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Why does the Budget come out at 7:30pm on a Tuesday?

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
October calendar, federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Budget date concept. Images: Getty
Here's why the Budget is released at 7:30pm on a Tuesday. Images: Getty

This year has been a year like no other, and the Federal Budget is no different.

Since 1994, the Australian Federal Budget has generally been released on the second Tuesday night of May.

The only exceptions have previously been in 1996 and 2019 when federal elections pushed the Budget out to August and April, and in 2016 when it was pushed to May to allow for a potential double dissolution election. And this year the Covid-19 pandemic pushed it back by five months.

It will be shared tonight 6 October - still on a Tuesday, still at 7:30pm.

Prior to 1994, the Budget was shared on the first Tuesday night of the Spring parliamentary session, which fell in August.

Why is the Budget released at 7:30pm?

The Budget is released in the evening due to the potentially market-sensitive information it contains. But from midday until that time, the Treasurer will generally spend the time briefing advocacy groups and media on the material within the Budget.

According to University of Wollongong economics professor Simon Ville, the 7:30pm delivery is a practice that dates as far back as the beginning of Federation.

Why is the Budget traditionally released in May?

Former prime minister Paul Keating pulled the Budget forward to May in 1994 to have time to pass the associated legislation by the new financial year.

However, this date isn’t legally binding - it’s more of a tradition and can be shifted to suit election calendars or major events, like the pandemic.

When the Keating government brought it forward, it took it more in line with the UK’s March budget date.

What’s the deal with the ‘lock-up’?

Budget day generally sees hundreds of journalists, economists and public interest groups file into Parliament House at around 1:30pm before being handed piles of documents and in more recent years, USB sticks.

The lock-up has been a fixture of the Australian political calendar since former prime minister Ben Chifley (1945-49) began to give parliamentary journalists information earlier so they could meet the deadline for their morning editions.

However, it was Keating who created the major Canberra lock-up, which sees journalists today lose internet access, their phones and all contact with the outside world until 7:30pm.

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