Remember Joe Hockey? It's only an era away but he of the fat cigar and the angry smirk advised us that he was bringing the age of entitlement to an end. It is hard to know exactly what he meant particularly when he advanced into the area of lifters and leaners. One thing is for sure he didn't see the overturn of One Term Tony and his, missed it by that much, entitlement to a Prime Minister's pension for life disappearing over the horizon of public cheers.
In the more mundane world where the rest of us live entitlements can mean sick and holiday pay, super contributions and other employment packages as well as safety net provisions to look after the vulnerable. These have been increasingly under attack as the union movement has been continuously pared back by governments that demonise them and portray them as corrupt. There have been instances of union corruption as there has been corruption in every walk of life but it is always the union that gets kicked and highlighted and almost never the employers who have an equal amount to answer to in individual cases. This should not be a simplistic case of goodies and baddies but one of upholding existing laws.
In my own working life I never felt anything but incredibly privileged and lucky to be constantly in work although it never felt like work to me. I was able to do what I loved and felt passionate about and to got paid as well!!
For twenty five years I was able to pretty much work on the things I wanted to work on. The first thing I didn't really want to work on was fighting the cancer that hit me in 1997 but there was no choice and rather than worry and complain I had to concentrate on a positive outcome and get everything negative out of my frame.
A year later when asked if anything had changed in my life as a result of the big C my immediate response was “No, back to normal” and of course in time I realised that that wasn't true at all. The next big life event when I was hit by a car in 2003 and spent some time in an induced coma and five months in hospital the recovery period was much longer. As I recovered again my instant response about change was “no, her I am” but increasingly that was shorthand for “I'm alive” and indeed much had changed. Not the least of these changes was the end of my full on work life and the need to refocus my time between initially getting used to the new me and my new life and the speed at which I had become a non person after the years of work and public life.
I could look in the mirror and say, “Didn't you used to be Bob Weis” and that meant something. It was a bit like the film colleague who saw me at a Producer's Conference and stammered, “Bob. Great to see you, I thought you were …” (dead?)
So back to entitlements. Joe and Tone have gone. Tony said he was not going to background or undermine so we could be sure he was and he has. Joe seems to have taken his entitlements and gone off to greener pastures and don't we all think it's a good deal? “Poor people don't drive? To buy a house in Sydney all you need is a good job.”
For the teachers and nurses and the armies of essential workers who have been chronically underpaid and their entitlements threatened we need to keep on fighting the good fight so that they don’t get lost in the language wars. Do you want an ambulance to turn up when you need one? Of course you do. Pay the people properly for doing a high stress important job. Do you want a trained and caring nurse to look after your loved ones? Do you want to arrive safely when you take public transport? These are or should be rhetorical questions. It is a sign of the times we are living in that they need to be asked and answered now.
Is it an 'entitlement' to be paid fairly? Not in the Hockey sense. Remember Joe? It is good that he's gone but we do have to remember him and his ilk and we do have to defend decency.
Couldn't have said it any better.