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Treasurer flags ‘wellbeing’ as key focus for federal budget

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has revealed that wellbeing will be a focus of the October budget, a move welcomed by finance industry players.

On Friday (8 July), the federal Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers MP addressed the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney, covering the economic challenges and opportunities that face the two nations.

In the speech, Dr Chalmers outlined that the upcoming federal budget, expected to be released in October, will include a range of measures that seek to support wellbeing. 

In his speech, the Treasurer said that while the country was committed to “facilitating strong, broad and sustainable economic growth” – particularly given “high and rising inflation, rising interest rates, skill shortages and global economic uncertainties” – he added that wellbeing was also a priority for the Labor government.

He said: “At a time of record debt and budget pressures and cost of living pressures, value for money is essential and we judge it by what it means for the right kind of growth, including sustainable incomes growth.

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“But we should also judge our policies, including our economic policies against agreed markers of progress.

“That begins with measuring what matters – not instead of traditional economic indicators but in addition to.”

The Treasurer said that Australia had “a lot to learn” from New Zealand on this, applauding New Zealand’s Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Grant Robertson, for “his wellbeing approach [which] has significantly reshaped the conversation in New Zealand about the budget and the economy”.

“I want Australia to have a similar conversation about how we can better improve policy design, evaluation and priority setting,” Dr Chalmers said.

“We’re already doing a heap of work on this behind the scenes and there’s been really encouraging enthusiasm for the direction we’re taking.

“I’ve asked Treasury to make measuring what matters, and an Australian approach to wellbeing, a focus of the Budget in October,” he continued, later suggesting that this could include a national standard of living and national wellbeing.

According to the member for Rankin, budget statement 4 will be dedicated to “a broad ranging discussion of our options, drawing on best practice around the world, as the basis of our engagement and further development”.

“In the interim I’ll be writing to my ministerial colleagues to ensure they have portfolio input into our considerations,” he said.

The revelation that the budget will include wellbeing measures has been applauded by several players, including financial data and analytics platform Your Financial Wellness.   

Your Financial Wellness chief executive and co-founder Alex Hassall commented: “Tracking wellbeing makes perfect sense because it’s a really useful pointer for Australians from all walks of life. 

“Our own research has shown the very strong correlation between home ownership and financial wellness, he said, noting that a recent survey of more than 3,000 Australians found that almost one in two (46 per cent) of Australians experience some form of financial stress, with 27 per cent experiencing high or overwhelming financial stress.  

“We have developed a financial wellness index which shows those who own their home have a much higher wellness score, compared to people who rent. 

“We also see financial wellness is much higher in older Australians than younger people. 

“Issues like housing affordability, rental availability and the cost of living are occupying the thoughts of more and more Australians, particularly while there is greater focus on rising costs in the current economic environment. 

“As part of future wellbeing budgets, Your Financial Wellness believes there’s a need for an urgent reboot on financial literacy programs across Australia.

“The Albanese Government has a golden opportunity to review current strategies and reset them if they aren’t fit for purpose. 

“This will not only benefit individual Australians but help government, with less reliance on the taxpayer over time. 

“We welcome the Treasurer’s comments today as an encouraging first step on the path to greater financial wellbeing.

[Related: Treasurer says inflation will put pressure on October budget]

Treasurer flags ‘wellbeing’ as key focus for federal budget
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