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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Australia’s first national “wellbeing framework”, to be released by Treasurer Jim Chalmers within weeks, will provide about 50 indicators of how Australians are doing, that will then be tracked over time.

The Measuring What Matters statement will be around the themes of “healthy, secure, sustainable, cohesive, and prosperous”, Chalmers said in a speech in Melbourne delivered late Tuesday.

“Measuring What Matters is about getting a better sense of how our people are tracking – what we’re doing well and what we need to do better,” he said.

The wellbeing framework “will help us track our journey towards a healthier, more sustainable, cohesive, secure, and prosperous society that gives every person ample opportunity to build lives of meaning and purpose”.

Chalmers said the traditional economic metrics – GDP, income, employment – didn’t tell the whole story. Other things also mattered.

These included the population’s health, the environment, how much time people spent working, at home, with their children, in traffic – and also “whether people feel connected to each other, or not”.

The government has consulted widely in putting together the framework, and received more than 280 submissions, as well as drawing on international experience. New Zealand is one of the countries with a “wellbeing budget”, introduced in 2019.

Chalmers said he wasn’t expecting “everybody to agree with every element of our approach. There will be a range of views and plenty of commentary on what we’ve chosen to include and what we haven’t. Any framework which seeks to capture the core components of wellbeing is bound to need refining over time.”

In his speech, Chalmers stressed “responsible economic management and compassion are complementary, not at odds”, describing he government as one of “hard heads and warm hearts”.

He said the government’s efforts to strengthen the budget “have not in any way come at the expense of helping people.

“The bigger surplus is in addition to, not instead of, cost of living relief. In fact, our responsible economic management gives us room to deliver permanent increases to Commonwealth income support payments,” he said, pointing to measures in the May budget.

The government was fighting inflation with responsible economic management “that underpins targeted cost of living relief”. His speech comes when polling shows increasing pressure on the government over the cost of living and calls for it to do more.

Chalmers said the government was also reforming institutions including the Reserve Bank, the Productivity Commission, and the public service.

“The mean-spirited madness that underpinned Robodebt will never happen again,” he said.

“We will, once and for all, do away with this idea that our society is made up of ‘lifters and leaners’, ‘workers and shirkers’.”

Soon after the wellbeing framework is unveiled, Chalmers will release the latest Intergenerational Report.

“That will give us a big picture view of the things that we’ll need to manage and maximise to improve the wellbeing of our people over time.”

This will be followed by the Employment White Paper – “a roadmap for a more inclusive, dynamic labour market that makes the most of people’s talents”.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Chalmers ‘measures what matters’ – tracking our national wellbeing in 50 indicators –