Failing to act on the concerns of Australians may have put the government in the firing line this election.
Australians told a new study that a lack of government leadership and vision for the future was more of a concern for them than financial and environmental issues.
The study commissioned by Real Insurance is the second in a series called the Real Concern Index aimed at uncovering what Australians are most concerned about heading into federal elections.
Compared with 2019 when finances and the rising cost of living ranked the No.1 concern in the minds of Aussies, the study found that sights had now set on the government itself for failing to act or present a clear vision.
More than 5000 participants were asked to rate issues out of 100 for how much they were concerned by them, with questions asked in early March prior to the election being called.
Government issues rated the highest, with an average score of 64.5 out of 100, followed closely by climate change, which rated 64, and finances rating 62.7 on the scale.
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Just one in 10 Australians felt state and federal governments had a clear vision for Australia’s future and realistic plans to achieve it.
Concern over government was closely linked to a failure to act on cost of living issues.
One respondent, Tom from Geelong, said the government appeared more concerned with delivering talking points than practical changes to ease pressure on families.
“Our concerns were really around childcare and the overall cost of that for people and the lack of leadership shown from government in that situation,” Tom said.
He said he was lucky enough to be able to afford four days of childcare a week – with help from government subsidies – but knew people who were forced to decide between sending their kids to childcare and staying at home.
“It’s such a large cost to the overall household budget,” Tom said.
Labor has said it would increase the childcare subsidy rate to 90 per cent for families earning under $530,000, while under the current system most families are eligible for a subsidy of between 50 and 85 per cent.
“Even if you look at Labor’s policy, they’re still leaving two days during a fortnight through their 100 subsidised hours and the Coalition isn’t even talking about it really,” Tom said.
“If they were genuinely serious about it they would be looking at free child care as a way to take real pressure off working families.”
A lack of effective leadership within political parties rated one of the things Australians were most concerned about, with Victorians and Queenslanders reporting the highest levels of concern.
Most Aussies were also concerned about the “calibre” of Australian political leaders and the lack of clear government policies – although back in March when the survey was conducted less policies had been released.
Inconsistent state and federal government policies during the pandemic rated highly, as did ongoing government integrity issues and scandals, uncertain and flip-flopping government policies and changes in Covid-19 laws varying between the states.
Another respondent to the survey, Tim from Perth, said the increasing cost of living was making it harder for him and his family who are renting.
“Things have been a bit crazy I think for a lot of people the last few years obviously but especially recently with the fuel price increases, the inflation rate and even rental prices seem to be getting squeezed,” he said.
“It just seems really hard to save any money or make any progress.”
Like many Australians, Tim admits he is not intimately aware of every policy on offer this election but says he hasn’t heard anything announced that would help him buy a house.
“I’ve looked at the policies that have been available for first-home buyers in the past several times,” Tim said.
“Every time I’ve looked at it, I’ve always thought, ‘OK, but it just doesn’t go far enough. This isn’t going to get me across the line here to buy a house yet’.”
The study showed that overall younger people expressed higher levels of concern, which came as no surprise to financial adviser and co-founder of Fox and Hare, Glen Hare.
“Younger Aussies don’t follow a linear life path like their parents and grandparents. They crave freedom and flexibility but haven’t yet found the balance between living today and preparing for tomorrow,” he said.
“A situation that serves to heighten feelings of hopelessness as house prices race further and further out of reach for many young Aussies in particular.”
He said while the situation was “exacerbated by the lack of wage growth”, it was also important for Australians to think about how they were spending and saving their money.
Mr Hare works primarily with younger clients, aged between 25 to 45, many of whom have not seen significant inflationary pressures within the majority of their working lives.
Many express concerns over the portion of their income being spent on housing through rent or mortgages and the rising cost of fuel and food.
One of the issues he said was that most people most had a very limited understanding of the economic levers available to government that impacted because financial literacy was relatively low in Australia,
Mr Hare said one of the things the government could be doing to help out everyday Australians was improving financial literacy through schools.
“I would love to see some of this stuff in schools. Really simple stuff like what is a share, what is superannuation and how does it work, how does the tax rate work, what is inflation, what is interest,” he said.
“Because the reality is these different macroeconomic factors impact absolutely everybody.”
Improving financial literacy would also empower more Australians to take control of their finances in a way that could help offset exterior forces.
Mr Hare’s message to those looking to save was they needed to be doing more than just keeping their money in a bank account, especially with interest rates low and cost of living rising.
“The rise in cost of living makes the process of saving and investing infinitely harder, as it limits the amount that Australians can set aside for their futures and, naturally, increases their concerns about their long-term financial wellbeing,” he said.
To make sure the return on savings is keeping up with the cost of living, Mr Hare said Aussies should be looking at shares, index or other types of funds or property as a way to save better for the future.
“Many Australians struggle with everyday financial literacy and default to putting their money in a bank account because they’re concerned about making the wrong decision – picking the wrong shares or the wrong fund. The default is to do nothing,” Mr Hare said.
“Getting your financial world sorted is so easy to put on the backburner, but the reality is doing nothing is probably costing them more than they realise.”