Political Leaders Should Strive to Slay the Beast of Entitlement

There appears to be a distinct culture of entitlement amongst some of the senior ministers in the Australian government.
Political Leaders Should Strive to Slay the Beast of Entitlement
Australian Prime MInister Anthony Albanese (left) and Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen (centre) with founder and CEO Vince Allen (right) during a visit to Sundrive in Sydney, Australia on Nov. 1, 2023. Sundrive is Australia’s first mass production facility for solar panels. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Kevin Andrews

When he was prime minister, the Liberal Party’s John Howard regularly warned colleagues against hubris. I suspect that he was reminding himself as much as his fellow MPs.

Hubris was a cardinal sin for the ancient Greeks. It can take a variety of forms.

At its basic, it denotes excessive pride or dangerous overconfidence and complacency, often associated with arrogance. It can also involve the incapacity of working in common with colleagues.

There are signs of hubris amongst current government ministers, no more so than Australian Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen’s claims about electric vehicles.

The revelation that both the prime minister and the energy minister each took a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) jet from Sydney to Scone in Hunter Valley, New South Wales (NSW), for a recent announcement is but the latest incident.

Previous examples of ministers taking government planes to sporting and entertainment events are well-known.

They have not been confined to the current government. The impression, however, is that ministers regard the RAAF as an almost-taxi service, which has been growing in the past months.

The excuse that a larger jet could not land at the Scone airport does not wash.

Why were two plane loads of people required in the Hunter Valley for what was a political announcement? How many ministers were required to make an announcement?

The fact that so many staff and others were on the flights is indicative of growing entitlement.

In addition to the flights, government cars were used to transport the ministers and staff from Scone to Liddell, where the announcement was made.

The irony of taking two fuel-guzzling jets to make an environmental announcement seems lost on Minister Bowen who is intent on telling Australians they should dispense their fossil-fueled vehicles in favour of electric cars and utes.

The announcement—to subsidise locally manufactured solar panels—has drawn scepticism from leading economists.

How will locally-made panels be cheaper than Chinese panels made with slave labour?

Should Be the Exception, Not the Norm

The responsibility for using the RAAF rests with the defence minister, who must approve their use. If the minister doesn’t exercise sufficient discipline, some of his or her colleagues will abuse the system.

There are occasions when a full RAAF plane will save the taxpayers money—compared to using commercial flights—if the travel is necessary for all the passengers. But that is hardly the case in the recent incident, nor in some of the other examples of aircraft being used to attend sporting and social events.

The culture about these issues is set from the top.

There was a sense last year that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese couldn’t wait to jump onto a VIP flight to jet around the world.

The attraction is understandable: a private plane to himself and staff, complete with attendants and plentiful food and drinks. No need to bother with the ordinary travelling public when ensconced in a government jet.

These experiences are seductive, reinforcing a sense of entitlement. Before long, what was the appropriate use of services, because other means of transport were not available or convenient, became a regular expectation.

In certain situations, it is entirely appropriate for the prime minister to use an RAAF jet. The calls on his time are considerable.

My observation of previous prime ministers, however, is that they worked while flying. But Australia has never provided the RAAF planes to ministers as a matter of course.

In the past, their use was regarded as an exception where it was necessary and/or financially justifiable.

Too many recent instances breach these basic parameters. For its own sake, the government should review the use of the aircraft and re-establish strict and justifiable criteria.

A sense of entitlement is not restricted to some parliamentarians: it is evident in other sectors of the community.

As political leaders, however, MPs must demonstrate appropriate standards in the eyes of the populace.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
The Hon. Kevin Andrews served in the Australian Parliament from 1991 to 2022 and held various cabinet posts, including Minister for Defence.
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