It’s official: there are more “hardworking Australian families” than ever before (at least in MP speeches)

We are at peak “hardworking families”.

Pollies have uttered the vacuous phrase in Parliament more times in the first five months of 2017 than in any full year since Parliament began in 1901, according to my analysis of parliamentary records.

Hardworking families graph

The number of speeches mentioning “hardworking families” or “hardworking Australian families” has hit a record high of 74 mentions so far in 2017 – which is more than the whole of 2015 and 2016 put together, and far more than any other single year.

The first parliamentary mention of the phrase was as recent as 1974, with no record of politicians using it in Parliament prior to that.

Here’s the data for the past 5 years:

Year Number of mentions of “hardworking families” or “hardworking Australian families”
2017 (to 11 May) 74
2016 38
2015 22
2014 17
2013 21

Ironically, average working hours have actually been decreasing in Australia over the past 30 years at the same time as the phrase has gained popularity with politicians.

The analysis was done by searching for “hardworking families” and “hardworking Australian families” (and other close derivatives) in Hansard, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings, for every year since Federation began in 1901. The numbers relate to all MP and Senator speeches in the House of Representatives, the Senate and committees.

Would you like a patronising pat on the head, Madam?

Plenty of other comment pieces and online ramblings already explain why constantly going on about “hardworking families” is so ridiculous so I won’t go into that here other than to summarise that it:

  • represents a patronising pat on the head for voters
  • implies that people not in work (including older people) are of less importance
  • reinforces outdated conservative values about the nuclear family.

Some research also suggests it is ineffective and voters find it annoying.

But despite all this, the recent Budget was of course aimed at helping “hardworking” Aussies, as was last year’s and the year before (note for political balance that Labor seem, disappointingly, just as bad as the Libs at repeating the phrase, which I would argue is actually counterproductive for the Labor party’s agenda).

Keep up the hard work everybody!

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