By Jinjing Li and Michael Jensen

word cloud

Main Findings 

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)". 

2015 Government Speech

Count

2015 Reply Speech

Count

business

43

budget

39

small business

21

a go at

12

tax

35

have a go

12

year

33

this budget

16

new

32

Australian

26

madam   speaker

15

a go

13

Australia

29

per cent

12

budget

27

go at

12

small

26

the future

11

Australian

24

last year's

7

billion

22

job

20

we need to

7

year

20

government

20

cut

20

million

19

Australia

19

in   Australia

9

year's

9

our   economic plan

6

not have a

6

is a   budget

6

work

18

this   budget

9

new

17

per cent

8

Labor

17

 

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.

2014 Government Speech

Count

2014 Reply Speech

Count

the government

19

prime minister

30

government

32

budget

48

year

29

Australian

45

budget

29

prime

32

the budget

13

Australia

32

build

24

minister

32

build a

12

the prime minister

10

people

21

prime minister's

10

billion

21

an Australia

12

to build

10

this budget

11

need to

9

government

21

to build a

6

people

21

we will build

6

a budget

10

medical research

9

the prime

10

new

17

minister's

10

contribution

17

cut

20

nation

16

Labor

20

fund

16

family

19

help

16

this prime minister

6

Australian

16

make

16

 

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. 

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