By Lyle Shelton, Managing Director

In the lead-up to the election, the ACL Team and I will be providing commentary and information to assist Christians cast an informed vote on September 7.

ACL never tells people who to vote for, but we do encourage Christians to consider carefully candidate and party positions on issues of concern to them.

So what are the political issues that Christians care most about? We asked this as part of the 2011 National Church Life Survey.

The top four by a long way were:

1. marriage/family support

2. domestic poverty and disadvantage

3. poverty in the developing world

4. abortion

These have all featured in recent political debate and some even in the early days of this campaign.

Yesterday, those lobbying to change the definition of marriage pressed their case with an announcement that they were surveying candidates

ACL is also working to ensure voters know where candidates stand on marriage and we are urging people to vote for a candidate, regardless of party affiliation, who will uphold marriage between a man and a woman (see related story)

With Prime Minister Kevin Rudd changing his position and making it an election issue, this will be a key one for Christians to watch over the next five weeks.

Homelessness and poker machine addiction are top of the issues of domestic poverty and disadvantage.

Christian charities Mission Australia and St Vincent de Paul Society  have been out very early in the campaign to make sure the homeless are not forgotten.

Expect to see Rev Tim Costello and the Churches Gambling Task force raising the need for gambling reform.

Before the election starter’s gun was fired, the Government last week released a major economic statement which showed a further massive blowout to the budget.

Top of the list to find savings was yet another deferral (effectively a cut) of our overseas aid.  Christians have been very active in lobbying for our nation to keep its Millennium Development Goal promise.

That both sides of politics are relaxed about cutting aid to plug the budget is disappointing.

Rev Costello said we must never balance the books on the backs of the poor.

Finally, abortion is the issue that most people in politics go out of their way to keep quiet about.

The NCLS survey showed that this is the biggest issue of concern for 15-29 year old Christians. It seems young Christians are more pro-life than ever.

Abortion is sadly not expected to feature in the federal election campaign although the Democratic Labour Senator John Madigan unsuccessfully tried to have a bill banning abortions based on gender selection voted on just before Parliament rose in June.

The DLP, Family First, Christian Democratic Party, Australian Christians and the new Rise Up Australia Party are sure to campaign on this but it will most likely be at the fringes of election debate.

ACL has submitted its traditional election questionnaire to the parties and we hope to publish their answers on this website within at least two weeks of the election.

The Australian Prayer Network is encouraging Christians to pray. For a list of daily election campaign prayer points and Bible verses, please click here .

Keep coming back to this site for more commentary and please encourage your friends to take a close interest in the election.