One of the useful parts of the obligatory election trudge around the countryside is that meetings, functions and party events become a great barometer of what is worrying people.
Don't go on the road if you are looking for self-affirmation; voters do not turn up to tell you what they like about government and politicians.
If a summary was given of what is making people talk at the mandatory Q and A session at the local hall/bowling club/RSL you would not be surprised that it is a thousand miles from what seems to be the concern on the ABC's Q&A. There are four issues that are becoming constants: excessive market power in our retail industry; foreign ownership of strategic Australian assets; the carbon tax; and coal seam gas.
The businesses that go to functions ask, when will anyone seriously deal with excessive market concentration and the resultant exploitation of smaller market players? This was once seen disparagingly as a ''poor bugger farmer'' issue by the more enlightened in the corridors of Canberra. Now senior corporates are also starting to ask the same question. The chief executive of Coca-Cola Amatil, Terry Davis, has highlighted his difficulty in finding a margin for Coca-Cola on a shelf controlled by two very dominant retailers and a second-tier wholesaler.
Foreign ownership of key agricultural assets and our ever increasing reliance on foreign borrowings by our government is a two-for-one package. People do not believe that Swan has the debt under control, and he hasn't, he has borrowed an extra $11 billion over the past four weeks.
They believe that there is a naivety pervading the carte blanche approach to any investment to any area for any reason. They ask when does the government ever say no and the answer is that our Foreign Investment Review Board is like the Venus de Milo acting as wicket keeper for Australia: looks good but stops nothing.
People are surprised to learn that if a foreigner wants to buy any residential land then approval must be sought. However, you can buy any farm in the country without seeking approval if it is worth less than $244 million. There is probably only one farm in Australia over that threshold.
People have a pathological dislike of a policy called a carbon tax. Sections of the left hate it because it is seen as a mechanism to create commissions for major sections of the banking sector. The right hates it because it is a totem for the fallacy that government is better at spending money than you are and has wiser and more noble motives than you have. Everybody in between hates it because it is just so patently absurd. Government policies that make people poorer don't cool the planet, they just make people very angry.
Rather than help the proponents of the global warming debate the carbon tax has been completely counter-productive for them. The reality is that there is now a strong majority who have a strong scepticism of the global warming narrative and a large number who just don't believe at all. Many of those who do believe in it, don't want to pay for it.
Finally, and it is the issue du jour: coal seam gas. This issue is politically remarkable as it has linked the far left and the far right. It is the powerless landholder against the miner and the expectation that the government should act for the powerless. It is the usurping of an individual's property right, the under pinner of an individual's security, the seedbed of the individual's liberty. It is the green issue that links to the shopping trolley.
Unfortunately for the government, it is in so much debt that its political future, based on the delivery of services, cannot be met without the income stream from the royalties and the tax.
What then really angers people is that the topics they see discussed on their TVs, and from their government, do not match these concerns.
People want a more positive future where government talks about the delivery of substantial new infrastructure and a vision of a new horizon of economic opportunity in the north and other undeveloped parts of our nation.
Instead we have a Labor government obsessed with its own machinations and a Treasurer who seems to think his main job is to pick fights with Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer.
Barnaby Joyce is the Nationals' Senate Leader.