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15 May 2024  •  by Tess Salmon, Principal Consultant and Sally Taylor, Senior Communications Strategist

Budget 2024: A Balancing Act of Prudence and Promise


Responsible, sensible, safe, disciplined.

Just some of the buzzwords rolled out by the Federal Government in the lead up to this week’s 2024 Budget, all used to set the tone of what did indeed eventuate to be a ‘budget for the here-and-now’ and one that was without a doubt wrapped in the cotton wool of an interesting strategic communications approach that we can all learn from.

In a time where cost of living and economic uncertainty sets the scene for a bleak outlook for at least the next couple of years, the government’s communications strategy in the lead up to Tuesday night reflected a deliberate effort to convey a sense of frugality and caution.

However, Jim Chalmers’ bold approach on Tuesday night seemed to contradict the tactic taken in the lead up. In his words, it was a ‘budget for every Australian’, in others’, it was an ‘Election Budget’. Tax cuts for every taxpayer, better deals for every working parent, a fairer go at every checkout, help for electricity bills in every Australian household, more homes in every state and territory, and more help for retirees and tertiary education students. Critics of the Budget said the government was ‘cash splashing’ and its measures were not enough to curb inflation. Cost of living initiatives didn’t go far enough to curb household angst, the housing and rental crisis was not properly addressed, and NDIS recipients and providers were left in the cold, with a significant curbing of costs in the scheme forecast over the next four years.

Jim Chalmers’ attempts at tempering Australians’ expectations for weeks ahead of Tuesday certainly foreshadowed little room for extravagance and makes us communications professionals beg the question, is the strategy of aiming to ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ a wise one?

When advising clients on how to effectively manage an issue that could impact their reputation, transparency and accountability are always front-of-mind. While it can often be tempting to make grand promises to win over customers, clients, the media or the general public, overcommitment can certainly harm a brand’s image. Being upfront with the reality of the situation at hand and the challenges being presented can build a foundation of trust with clients, customers and stakeholders, or in the government’s case, with the general public. In a business, employees and customers feel valued and involved, in the government’s budget process, the public feels seen and accounted for. In Jim Chalmers’ case, this approach set the bar low for what was ultimately a pretty gutsy deliverable.

However, there are downsides to this methodology. It can often seem inauthentic, you can disappoint your target audience from the outset which is sometimes impossible to recover from and it can set an unrealistic expectation for a client’s next project.

So, what’s the middle ground?

In the realm of strategic communication, navigating this delicate balance between managing expectations and delivering strong results is an art form. At the end of the day, in the work we do, it’s always about integrity. Commit to a reasonable outcome, work your hardest to deliver it and communicate with your audience as much as possible on the journey. Take them with you. It can be surprising how much the community values a bit of humility.

Whatever your thoughts on this year’s Budget, there is certainly more to take away than just dollar signs in terms of how strategic communications can make or break the influence you have on the people who matter most.

For more information on how to apply these learnings to your organisation, contact Tess Salmon or Sally Taylor at Bastion Reputation on or

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