Federal Budget pitches to middle Australia as media goes hard, then goes home

By Nathan Clarke

The Turnbull Government has handed down its final budget before the next election.

Personal income tax cuts for low-to-middle income families, infrastructure spending and an improved bottom line in the nation’s finances are the focus of the 2018-19 Budget, which forecasts an underlying deficit of $14.5b in 2018–19, and a return to surplus of $2.2b in 2019-20.

Early analysis suggests that this budget is a pitch to middle Australia, with the Turnbull Government positioning itself for a re-election campaign later this year based on the role and merit of income tax cuts.

Once again, the team at Six O’Clock held its own budget lock-up where we analysed the budget, industry and media reaction and deciphered what it all meant to our clients across various industries.

Media coverage – contemporary, customer-focussed, concise…and, well, quick!

This year, we took particular notice of how the budget was reported. It’s become clear that the days of content-heavy, chart-filled, jargon-laden summaries are gone.

By contrast, media outlets today are seeking innovative and creative ways to communicate key budget messages through a variety of tools and channels.

This is a positive shift towards clear and clever contemporary communication methods – complex materials can be presented in compelling and interesting ways.

ABC was first off the mark with this helpful and easy to navigate infographic of winners and losers with an option to read in-depth sector summaries.

News.com followed with an ‘income tax changes calculator’ and an interactive budget outline that took a more casual approach with language, enabling readers to quickly consume short summaries of important data, dates and policies.

The Guardian also published an interactive site with a photo gallery that gave a human face and human story to every area of government spending.

The Age/SMH delivered a more traditional budget outline, but embedded a helpful five-minute budget guide within a number of reports, that provide a simple breakdown by key spending categories.

As expected, The Australian and the Australian Financial Review have produced the most traditional content, curating a steady flow of reporting and analysis from relevant stakeholders consistently since the Treasurer’s speech last night.

In yet another example of the symbiotic relationship between social and editorial media, all outlets and working journalists were active on Twitter promoting their content and linking to key articles and reaction, often providing screen grabs of infographics.

Many too, like us (!), took to video to inform audiences and react from the sidelines.

The change in presentation of budget information has also been adopted by Government. No longer are papers front and centre of the budget website. Instead, and in an effort to control the message and reach target audiences, budget.gov.au is an interactive, theme-based information hub, filled with infographics, calculators and short summaries.

The budget papers themselves, once front and centre, are now buried away and difficult to find on the website.

This year we have seen the budget news cycle start and finish very quickly. Media has already moved on, meaning many industry stakeholders have missed the opportunity to react.

As Annabel Crab observes, this is perhaps the “…shortest budget news cycle ever…”.

This is perhaps a consequence of the immediacy of digital editorial media along with the sudden splurge of communication through social media. Or symbolic of a benign budget that people have stopped listening to. Or both.

If you’d like to hear more about our budget analysis, or talk to us about matters influencing your industry, please get in touch via [email protected] or 03 9993 0448.