With only four days to go until polling day, a report from the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) Federal Election Forum has asked candidates to focus on local issues outside the issues raised in the so-called ‘Canberra bubble’.
Using a combination of electorate-specific discussion prompts, priorities identified by community sector workers, leaders and other ACT residents, and priorities identified by a national survey, ACTCOSS has found voters are keen to see candidates focus on policy areas relevant to reducing disadvantage, addressing climate change and improving confidence in political processes and public administration.
ACTCOSS Executive Director Susan Helyar said, ‘Voters in the ACT are not only interested in the strength of our national cultural institutions and the size and independence of the public service. Our forum showed that much like the rest of Australia, voters want the next federal parliament to focus on vital services, costs of living, climate change mitigation and improving openness and honesty in government.
‘Our forum invited candidates to reflect on the local dimensions of issues of primary interest to social justice advocates: adequate income support; getting and keeping a job; affordable homes; affordable clean energy and action on climate change; quality health and community services with funding guaranteed by a fair, sustainable tax system; a strong community voice and a thriving democracy. We also provided candidates with an opportunity to listen to and converse with voters, getting beyond set piece presentations and narrowly framed debates.
‘We heard that voters expect federal MPs and senators to recognise the existence of poverty and disadvantage in the ACT driven in part by cost of living pressures and lack of secure work, commit to promptly fix the safety net that is not working by raising the rate of Newstart, Youth and other allowances, as well as commit to act for a better deal on vital services including health services, mental health care, aged care, affordable housing and responding to homelessness.
‘Voters attending our forum called on MPs and senators to work to set right faltering human services systems like the NDIS, address and fund service gaps in health and homelessness services, and recognise and respond to municipal level service and infrastructure gaps in a growing Territory, mindful of specific needs in terms of gender, age and disability.’
Ms Helyar concluded, ‘In the words of one participant – but resonating through many conversations – there is a ‘need and a hunger’ for better public administration and a more honest political conversation that sets out choices, like the need to look beyond self interest, for just action on climate change and ways to source adequate revenue for future services.’