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Canberra and the Federal Budget: My experience in the Press Gallery

Canberra and the Federal Budget: My experience in the Press Gallery


Charles Sturt Student Sophia McCaughan shares her experience travelling to Canberra to report on the 2022 Federal Budget.

Written by Sophia McCaughan 

This year, I was given the opportunity by National Radio News in partnership with the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and Charles Sturt University, to travel to Canberra and report on the 2022 federal budget as a cadet journalist.

For almost the past two years, I have been working at National Radio News in Bathurst as a cadet journalist, collating, producing and recording news for state and national bulletins. With a particular focus on state and federal politics, each election or budget, one lucky journalist is chosen to travel to Canberra and report in the Press Gallery.

In last year’s federal budget I was lucky enough to be the person chosen for the job!

As a 20-year-old sports media student, you might think I looked a little bit out of place walking around Parliament House amongst other much more experienced journalists; however, it’s safe to say that not only was I welcomed to the Press Gallery, but I was accepted with open arms.

Sophia ready for the Budget Lockup.
Sophia ready for the budget lockup.

My week in parliament

Throughout my week in parliament, I learnt so much about political journalism in addition to the industry as a whole. I met journalists from all walks of life, all parts of the country and all different publications. It was definitely an amazing and eye-opening experience that I was extremely lucky to undertake.

One of the best highlights during my week in Canberra was the budget lock-up on Tuesday. From 1pm until 8pm, everyone in the press gallery is shut out from the outside world for 7 hours.

Budget papers are released 7 hours earlier before the public can access them, and no reports can be published until The Treasurer makes his budget speech. You have no access to the internet and you have to hand your phones over and any other electronics to treasury officials.

During budget lock-up we go through each of the 5 budget papers and break down all the federal funding for projects for the next 4 years. In this case, National Radio News has a particular focus on indigenous affairs and regional issues.

You’d think being locked up for 7 hours would feel like forever, but, when you are going through over a thousand pages of content it goes by pretty quickly! By the time the day ended, I was out of Parliament House by 10:30pm and off to drinks with the Press Gallery.

Sophia at the Press Gallery.
Sophia at the Press Gallery.

Some more highlights

Another big highlight during my time in the press gallery was the opportunity to go to live press conferences and question federal politicians.

My favourite press conference was the Nationals Party’s reply to the Federal Budget. I had a particular interest in this press conference as much of what was being discussed was in regard to regional affairs. I was able to question Party Leader, David Littleproud, as well as Member for Calare, Andrew Gee.

This doesn’t even tip the iceberg of the experience I gained in Canberra. If it wasn’t for Charles Sturt or National Radio News I wouldn’t have had the opportunity in the first place.

Oh, I also met Prime Minister Anthony Albanese… he’s a pretty nice guy.

A selfie with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
A selfie with Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.

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