The Budget - Getting the balance right for voters

SubjectCivics & Citizenship YearYear 8 CurriculumAC v8.4 Time150

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Students explore the role of elected representatives in making decisions and governing on our behalf. They consider how a family budget is similar to a government budget, noting that the amount of tax collected by government relates to the amount of money it can spend. They identify and explain factors that influence government spending and voting intentions.

Australian Curriculum or Syllabus

Achievement standard

By the end of Year 8, students analyse features of Australian democracy, and explain features of Australia’s democracy that enable active participation. They recognise different types of law in Australia and explain how laws are made. They identify the diverse belief systems in Australia and analyse issues about national identity and the factors that contribute to people’s sense of belonging.

When researching, students develop a range of questions to investigate Australia’s political and legal systems and critically analyse information gathered from different sources for relevance. They explain different points of view on civics and citizenship issues. When planning for action, students take into account multiple perspectives, use democratic processes, and develop solutions to an issue. Students develop and present reasoned arguments on civics and citizenship issues using appropriate texts, subject-specific language and concepts. They identify ways they can be active and informed citizens in different contexts.

Content descriptions

Civics and Citizenship Knowledge and Understanding 

How citizens can participate in Australia’s democracy, including use of the electoral system, contact with their elected representatives, use of lobby groups, and direct action (ACHCK062).

Civics and Citizenship Skills

Develop a range of questions to investigate Australia's political and legal systems (ACHCS068).

Identify, gather and sort information and ideas from a range of sources (ACHCS069).

Critically analyse information and ideas from a range of sources in relation to civics and citizenship topics and issues (ACHCS070).

Appreciate multiple perspectives and use strategies to mediate differences (ACHCS071).

Use democratic processes to reach consensus on a course of action relating to a civics or citizenship issue and plan for that action (ACHCS072).

Present evidence-based civics and citizenship arguments using subject-specific language (ACHCS073).


Teacher resources

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What is Democracy?


Budgets and budgeting

Student learning resources

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Moneysmart budget planner

Suggested activity sequence

This sequence is intended as a framework to be modified and adapted by teachers to suit the needs of a class group.

Part A: Exploring the meaning of a representative democracy

  1. Pose the question: What does the term ‘democracy’ mean?
    Explain that the system of government in Australia has its origins in Ancient Greece where all male citizens of Athens had ‘equal political rights, freedom of speech, and the opportunity to participate directly in the political arena.
    Note that all citizens having a right to vote on a government decision is referred to as ‘direct democracy’ but, for practical reasons, modern democratic systems have developed to be ‘representative democracies’. This means citizens vote for a member of a parliament or a councillor to represent their interests and make decisions and policies on their behalf. 
  2. Play: What is a democracy? This video provides an overview of some of the key features of democracy.
  3. Explain that we vote for people to represent us in our parliaments and councils, and to run the country on our behalf. Running the country includes managing our finances and every year proposing a budget.
  4. Discuss the meaning and importance of budgeting using the ‘What is a budget?’ and the ‘Why budget?’ slides of the visualiser
  5. Explain that a ‘government budget’ is a planning document that accounts for the money (revenue) to be collected through tax and sets out the intended items to be paid for (expenditure).


Part B: Exploring household budgets and the implications of ‘surplus’ and ‘deficit’.

If the government does not have the right balance between income (revenue/tax) and expenditure (goods and services provided), what action can citizens take at election time?

  1. Explain that creating a household budget will help students’ understanding of the budgets made every year by governments. 
  2. Display the ‘Calculating a household budget’ slide of the visualiser. Discuss the difference between income and expenses. 
  3. Students use the moneysmart budget planner and, with support, explore its functions noting the importance of + and – signs. 
  4. Students work in pairs to calculate an annual household budget. 
  5. Display discussion questions on the visualiser for each pair to discuss.
  6. Review and discuss student responses.
  7. Explain that getting the balance right between household income and intended expenses is the same type of judgement governments must make in relation to annual budgets. 
  8. Pose the question: If the government does not have the right balance between income (revenue/tax) and expenditure (goods and services provided), what action can citizens take at election time?


Part C: Identifying influences on government spending

  1. Review students’ understanding that governments must manage money and that citizens can vote out a government if it does not have the right balance between raising and spending revenue (tax). 
  2. Note that at an election, voters consider whether the government has made the case for:
    • increasing OR reducing tax (government revenue)
    • borrowing money to cover a deficit
    • removing OR decreasing spending on particular goods and services
    • preferencing one type of spending or saving over another. 
  3. Pose the question: What factors influence government spending?
  4. Brainstorm factors that impact on government spending and discuss how particular factors impact on voters. 
  5. Students gather print and digital media news articles that are current (within the past 3 months) that relate to:
    • an item of government expenditure, or
    • a change in taxation policy, or
    • government debt (deficit)/savings (surplus).
  6. Review articles and post them on a classroom news wall. Articles of similar content are not accepted. 
  7. Use a gallery walk to enable students to read the articles that have been posted. Invite students to respond to the prompt:
    How would you respond to this issue if you were a voter?
  8. Students write a short summary of how voters may be influenced by government decisions about how to collect or spend taxpayers’ money.