SHADOW treasurer Joe Hockey has condemned systems of "universal entitlement" in Western democracies, contrasting this attitude with the concept of "filial piety" thriving across Asia where people get what they work for and families look after their own.
Speaking in London, Mr Hockey said that by Western standards the highly constrained public safety net in Hong Kong and other Asian places might seem brutal "but it works and it is financially sustainable".
"Contrast this with what we find in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. All of them have enormous entitlement systems spanning education, health, income support, retirement benefits, unemployment benefits."
Government revenues fell far short of meeting the cost and the difference had to be made up by borrowing.
While he was less critical of Australia, saying that over the years there had been some key decisions to reduce spending, Mr Hockey said it still had "a lot of spending by government which many voters see as their entitlement".
He said a lower level of entitlement meant countries were free to allow business and individuals to be successful. "It reduces taxation, meaning individuals spend less of their time working for the state, and more of their time working for themselves and their family."
Both sides of the Western political spectrum were to blame for the entitlement mentality. Socialist governments had created a huge array of entitlements, and conservative governments had promised to fix the problem but just trimmed round the edges.
"Perhaps the real problem is the exuberant excesses of politicians who do not seem to understand or care about the fact that, like a household, a nation needs to balance its budget over time," he said.
But now "the age of unlimited and unfunded entitlement to government services and income support is over", he said. "We are now in an era where leaders are much more wary about credit risk."