Laura Chalmers' dress has nothing to do with the budget.

On Tuesday night, Canberra's Parliament House was abuzz with excitement. Treasurer Jim Chalmers was gearing up to deliver the Albanese Government's third budget.

The Treasurer's wife, Laura Chalmers, was sitting in the House of Representatives watching on as her husband handed down the budget. She was joined by two of their three children, their nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter.

Laura is the Editor-in-Chief of The Weekend Magazine and has an extensive career history in political reporting and political staffing.

There are countless facts about Laura that are relevant and interesting. But what she was wearing on budget night, and the cost of the outfit, was the focus of far too many publications.

Watch part of Jim Chalmers' Federal Budget address. Post continues below.

Video via The Guardian.

For the sake of context, Laura was wearing a yellow dress and matching jacket from renowned Australian designer and fashion brand Carla Zampatti. The cost of said outfit is just under $1,900.

Some outlets made suggestions that Laura's outfit made the Treasurer look "out of touch with the average Australian". Others said Laura "should be forced to live on minimum wage for a month" to experience poverty.


Yes, Australia is currently in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. Our trust in politicians isn't rosy, and accountability is crucial, especially considering the exorbitant pay packets they are on.

But Laura Chalmers' dress has nothing to do with the budget.

Not that it's any better, but did anyone speak to the cost of Jim Chalmers' suit on budget night? No. It speaks to a double standard that any woman who steps into Parliament House — regardless of whether they're politicians or not — has to face.

Back in 2019, Julie Bishop copped criticism for wearing a $2,500 designer dress at Parliament on the night of the budget. I guarantee there were male MPs in that room who were wearing suits with a price tag far higher than that. Was it reported on? No.

Bishop previously told Mamamia: "I don't apologise for it. It's who I am, and if you want authentic politicians, you've just got to accept the fact that I love fashion. I always have, and I always will." 

Even Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's fiancé Jodie Haydon has faced similar scrutiny and attention. There was the time she "gave herself a $10,000 style makeover", or God forbid when she wore a "near-identical dress" to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton's wife Kirilly at Canberra's Midwinter Ball.

It extends beyond politics too — who could forget the scrutiny Lisa Wilkinson faced while on Today about the outfits she wore, and yet Karl Stefanovic was lauded for wearing the same suit for 365 days.


Any focus on what politicians — let alone what their partners — are wearing negates the bigger picture stories we so desperately need to take away from this Federal Budget.

There were the positive points, from the $300 energy rebate, the cost cap on prescriptions included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the stage three tax cuts, and the $1.4 billion spend on women's health. 

Additionally, there were disappointments from the budget that needed our urgent attention.

Perhaps most important was the lack of comprehensive investment in women's safety.

As Full Stop Australia CEO, Karen Bevan, says: "The scale of the national emergency has not been matched by the scale of the Federal Government's investment in this budget. There is no new funding for frontline services, particularly for specialist sexual violence services. There are huge funding gaps across response and recovery programs, which is where the critical work is done providing support to victim-survivors."

There was also no increase to the Australian Government's humanitarian intake for those seeking asylum, and funding for international aid was quite dismal. Given the state of the world right now, an investment in such had been hoped for by many advocates.

These are the stories that ought to be the focus. The stories that directly impact Australians, their lives, their wellbeing and the future of this country. Not what outfit the Treasurer's wife decided to wear on budget night.

Feature Image: AAP/Getty.