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October 7, 2022

How concerned are Australians about the Federal Budget?

Next week’s Federal Budget has many Australians wondering how they will be affected. 

The government has strongly advocated for building a more resilient economy than their predecessors, yet in recent months, the economy is suffering due to a rapid rise in inflation. This has pushed up interest rates and is squeezing the cost of living with both consumers and businesses feeling the pressure. 

Following groceries, the leading financial stressors for Australians are petrol, rent, mortgage payments and energy bills. And just to make ends meet, Aussies are making more considered purchases, seeking higher paying employment or working multiple jobs. Australians are already anxious about inflation with growing concern there’s no end in sight. 

Will the government restore their trust in Australians and keep their pre Federal Budget promises?

Cost of living crisis

Latest data from CHOICE’s Consumer Pulse survey, revealed that cost of living pressures are a major concern, with 90% of Australians seeing an increase in their household bills and expenses over the past year. 

Inflation pressures are intensifying and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) continues to drive up interest rates – their highest level in 7 years. The government has promised a long-term and sustainable approach to cost of living support in the form of a relief package. 

Concerned about their mortgage payments, up to a third of mortgage holders could struggle to keep up with future repayments, with younger generations particularly concerned about surging interest rates. 

Using Isentia data, during an eight week period from early August to early October 2022, 18% of Australia’s front pages featured cost of living stories. Even in a time of large local and international news such as the war on Ukraine and the Optus security breach, the cost of living crisis was still making front page news.

According to Pulsar data, anxieties around the cost of living, peaked following the RBA’s interest rate announcements on 4 September and 4 October. For the sixth consecutive month, Australians have had to tighten an already lean household budget.

Apprehensions around security increased on 24 September as a result of the Optus security breach and again on 10 October when the government announced changes to the country’s defence projects.  Also on 10 October, cost of living concerns spiked after growing speculation surrounding the Stage 3 tax cuts being recalibrated. Australians also felt a heightened sense of unease after the announcement of a future surge in energy costs, following a recent  35% rise.

Topics causing anxiety this Federal Budget
Anxieties surrounding topics mentioned by the government. Source: Pulsar

Childcare fees are at their highest in 8 years, with child care subsidies failing to keep out of pocket costs to a minimum. On 16 September, conversation around child care spiked, as Treasurer Jim Chalmers promised to reduce the cost of childcare, yet pledged to keep spending restrained in light of budgetary constraints. 

As part of the cost of living relief package, this reduction won’t come into play until mid 2023. Can Australian families wait this long?

Problematic climate conditions such as excessive rain and floods are leading to localised food price increases and diminished food quality. Even in the same area, poorer households are faring far worse than affluent counterparts. Across the board, there has been  a surge in the cost of fruit and vegetable prices (7.3%) and meat, seafood and bread rising by 6.3%

On top of these climate issues, labour shortages in both warehousing and transportation have resulted in added disruption to the supply chain. Freight costs are on the rise, putting intense pressure on importers and exporters. 

Are Aussie consumers looking at a continued supply chain that is more disruptive than the 2020 toilet paper shortage? The rise in the cost of living weighs on households’ spending, and Australians are seeking alternate ways to make extra cash.

The thrifty shopper

As the cost of living rises, many Australians are seeking alternate ways to make or save cash; trimming budgets where they can; cancelling home entertainment subscriptions, and reducing insurance coverage for lower fees to name a few. Purchases at all levels are becoming more involved and highly considered, with discounts heavily sought after.

As Millennials and Gen Z shoppers are gaining more buying power, their passion for sustainable commerce is stronger than ever. Selling personal items to make extra cash has been on the rise with retail e-commerce platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and ‘Recommerce’ platforms like AirRobe, are booming. Not only are Australians becoming more financially savvy, they are conscious of the need to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ – a criteria these platforms adopt.

Following the money

There’s no doubt that inflation is changing salary expectations. And for those in industries where movement and remote working is possible, many Australians are following the money.

Data from the Reserve Bank of Australia, shows organisations have reported higher rates of employees leaving to achieve higher pay packets as a way to provide temporary relief for  the rise in cost of living. Interestingly, this higher voluntary turnover was especially concentrated in professional services. 

In response to labour shortages, organisations are implementing a range of non-base wage strategies – e.g bonuses, flexible work practices, more internal training and hiring staff with less experience, as opposed to increasing base wages.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures also show Australians are taking on multiple jobs, as full-time work forces employees to juggle several roles to make ends meet. Although multiple job holding is more common in low-paid industries, a record high of 900,000 people held multiple jobs in the June quarter of 2022. 

This is an increase of 4.3 per cent from the previous quarter and is a reflection of wages growth stagnating and nominal wages barely keeping up with consumer prices. The result; people needing to work more hours to make ends meet. 

Using data insights from Pulsar, wages is one of the ‘most anticipated’ topics in this year’s Budget. The Wage Price Index (WPI) rose 0.7 per cent in the June quarter and 2.6 per cent over the year, which represented a substantial fall in real wages given inflation rose 6.1 per cent last quarter. 

Social media conversation around wages is evolving with other indicators suggesting wages are still climbing alongside extreme uncertainty surrounding global growth and rampant inflation. 

Will Australians see more dollars in their pocket after the Budget is handed down?

The "most anticipated" topics in this year's Federal Budget.
The “most anticipated” topics in this year’s Federal Budget. This is a visual representation of the conversation frequency of topics over time. Source: Pulsar

Australians taking action

With Australians taking a greater interest in living a sustainable lifestyle, the government and organisations are prompted to influence the lever of positive change and create actionable outcomes.

Despite a great deal of politicians pledging change, governments are often swayed by the media and public opinion which can derail policies wanting to address complex, longer-term challenges. Millennials and Gen Zs have long pushed to see societal and economic change. 

Results from the 10th Annual Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey shows they are increasingly becoming more politically involved. These influential cohorts are progressively showing interest in political issues, and turning to social media to discuss their opinions. Moreover, they are consciously making calculated career decisions and spending their money with organisations who share the same values.

The top keywords used by key communities discussing the Federal Budget online and social media.
The top keywords used by key communities discussing the Federal Budget online. Source: Pulsar

Social engagement shows left wing millennials are showing concern over the budget and economic issues, with Treasurer, Jim Chalmers gaining the most chatter. Similarly, baby boomers are equally vocal, using the same keywords as millennials but they also seek strong leadership and a strong economy.

For younger demographics, their interactions or relationships with organisations is dependent on the organisation’s treatment of the environment, their policies on data privacy and their position on social and political issues. 

For governments, tackling environmental, economic and social issues and their impact requires a huge transformation across all sectors. Market forces alone will not solve the problem, and the onus is on governments to take a lead to meet the sustainability challenge. 

The October Federal Budget is an opportunity for the government to show they are the lever of change by creating actionable outcomes and a positive impact. Australians are concerned for the welfare of the country and previous governments have fallen short. 

The government promises to back clean energy and build new renewable infrastructure across the country, will they succeed or disappoint?

The Federal Budget can be an overwhelming time, with an abundance of promises and policies, it can be hard to stay on top of the latest news. We have a comprehensive range of political news services available to help you navigate the political media coverage at this October Federal Budget. Want to learn what’s being said at this Federal Budget?

Click here to start navigating the announcements that may impact your organisation.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published anti-greenwashing guidelines for businesses making environmental and sustainability claims. Despite these efforts, media coverage of greenwashing, particularly focusing on senate inquiries and regulatory court cases against major offenders, continues to expose brands and industries stretching the truth in their sustainability messaging. This exposure is causing a growing disconnect between consumers and corporations, as audiences increasingly call out misleading practices and question the authenticity of corporate sustainability claims.Isentia’s sister brand, Pulsar conducted recent research exploring media and public discourse around sustainability. Part of this report examines how greenwashing is covered in the news and on social media, particularly in relation to the broader sustainability discourse. Let’s investigate those themes in more depth here.

Social media data is decreasing while online news activity re-engages, indicating incident-led conversations. Regulatory bodies like the ACCC, and state and federal governments are tackling greenwashing by identifying major corporate offenders and their misleading actions, such as 'recyclable' packaging, carbon credit misuse, lack of transparency in fossil fuel investments, and exploitation of government climate programs. Audience conversations often align with news coverage on these matters.
The term in Australia particularly gained traction among social audiences around November 2022 when the UN called out the Australian government for allowing the use of carbon offsets in corporate emissions reduction strategies. News of the apparent collusion between the government and large corporations has caused public faith and trust in both to dwindle. As these stories emerge, Australia's positive sustainability impact on the international stage is significantly undermined.

https://twitter.com/janegarcia/status/1591662729664004099

When we look at which sectors are most discussed within the greenwashing topic, energy, finance, and food take the lead.

Much of the discussion regarding the energy and finance sectors emphasises their interconnectedness, particularly the investment by financial institutions, including super funds, in environmentally harmful industries. Despite some super funds claiming to offer options that avoid unsustainable investments, reports have revealed that they collectively hold millions of shares in the fossil fuel industry. 

Many industries are being criticised for using carbon credits, such as REDD+ offsets, to appear more sustainable. Advertising, marketing, and public relations also play a significant role in promoting misleading sustainability initiatives, thereby contributing to greenwashing. However, stakeholders are aware that the advertising and communications industries have a huge impact on the profitability and success of an industry or product. The European Union’s Product Environmental Footprint classification system, for example, has been criticised by Australia’s wool industry for being unfair to wool products and for greenwashing. This, they argue, not only undermines the pursuit of a green transition within fashion but also damages a vital industry.

Mercer stands out as a most mentioned brand within the topic of greenwashing. This is due to ASIC pursuing a civic penalty case against them which alleged they misled members about its sustainability investments. This is groundbreaking for audiences to witness as it would be the first time the consumer watchdog has taken a company to court for alleged greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/BillHareClimate/status/1630404986130808833

Much of the conversation focuses on misinformation and lack of transparency in communication and marketing. Certifications like Fair Trade are being questioned, particularly for products like chocolate, and eco-certification for farmed salmon. It particularly muddies the waters for political figures when they get entangled with brands coming under scrutiny for such greenwashing.

https://twitter.com/JosieMcskimming/status/1750987402691362858

Furthermore, some companies feature in the media conversation due to their involvement in a senate enquiry initiated in March 2023, with a report expected by June 28th this year. 

Analysis of the ANZ reveals a shift in mindset, with consumers emphasising individual actions for solutions like composting or guerilla campaigns on mislabelled environmentally friendly salmon products. Grassroots and individual activism leading to actions like divestment from conflicting companies. Community groups like uni student clubs showcase how groups with shared values and experiences can make noise and incite change with how universities invest. However, there are ongoing debates as to whether it’s the role of sectors like higher education or Super Funds to prioritise the environmental implications of their decisions.

The rise in curiosity around greenwashing highlights the growing consumer demand for transparency and genuine sustainability from brands. As regulatory scrutiny and public awareness increase, brands must ensure their sustainability claims are genuine or face reputation damage.

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Blog
The Eco-Spin Cycle: how brand’s sustainability claims come out in the wash

Regulators are cracking down on corporate greenwashing, but what does media discussion reveal about its impact on brand-consumer relations?

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As the spotlight on sustainability intensifies year by year, it has become a focal point for legislators, media entities, and audiences worldwide.

This dynamic environment demands that brands and institutions elevate their standards in messaging and actions, holding them accountable like never before. For professionals in the PR & Comms realm, it is imperative to grasp not only how sustainability is being discussed but also the potential pitfalls, such as greenwashing, and gain a profound understanding of the diverse audiences receiving these messages.

Explore over 20 beautifully crafted pages of data visualisation that illuminate audience insights sourced from social media, news outlets, and search engines. Gain valuable perspectives on how one of the defining issues of our time is being discussed and understood.

Our exploration of this crucial topic delves deep into uncovering insights that are indispensable for crafting effective strategies, both tactical and long-term:

-Unraveling trends in the sustainability conversation

-Assessing brand & industry reputations

-Navigating greenwashing & misinformation

-Understanding the diverse audiences of sustainability

To access these insights, simply fill in the form

Download now

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Blog
Sustainability: Mapping the Media & Public Conversations

From accusations of greenwashing to the role of misinformation, we explore the comms landscape around sustainability.

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