SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation - February 2023

Australians support greater government intervention in the Australian economy as cost of living concerns continue to dominate

Australians are increasingly supporting Federal and state governments’ market interventions to lower prices, as concerns over the cost of living continue to grow, SEC Newgate’s first Mood of the Nation research for 2023 finds.

Grocery prices are now people’s main cost of living concern (85% are “extremely” or “quite concerned”) followed by petrol prices (76%), electricity bills (76%), insurance (66%) and gas bills (56%). Home mortgage holders are also expressing major concerns about rising interest rates (82%), as are renters (84%) hit by rising rental prices.

However, despite these concerns, people’s confidence that the nation is going in the right direction is actually slightly higher than November (up from 50% to 53%) and appears related to strong support of the policy responses of Federal and state governments and rising approval of government performance across the nation.

There is strong support for policies such as the $12 gas price cap (73% support this) and the performance ratings for Federal Government (up 5% to 47% rating its performance as “good” or “better”) and most state governments are also rising, suggesting the community is backing their market interventions to cap or regulate pricing.

In contrast, only 33% agree with a proposition put forward by business groups that greater government involvement in the market would create investment uncertainty and crowd out private investment.

This is a trend in sentiment that business will need to closely watch, particularly as political pressures from cost of living pressures and housing affordability concerns lead to rising and perhaps unrealistic expectations that government will constantly intervene to protect consumers from price rises.

Cost of living will also dominate the NSW election (80% rate this as a top-5 issue) ahead of housing affordability (53%) and investing in health (52%) as the top 3 election issues. The performance rating of the NSW Government has risen sharply since November (up 8 points to 43%). However, while Perrottet is ahead as preferred Premier (34%) over Minns (27%),the leadership of both remain way down the priority issues list of the NSW community noting that 39% have no preference, providing fertile ground for the election campaign.

Economic confidence

Although concerns about the economy remain prominent, this latest Mood of the Nation actually found a decrease in economic pessimism with a 7% fall in the proportion who predict the economy will get worse in 12 months (44% down from 51% in November). This raises a conundrum for the Reserve Bank is struggling to contain inflationary pressures while it also remains under pressure to rein in interest rate rises.

The impact of inflation and rising interest rates on households is also clearly demonstrated by related findings which show that nearly half of Australians (45%) predict their standard of living will deteriorate in 2023 with only 20% predicting it will improve.

The Voice

On the proposed Voice referendum, national support is steadily slipping, down from 59% in May 22 to 53% in February 23. It also has slipped below 50% approval in Western Australia and South Australia (noting smaller survey sample sizes in these states). These results will concern the Federal Government, considering 4 of the 6 states have to be carried for the referendum to succeed.

While opposition to the Voice remains low, it is also rising, up from 16% to 22% since the May election. Support for the Voice also splits along party lines with the majority of Labor (65%) and Greens (77%) voters supporting, but this falls to 32% support amongst Coalition voters with 43% of them opposed. The prominence of Indigenous issues is up overall as a national priority since November and there is also strong support (68%) for the Federal and NT Government’s initial re-introduction of alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs, to address crime and social issues.

Strong support for more gas supply to tackle rising energy costs

While the Greens continue to use proposed bans on new coal and gas projects in Australia as a bargaining chip for their support for legislation in the Senate, there is little community support for these positions. Australians overwhelming still see gas supply as an issue that governments need to address to put downward pressure on prices. 73% support the development of new gas projects reserving supply for domestic users, while only 24% support a ban on all new gas developments and only 34% support a ban on all new coal projects.

The Treasurer’s ‘rethinking capitalism’ essay

There’s good and bad news for Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers after publishing an essay on his economic philosophy. There has been limited cut through with 75% of people unaware of the essay, despite the extensive media coverage, and only 10% know a little or a lot about it. However, the central tenets of the essay on greater government intervention and regulation in the economy all win strong support from the community including:

  • That government should set national economic priorities to deliver social and environmental benefits (70% feel positive about this vs 6% negative);
  • That government should be more involved in the economy overall (67% vs 7%);
  • More co-investment by the public and private sectors (57% vs 6%); and
  • Government strengthening its role in operating and regulating markets (56% vs 10%).

NSW Election

While behind in the published polls, the NSW Government and Premier Dominic Perrottet are enjoying improved performance ratings ahead of the looming state election on March 25 (albeit off a lower base compared to most other states). The top 3 election priorities reflect national concerns: cost of living (80% rate this as a top-5 issue); rental affordability (53%); and healthcare (52%). While there are large spends on infrastructure, investing in public transport is a relatively low priority currently (15%). The polling also suggests there is no strong mood for change, with a desire for stability (23%) outrating a desire for change (15%).

Gaming Reforms

Support for the cashless gaming card is high (60%) with only 15% opposing. Those who support it believe it will protect people from gambling addiction while those who oppose see the reform as an unwarranted government intervention in people’s personal rights to gamble responsibly. While only 7% of people in NSW regard it as a top-5 vote-determining issue for them, it does have a high media and political profile and it is a point of differentiation between the two major parties.


Contact us for more information about the full Mood of the Nation research report.

David Stolper, Partner, SEC Newgate Research – [email protected]

Sue Vercoe, Managing Director, SEC Newgate Research – [email protected]

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