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Parties Need A

Vision For The

Future In Order

To Engage

Young Voters.


Janet Davey

Adults frequently lament that they wish teenagers cared as much

about who was running the country as they do about the latest post

on Facebook. They bewail the belief that young people really don’t

care that much about politics. But the truth is – young people do care

about the issues facing Australia and what the future will be like. Yes,



disengaged from politics. However, upon closer

examination, it becomes evident that the majority of young people

care deeply about political issues, but find it difficult to engage with a

political landscape utterly devoid of vision.

One does not have to follow Australian politics closely to have an

understanding of its focus over the past few years. It’s been pretty

negative. Every day that Parliament sits seems to produce a new

sound-bite of abuse from one politician to another. Both Labor and

the Coalition have run campaigns attacking the character of the

other leader. Who can forget the wall-punching affair? The


slush-fund scandal? Dr No, the misogynist? The objective seems

largely to have been for the parties to portray themselves as being

the ‘lesser of two evils’ rather than being capable of making a positive

impact onAustralian society. Voters have been left feeling pessimistic

about those supposedly ‘leading’ the country, and young voters in

particular have been affected. Obviously, young people haven’t spent

a great deal of time engaged with the political sphere, so this highly

critical environment can seem the ‘norm’ to them, and can leave

them feeling disillusioned with democracy itself. This is evidenced

by a 2012 Lowy Institute Poll which reported that only 39% of young

Australians (aged 18 to 29) chose democracy as the most preferable

form of government for Australia.


The focus by the two major parties on character assessments has

meant that there has been little time since the last election for a

comprehensive public discussion of policies. Albeit, in recent

months this has improved somewhat with the release of theNational

Disability Insurance Scheme, the ‘Gonski’ school reforms, the

budget, and Abbott’s generous paid parental leave scheme. By and

large, however, many policies have passed through Parliament with

little public dialogue, or else if there has been debate, it has focused

on the policy’s writer – with cries that they will rob/desert/abandon

Australian families/workers/middle-class voters – rather than on

the merits of the policy itself. This has meant that the majority of

Australian voters, and particularly less-experienced younger voters,



Data from

The Lowy

Institute Poll 2012:

‘Australia and New

Zealand in the World:

Public Opinion and

Foreign Policy’, 2012