Treasurer Joe Hockey has called on Australians to become more self reliant at a time when the federal government is considering tough spending decisions.
“And the business sector must shoulder more of the burden,” he told the Lowy Institute in Sydney on Thursday, adding it must restore corporate accountability and rely less on government assistance.
“It must stand on its own feet, and it must pay its fair share of tax.”
Mr Hockey was continuing the hard sell of his blunt message earlier in the week: the age of entitlement is over.
Instead it was time for the age of personal and corporate responsibility.
The treasurer said the budget he inherited from Labor reflected the entitlement mentality that dominated government decision-making in recent years.
“Too many taxpayers’ dollars have been spent on corporate and middle class welfare and too often previous governments have been drawn into areas that are better left to the private sector.”
Sustaining strong growth in living standards over the next decade would require a significant improvement in Australia’s productivity growth performance.
“This won’t be achieved through more government handouts.”
Mr Hockey also warned that Australia should not let itself fall into the same trap as some other G20 countries.
“They have run out of fiscal and monetary policy options. We must never let ourselves get into that situation.”
Governments had run out of money and it was now the turn of the private sector to generate economic growth and create new jobs.
The role of government was to facilitate and not inhibit the task.
Budgets required tough decisions by governments now so that near-impossible decisions were avoided in the future, Mr Hockey said.
The structural position of the federal budget was unsustainable and projected growth in government spending could not be from the existing tax base.
“This means that, in the absence of significant fiscal adjustment, public debt will continue to grow and the government’s flexibility to respond to future economic shocks will continue to erode.”
Mr Hockey said his first budget in May would focus on the necessary changes to meet a commitment of achieving surpluses that build to at least one per cent of gross domestic product by 2023/24.
But it will be set against the broader challenges of a declining terms of trade and baby boomers reaching retirement.