“The Age of Entitlement is over”, we were told when the then Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, addressed the Institute of Economic Affairs in London in April 2012. As he explained, the problem arises when one person believes she or he has a right to a good or service for which someone else has to pay.
Three years on, we are still treated to the spectacle of politicians incurring travel expenses for personal travel, and then believing the taxpayer should bear the burden. The Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is simply the latest in a list of elected members from both sides of politics who have been challenged to repay costs inappropriately claimed.
Some voices are calling for a review of the system to enable allowances to be clearly defined. Presumably, an improved system could be designed. Usefully, it might also contain penalties for abuse substantial enough to cause elected members to exercise restraint in deciding what to claim. However, what is really needed is a change of mindset. We need our elected representatives to jettison the sense of entitlement attached to their status and recall clearly that they are really in a position of service.
In the concluding remarks of his speech, Hockey concluded that “Governments around the world must reign in their excesses…” Quite so! This, however, is not simply a matter of fiscal restraint; it requires sound leadership by example. Elected members must put aside their excesses and be constantly aware that if they are to make inroads into the mentality of entitlement pervading our society, they must reflect in their own behavior values such as propriety, restraint, and personal integrity. Without such leadership, the assertion of the end of the Age of Entitlement will prove to be premature!