WHEN Joe Hockey declared the "age of entitlement" dead, genie-like he let a question out of the bottle that is not going back unanswered.
The question - just who has been entitled - is the biggest problem now facing the Abbott Government.
Of course there are those in the ideologically blinded right of the Coalition who thought the answer was obvious. Clearly the poor sucking on the welfare teat, dole bludgers, scientists, academics, "lifestyle" Aborigines, hospitality workers on penalty rates, humanities students and refugees were what the Treasurer was talking about.
That's the problem though when you speak in headlines and three-word cliches. Occasionally, unintentionally, you may cause people to think beyond your dog whistle.
And so it has come to pass.
"What about them?" has been the electorate's response as it points back at politicians and their jaw-droppingly generous entitlements; Rupert Murdoch, whose US operations siphon off, all but tax-free, $4.5 billion from its Australian business; aggressive tax-minimising miners and their diesel fuel rebates; and a development industry that cost shifts to the public sector at every available opportunity.
Well may the so-called Group of Nine - which includes the Business Council of Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce, Australian Food and Grocery Council, Australian Industry Group, Minerals Council of Australia, National Farmers Federation and the Property Council of Australia - call for budget reform.
But in the face of latest polling that places tax dodging and loss of penalty rates at the top of voter concern, there is faint hope that this group of rent seekers will achieve the outcomes they want.
The Abbott Government is fast backing away from a budget widely perceived to target society's most vulnerable. It remains to be seen though if either the Prime Minister or Opposition Leader Bill Shorten are capable of engaging voters in a frank discussion about the nation's future.
Slick intergenerational reports and Minister Pyne education-reform advertising won't cut it. Nor will a conversation high-jacked by one end of town to the exclusion of all others.
We increasingly appear to have had enough of the demonisation of the relatively few asylum seekers to wash up on our shores as the biggest threat to our sovereignty.
Hopefully attention will turn to the 220,000 pouring through the front door annually and cause some at least to wonder whether there is more to their purpose than propping up already inflated home prices.
Also worthy of attention is the negative-gearing lark that has turned a once proud country with the research and intellectual capacity to create new things and industries, and a broader economy, into little more than a game of Monopoly.
It is a game aided - as evidenced by recent ICAC inquiries in NSW and hopefully by one to come in Queensland - by strokes of government pens at the point of which lays the greatest opportunity for corruption.
Employing as many young people as possible in the service sector on the cheapest rate for the minimum number of hours may make sense to some, but it doesn't guarantee service and won't sustain an economy.
And while there are clearly those who still believe in the fallacy of trickle-down economics, all empirical data suggests the rich are getting richer and the rest are getting by.
So let's have reform and let's have a conversation - make it truly about the age of entitlement and maybe we can find a path forward less destructive than the one we've been on.
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