IN 225 days, Ballarat voters will go to the polls to elect a voice for our community in Canberra.
With political tensions already high and voters preparing for the prospect of a never-ending election campaign, The Courier has brought together a new Everyday Voters panel to help our readers determine what issues are most important for Ballarat.
Sharing their views and responding to debate between now and election day, the panel will help cut through the spin and partisanship and drive a campaign conversation that best reflects the needs of the community.
This week the three declared candidates for the seat of Ballarat – incumbent Labor MP Catherine King, Liberal candidate John Fitzgibbon and Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May – nominated issues including the economy, health care, infrastructure and education as their priorities for the election.
The Everyday Voters panel was chosen to represent some of the region’s key demographics and will help deliver the campaign Ballarat voters want.
Academic and carer Mary Hollick said recent family health scares meant her top priority was access to quality hospitals and health care.
“The impact our little family has had on the health system this summer has taught me a lot about how things work,” she said.
“I think we have been poorly served by our media and politicians and think people are hungry for quality information and longer answers about how we can fix our problems.”
She said Australia should seek the benefits of a globalised world and allow cities like Ballarat to benefit from infrastructure and education.
Financial planner Andrew Rowan said the economy was his top concern with vision required from local politicians and national leaders.
“At the end of the day business thrives when consumer confidence is high and when business confidence is high,” he said.
“To that degree I absolutely believe we need to have a clear sense of direction, the flow on from that is a government with a clear mandate acting in the interests of the country.”
He said the preservation of Ballarat’s unique lifestyle was important and that the next government should work alongside the City of Ballarat, Committee for Ballarat and Commerce Ballarat.
Education student Cameron Ross said the Australian economy should be at full strength, with cost of living challenges and education seriously considered by MPs.
“I have been really upset about the way politics are playing out and I think we need a fresh approach after this election is over.”
“After the global financial crisis it is so important for us to have a strong economy and to be able to afford the important things like education and health care at world standards,” he said.
Mr Ross said he had seen anger and apathy with politics through social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter and would closely observe the election outcome.
Young mother Sam Hambrook said she didn’t vote at the last election but was tired of negative politics and wanted local leadership from her MP.
She said called on both parties to strengthen TAFE education in the wake of the Baillieu government’s recent cuts and for young families to be protected.
“Anytime I see the politicians in the news I turn it off,” she said.
“What is the point of listening when they are not acting in the interests of voters but just trying to save their own jobs. I will decide on who to vote for when I know what they are going to do for Ballarat and for me and my family.”
Between now and September 14, The Courier wants you and our Everyday Voters panel to drive the campaign debate.