Working family

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Working family was a term used by Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, and members of his leadership team, during the lead-up to the 2007 Australian federal election.

Prior use[edit]

The term is similar to the glittering generality "Hardworking families" used heavily by the political parties in the campaign of the 2005 United Kingdom general election[1] and more generally in the politics of the United Kingdom[2] and of the United States.[3]

Australian federal election, 2007[edit]

The term was used 16 times[4][5] by Rudd during the leaders debate on 21 October 2007. Despite calls[5] for a definition during the election campaign, the term remained undefined. The ambiguous nature of the term allowed evasion of definitive policies throughout the campaign.[5]

In the lead up to the federal budget of May 2008 the term continued to cause confusion and the scope was expanded by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister to include, among others, "a single person who is a pensioner or a self-funded retiree, or someone who is being provided care by a carer". In fact neither the prime minister or the treasurer was prepared to exclude anyone from the definition.[6]


On 1 May 2008, the Treasurer of Australia, Wayne Swan (Australian Labor Party), described 'working family' on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio program, Radio National Breakfast, as follows:

"When you're talking about "working families", who exactly are you talking about?" (Interviewer: Steve Cannane[7])
"I'm talking about those people on modest incomes. If you're talking about Sydney, you're talking about a principal income earner who might be earning $50-60 thousand a year, and a secondary income earner, who will be working part-time, and could pull in anywhere between 20 or 30 thousand dollars per year. These are people who work very hard, they are hit by rising inflation, which is why tackling inflation in this Budget is so important, they are hit by the rising cost of living, and until recent times they have been hit by a rising proportion of taxation...."[8]

This definition was reinforced by Rudd later the same day, saying, "If you’re a working family on $50,000 a year, it means, or a worker on $50,000 a year...."[9]

2008 Federal Budget[edit]

In the Federal Budget's second reading speech, presented to the Parliament of Australia on 13 May 2008, the term "Working family/ies" was used thirteen times.[10]

Commentary[11] after the budget reflected on the various levels of household income at which the budget's measures cut out (or in):

  • A$100,000
    • Medicare levy (single person) - above which people must pay for private health coverage
    • Solar power rebate (household income) - above which the rebate is not available
    • Baby Bonus threshold - above which the Bonus is not paid
  • A$150,000
    • Medicare levy (couple)


  1. ^ "A Conservative government will give hope to hardworking families – decent people who respect others, who take responsibility for their children and who contribute to their local communities." — Michael Howard speaking in Telford on 2005-04-10 ("It's time to set an annual limit to immigration" Archived 2007-05-03 at the Wayback Machine) and "Then, it was mortgage rates at 15 per cent for a whole year with 1.5 million households suffering negative equity and over 250,000 families losing their homes—now, hardworking families are enjoying the lowest mortgage rates for 40 years. Then, it was 400,000 more on hospital waiting lists—now, it is almost 300,000 off. Then, it was crime doubled—now, it’s crime down by over a quarter." — Alan Milburn in Agenda: magazine of the Association of Labour Councillors, winter 2004/5 ("Britain is Working" Archived 2006-02-10 at the Wayback Machine)
  2. ^ "Turning to tax allowances, the married couples' allowance has been abolished, which is a strange move for a government who profess to support the family. They have abolished the MIRAS tax relief which has hit home-buyers. The change to the allowances for couples with children--the new children's tax credit--which is tapered away for higher rate taxpayers, will affect hardworking families on middle incomes." — Lord Northbrook recorded in Hansard, 1999-07-23 (column 1229)
  3. ^ "WASHINGTON VERSUS HARD-WORKING AMERICAN FAMILIES" — Frank Luntz Republican Playbook at PoliticalStrategy. ORG ("The Budget: Ending Wasteful Washington Spending")
  4. ^ The working family election, Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National "Life Matters", 22 October 2007, accessed 2 May 2008
  5. ^ a b c Who belongs in the "working family"? Archived 2008-07-24 at the Wayback Machine, Stephanie Chalkley-Rhoden,, 5 December 2007, accessed 2 May 2008
  6. ^ "In Wayne's world, we are all one working family now". The Australian. 5 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  7. ^ Presenter, ABC RN Breakfast, accessed 1 May 2008
  8. ^ MP3 of interview, accessed 1 May 2008[dead link]
  9. ^ Interview Archived 2008-07-19 at the Wayback Machine, Mike Carlton and Sandy Aloisi, Radio 2UE, 1 May 2008, accessed 2 May 2008
  10. ^ Budget Second Reading Speech, Treasurer of Australia, 13 May 2008, accessed 14 May 2008
  11. ^ Too bad if you’re not in a ‘working family’[permanent dead link], Michael Moore, former Minister for Health and Community Care, Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, City News, 22 May 2008, accessed 2 June 2008