What did the Treasurer say?

 By Jinjing Li and Michael Jensen

Word cloud

Main Finding

The annual budget speech is a defining moment in Australian politics. The budget speech and budget reply constitute the contrasting narratives from the government and opposition regarding where the country is, its challenges and opportunities, and how the major parties aim to confront those challenges. We analysed the speeches given by the Treasurer and the leader of the Opposition, noting most frequent words and phrases used. This provides a measure of how they are framing the case for the government and opposition. Here we examine the most frequent words and phrases from the 2015 budget and budget reply speeches.

The 2015 budget speech emphasises "business". The policy to make smaller purchases fully deductable by businesses featured as a major theme of the 2015 budget. With over a year to go before the next election, the Opposition focuses less on policy and more on governing principals. Hence they speak more generally about the role of government in creating the conditions for Australians to "have a go (at)" and achieving a particular future. Likewise, in opposition, the Labor party focuses on their core constituency – workers (here stemmed as "work") – and creating "job(s)".

In 2014, the government focused on “(we will) build (a)”, particularly in regards to their infrastructure plan which was the centrepiece spending item. With 2014 representing the Abbott government's first budget and Bill Shorten six months into his leadership of the opposition, there was less of a focus on Labor's governing principals or policy and more emphasis on positioning the budget, widely perceived as unfair and breaking election promises. Hence, Shorten's reply is aimed at the prime minister and the budget directly rather than an elaboration of Labor policies and governing principles. Heading into an election, what will the budget and budget reply speeches bring? We anticipate that the budget speech will outline the Coalition's case to be re-elected and that the reply will focus primarily on policy contrasts with the ALP.

Methodology

Data is collected from the Australian Parliament website. Pre-processing is applied where stop-words (words that are frequently appearing but carry no specific meaning, e.g. “the”) are removed unless they are part of a phrase. The words are tokenised, which separates words and punctuation, and stemmed, which standardises words and their grammatical variations (e.g. funding --> fund), using Natural Language Tool Kit (NLTK) library. The order of the list is determined by the number of times the phrases appear multiplied by the number of words in the phrases. Note the list is based on word frequencies only, which may not always reflect the importance of the topic in the speech.