Is there a climate for change in Canberra?

If you believe Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the "Canberra Bubble" is out of touch with the average Australian and the issues that take the focus inside the bubble aren't important or relevant in the election campaign.

But it's a phrase that draws sighs of frustration in the electorate of Canberra, where the voters who surround Capital Hill are actually focused on an issue much bigger than insider politics - climate change.

Jack Murphy, who has grown up in Canberra and lives in Lyneham, says it's the future of the planet that will decide his vote, and accordingly, he wants to vote Green.

Jack Murphy works two casual jobs as well as studying at the Australian National University. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Jack Murphy works two casual jobs as well as studying at the Australian National University. Picture: Jamila Toderas

Studying a double Arts and Science degree at Australian National University, the 23-year-old is also working two casual jobs, including at the second-hand book store in Lyneham. He also lists refugee rights as his other main priority.

"There's things I don't like about the Greens but they're the only ones that have it together on those two issues specifically. There are other issues that concern me, but those are certainly my priority this election."

It's only the second federal election he's voting in, but Murphy voted Green last time as well. He describes his vote as "symbolic" as he believes the seat will remain safely Labor despite a recent redistribution.

Inside Canberra, but not the bubble, Murphy describes the state of politics as "incredibly uninspiring," and turns the radio off every time a politician speaks.

"I look back on some of the previous leaders we've had and wish there was that level of motivation and inspiration happening."

Like Murphy, Helen Fisher, who lives in Downer and commutes to Civic, says climate change is very clearly her top priority when deciding how to vote, as well as environmental issues more generally. She despairs after continued reports have detailed species and ecosystem losses.

"It just feels like really basic environmental stuff has fallen off the radar," Fisher says.

Like many in the seat of Canberra, Helen Fisher says climate change is the most important issue for her this election. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Like many in the seat of Canberra, Helen Fisher says climate change is the most important issue for her this election. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Healthcare, housing and wages are other issues weighing on the policy advocacy worker's mind as she decides who to vote for.

"I know people who are struggling, finding it impossible to get in, impossible to maintain housing. You see the big picture issues playing out in your backyard all the time. Once you start making the connections it's very hard to stop seeing them."

Fisher hasn't decided who to vote for yet, describing herself as "swinging" between Labor and the Greens.

It's voters like Murphy and Fisher that Greens candidate Tim Hollo is hoping will make him only the second-ever lower house Greens MP federally.

"This election is one where several of us [Greens] in the lower house are in with a really good chance," he says, citing conditions like the lack of an incumbent member and the redistribution helping his chances.

Both Hollo and Labor's Alicia Payne say climate change is overwhelmingly the number one issue voters in Canberra want to talk to them about.

"People are looking for a politics that is about really big global issues and climate change is the biggest global issue," Hollo says.

Payne says she doesn't take anything for granted in the seat, and that she would be a strong voice for Canberra within the Labor caucus, and emphasises that Labor is a party that could act on climate change in government.

"I'm really happy to talk to about climate change, Labor is the party that is going to deliver the action we need, we've announced a really comprehensive policy, it's detailed policy and our targets are ambitious," Payne says.

Payne is a former staffer for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and former social services minister Jenny Macklin, but says she is not a career politician, with staffing making up just three years of her 15 year career.

"I'm really keen to be the economist, not just the staffer," she says, explaining that her work was on policy, not planning political coups.

"Canberra is a very difficult place to be poor," Payne says, talking about what really drives her in politics.

"It's a high income place, a freezing place in winter, where you have high electricity bills. Food is expensive, rent is expensive, it's the Labor Party who is going to address these issues."

I look back on some of the previous leaders we've had and wish there was that level of motivation and inspiration happening.

Voter Jack Murphy

While keen to say she isn't thinking past Saturday's poll, Payne says as an MP she would be keen to be part of the review into Newstart, to work on the implementation of the NDIS and help for single parents.

The Liberals' Mina Zaki names rates, health and education as the issues voters bring up with her in Canberra. Despite being a candidate in a seat where just two booths voted Liberal over Labor last election, Zaki has hit the ground hard, often door-knocking more than 3000 homes and holding stalls at at least three locations a day during the campaign.

Zaki says Canberra has been taken for granted by Labor and she wants to stand up for people she feels have been forgotten by the parliament in the electorate's centre.

While climate policy has caused trouble for the Coalition over the last 10 years, Zaki says she believes in climate change and is excited by the party's climate solutions package, particularly a program that delivers $150,000 worth of grants to each electorate for community-based environmental projects.

She also promises to fight for the public service to be respected, and has already told Nationals leader Michael McCormack she opposes decentralisation of APS jobs.

"I will voice concerns about APS jobs and I will be a strong voice to maintain the APS sector here in Canberra where it belongs," Zaki says.

The contest for Canberra

While not quite a three-cornered contest, the electorate includes the areas that turn out the strongest votes for both the Greens and the Liberals in the territory.

And while voters in Deakin, where the prime minister stays at The Lodge while in town, vote Liberal more than anywhere else in Canberra, Deakin Residents Association president George Wilson said the area shouldn't be compared to blue ribbon seats in the leafy suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne - the 56 per cent primary vote for the Liberals there would be considered marginal elsewhere, he says.

Wilson is also not a fan of the Canberra bubble phrase, preferring to call it the FIFO bubble - because its the politicians and staffers who fly in and out from around the country who create it. He says voters in Canberra's south are concerned about development and want the National Capital Authority to do a better job at enforcing the national capital plan and continuing the Griffins' original vision of a "garden city".

"We feel the NCA is underfunded and under resourced and not holding the ACT government to task in the way we'd like."

Wilson recently hosted a candidate's forum for the Inner South Community Council, where candidates were grilled about light rail stage two, including whether the next leg to Woden had passed a cost-benefit analysis.

"The meeting was very much seeking a stable public service and one that was able to give frank advice," Wilson says.

An electorate with the name Canberra is nothing new, but this electorate looks little like the old one, taking in both the inner south and inner north suburbs, some of Belconnen, including Bruce, Lawson and Giralang along its northeast border and Lyons, Curtin, Hughes and Garran along its southern border.

People are sick of soundbites, they're looking for policy, they're looking for something a little bit juicier.

Voter Helen Fisher

It includes some of the territory's most affluent suburbs, with a median household income of $2091, well above the $1438 national figure. It has a higher rate of employment than across the country and unsurprisingly for the seat that includes the heart of government, a much higher proportion of people who class themselves as managers and professionals, and a lower proportion of labourers and tradespeople. In an electorate that includes five university campuses, more than 30 per cent of the population is aged between 18 and 34.

It's the residents of Canberra, with a front-row seat to what goes on in the halls of power who have a "deep dissatisfaction with the state of politics," according to Hollo.

While many in Canberra have said they are sick of talking about the state of politics, it's Fisher who is most optimistic that things will get better and has set the challenge for local candidates.

"People are sick of soundbites, they're looking for policy, they're looking for something a little bit juicier."