As horrific events unfold in Ukraine, as we see the raw aggression of Russia and the inspiring courage of Kyiv citizens defending their capital, our upcoming election may have momentarily slipped down the list of concerns for Australians.
The war that turned in a few short weeks from possibility to probability, to the shocking reality of a superpower unleashed, has replaced the pandemic as the world's foremost shared concern.
But soon enough, and perhaps with this war a new and unpredictable dimension, the federal election will be upon us.
Two weeks ago we set out to find out from our readers what issues would be informing their voting decisions. We asked ACM readers to tell us their top three issues, the qualities they look for in a leader and - most importantly - what questions they want answered by those standing for election.
Based on the survey of more than 7000 readers across the country, this is clearly a politically engaged and educated nation. It cares what its leaders stand for and, most importantly, it cares what issues they set policy around.
As our first results from the survey published in ACM newspapers today show, the number one issue for voters this election is climate change and the environment. Forty-three per cent of respondents picked it among their top three concerns.
That puts the parties on notice they need to do more to persuade voters they have a plan to address climate change more quickly. But in doing so they will need to manage concerns about the risk to jobs, particularly in regional areas, from a shift to renewable energy.
As one respondent put it: "What is the plan for supporting communities in the decarbonisation process so they can embrace this direction and not fear for the future?"
The second biggest issue to voters is health - it featured heavily in questions submitted. From matters of national concern, such as Medicare funding, to those about local hospitals, Australians worry about our health system. After two years of pandemic stress, that is little wonder.
But what of the wildcard issues this election? What matters to voters that might catch the major parties on the hop?
The standout issue seems to be integrity in government and the failure to establish a federal corruption commission. Almost 2000 survey respondents rated it among their top issues, reflecting not only a frustration at an unfulfilled promise but also a disenchantment with national leadership and the decisions made in Federal Parliament.
One respondent wrote: "What will you do to ensure pork-barrelling is stopped and those who are guilty lose their position?"
Another said: "How are you going to ensure that you do your job to the highest standards to represent your constituents fairly, honestly and with integrity?"
If they weren't already, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese should be on notice. Voters living outside the largest capital cities, including across our vast regional and rural landscape, are politically engaged and want to be heard.
Over the next few months, ACM's federal political reporting team in Canberra, and our network of journalists living in key electorates across Australia, will come back to these survey results, and the questions our readers put to Mr Morrison, Mr Albanese and their parties.
Your say is important to us. And we trust it will be judged important to the people who hope to secure your vote as well.
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