Australians said economic and financial issues were the biggest problem facing the country in 2015, for the third year in a row, according to a recent poll. The poll also showed that concerns about the state of our political leadership have diminished since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister.
Four weeks out from parliament's first sitting for 2016, the Turnbull government has told voters it plans to pursue significant reform of trade unions this year, following damning findings by the Trade Union Royal Commission last week.
Treasurer Scott Morrison also plans to announce the government's final position on a controversial element of the Harper Review of Australia's competition laws – the misuse of market power provision, called Section 46 – by the end of March.
However, Mr Turnbull will want to keep attention on the economy, after a recent Roy Morgan poll found 38 per cent of Australians are most concerned about "economic and financial issues".
It was the third year in a row that poll respondents nominated economic issues as their biggest concern.
Australians believe the state of the economy, interest rates, unemployment, the cost of living, and the gap between rich and poor are more concerning than immigration, environmental issues, and social problems.
The regular poll is the first conducted since Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister in September.
Only 8 per cent of Australians listed government, and leadership from politicians or the Prime Minister as the biggest concern – the lowest for this set of issues since October 2013 – just after the Abbott government was first elected and still in its honeymoon phase.
It comes as the government's mid-year budget update in December showed the budget deficit will blow out by another $26.1 billion over four years, while an Abbott-Hockey pledge of a strong surplus of 1 per cent of GDP by 2023-24 has been quietly benched.
Growth forecasts have also been downgraded in the fiscal snapshot described as "workmanlike" and one that avoids "extreme responses" that could act as a handbrake on household consumption and business investment growth and threaten momentum in the economy.
The Roy Morgan poll, the next of which will be published in the next two months, showed the next most important set of domestic issues for Australians is "religion, immigration and human rights", with 16 per cent of those polled saying they are of most concern.
Environmental issues, including climate change (10 per cent), and social issues such as drug abuse, family breakdown and social apathy (10 per cent) rated next most concerning.
A recent Herald poll of 1448 readers found 38 per cent nominated tax reform as the biggest issue facing Australia in 2016, ahead of the fight against terrorism (18 per cent), the risk of recession (15 per cent), and dealing with the Commonwealth budget deficit (11 per cent).
Recent focus groups have shown Labor voters are particularly concerned about an increase in the GST.
The Roy Morgan poll found 30 per cent of respondents believe "terrorism, wars, security, safety" are the biggest problems facing the world, ahead of environmental issues, at 21 per cent.
A cross-section of 647 men and women aged 14 or over were interviewed by telephone on the nights of October 13 to 15, 2015.
Respondents were asked: "What do you think is the most important problem facing the world today?" and "What do you think is the most important problem facing Australia today?"