold on to power.
“The entitlement to be popular no matter what the cost.”
Hockey, who as treasurer proposed a raft of spending cuts and ended government subsidies, killing the domestic car industries, said the majority of his controversial 2014 first budget had gone onto be delivered.
He said that Western democracies had fallen into the deep abyss of populism that made hard decisions between regular elections almost impossible.
Declaring that the United States, where he served as ambassador was “strangling itself with debt”, he said it could be at risk of defaulting, although stressed that America’s buying power still made it a formidable economy.
He said that the last US government to live within its means was the Clinton administration.
He said that politicians were afraid of making hard decisions when cheap borrowing was available and that populism was rampant and uncontrollable.
Joe Hockey as treasurer in 2015.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
“That sense of entitlement, that you can give people everything they want, is a cancer in our community,” he said.
“We will all pay a price.”
Hockey said that there was not much philosophical basis to most modern politicians who he said were mostly populists.
Asked by a member of the audience if the media was to blame, Hockey said it was not and that he was the first to defend freedom of the press.
He stood by some of his more controversial measures including effectively ending the local car industry and slashing public sector jobs.
“That was bloody hard, you read the letters from them and their families, it was really hard but at the end of the day it had no material impact on the delivery of services.
“And where it did, we just went and employed more people.”
He also stood by his failed attempt to introduce a GP co-payment saying that Britain’s almost broken NHS, which has a waiting list of 7 million people, was an example of how failing to make public services sustainable only ended up hurting the poor.
“Once again, an entirely publicly funded system, with no means testing, does not meet the community’s needs and expectations,” he said.
“And yet it is politically toxic to suggest that there should be an affordable means tested co-payment to sustain and improve the service.
“Apparently feeling good about a ‘free’ entitlement is more important than the health outcomes.”
Once again, the people that lose out the most are those that need the most. Wealthy people can get around the failures of a broken public health system by purchasing private medical treatment.
But Hockey, who now runs his own strategic advisory firm Bondi Partners, said that since leaving public life, he had discovered that the bureaucracy in big business was far worse than the public service.
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