“The age of entitlement is over. It has to be replaced, not with an age of austerity, but with an age of opportunity.” Treasurer Joe Hockey in his budget address on Tuesday night.
“Yes!” I wanted to bellow from my lounge-chair arena, like some footy head on a Friday night. At the risk of opening a can of worms here, I will say that it’s been real interesting listening to the roar of dissent from different corners of the community.
It was going to happen. No budget satisfies everyone. And we all have our bugbears, our causes and our unique circumstances.
Those key words again… Entitlement. Austerity. Opportunity.
If we would believe Hockey’s bold words, handouts are kaput, not to be replaced with any kind of severe governance but rather to uphold opportunity as the individual and corporate way forward.
But cutting Australia’s aid budget by a whopping $7.6 billion over five years sure makes me uncomfortable. That means that cuts to aid (1.2 per cent of Federal Government expenditure) will provide 20 per cent of budget savings. International aid foundations have rightly queried if this is a case of the government “balancing the books on the backs of the world’s poor”.
Then there’s raising the retirement age to 70 (not ‘til 2035, granted), ending Family Tax Benefit Part B once a family’s youngest child turns six and that controversial $7 Medicare co-contribution fee.
It does seem that families, the elderly, the young, the poor and the sick are copping a fair slug in this budget.
But as Hockey said, “We must always remember that when one person receives an entitlement from the government it comes out of the pocket of another Australian.”
You know what I thought amidst the budget hoo-ha of who should get what slice of the taxpayer pie?
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
It’s a major cop-out to expect our government to fix all the ailments of the Australian community with a budget cure-all. And even if it could – and did – it would be to the detriment of humanity, that concept of extending a helping hand when we see our fellow man in need.
We need to take some personal responsibility here.
Call me simplistic but I always thought that charity began at home. That is, enlarging the opportunities of others (and, inadvertently, ourselves) comes about when we dig into our own wallets and selflessly proffer a buck or two to make a difference in the life of another.
Rather than a culture that says one person is entitled to a payout and another taxed for it, imagine one that freely gave its resources as the need dictated.
It has happened.
In Acts there is a description of a community of believers who “were one in heart and mind.”
“No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had… and God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:32-34)
It hardly sounds possible! Imagine – contributing from whatever your pool of resources because you believe that it belongs to God and not you.
However the budget affects us, there’s a greater issue with a tight-fisted culture that doesn’t take personal responsibility for the poor and vulnerable among us. Yes, we should advocate for families, the elderly, the young, the poor and the sick – but we mustn’t forget to match such compulsion from the warmth of our own homes.
To teach our children that, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” will have more of an impact on the Australian culture than any budget tabled in parliament.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 19, 2014.