EDIT: It’s official – 89% of 18-24 year olds are ENROLLED to VOTE. Well done everyone! Still have to find the other 10% though…

As I mentioned in a previous post, I really don’t like talking about segregating voters by age, demographic factors etc. However, it’s time young peoples’ voices are heard and responded to properly. It’s good that there’s been social media has given this a start … well kind of:

And in more personal terms:

“He’s an amazing brand. His whole strategy is to be the king of the memes and young people see him as an exemplar when it comes to the use of social media,” Ms McKenna said.

Latrobe University lecturer Natalie McKenna speaking about Clive Palmer, April 2019 to news.com.au

Well, from this Gen Z-er, I’d like to declare something in defence of Australia’s young voters – we’re not stupid and we’re enrolling to vote! And we’re not quiet about it no longer. In fact, as of March, the AEC reports that voters aged between 18-29 are 2.96 million of the 16.3 million voter electorate. That’s 18%, and that’s not even including the figures of last minute enrolments. Part of the big rise came from the same sex marriage postal survey of 2017 but the early indications say that nearly 90% of eligible young voters are actually enrolled.

The inspiration for this piece, incidentally came up when ABC’s The Drum decided to do a panel on young voters. It highlighted that most young voters haven’t made up their minds on who they want to vote for and that they’re fed up with it all. In my personal experience, the latter at least is certainly true. I was initially very appreciative that The Drum did a special focus on us young voters. Then – this was pointed out:

Yes – that’s right. The glaring problem is that a panel talking about young voters hasn’t got any young voters on its panel. I rewatched the program (with angst and frustration) and indeed found that no 18-29 year old had been booked (or as far as I know, has since been booked) to appear on the show to represent all the 18-29 year olds.

So I decided to take some matters into my own hands. Like by asking my 18-29 year old friends (that’s all of Gen Z and part of Gen Y) about the federal election. Please note: I am NOT a spokesperson for all young people, and what is represented here is only a sample. If I collated every type of young person view, this article would have taken me far longer than I have time available to write it.

We don’t have anyone we trust to vote for, to represent us, our concerns are used as fads … Those who claim to be trying to do better ignore our recommendations on how to do so and we have no faith in any of the current parties or the people in them.

This appears to be true of all young people I talk to. (Note: those I talk to, not everyone) … a vast majority of young people are truly fed up and frustrated with what we’ve got. A parliament that’s not diverse, young or takes young people’s claims seriously. A little digging also found that one of the prerequisites is that to run for either federal legislature, you just have to be the minimum age of 18.

The youngest senator is 24 – the Greens’ Jordon Steele-John. The youngest house member: where government is formed incidentally: is Perth’s Patrick Gorman (aged 34). The 45th Parliament when it was first sworn in had just SEVEN 18 to 34 year olds.

So much for representation.

…Take us seriously or we’ll take care of you.

Said during a break in one of my lectures, the entire room gasped audibly (before applauding in agreement). I’d like to assume certain traits that could be said of this voter but I won’t. The one thing I can safely assume is that the status quo (and this, by default, first falls on the government) is well and truly done in their eyes. Judging by the applause which followed, a lot of the audience shared that same sentiment.

We’re a target, a well reported and documented statistic and treated like recalcitrant children, not as people living our lives.

I would like to think this isn’t true. That young people are doing their chores at home. That we’re not spending too much on coffee and too little on “facial hair care”. That we have more “confidence” than “competence”.

But it is true. Well, as long as these out of context and actually published excerpts are out there. So much for independence and a lack of skills. But of course, my attitude is not the problem. (Insert small British-style comedy audience cringe-chuckle)

One last sentiment

Let me say one final thing in defence of Australia’s young voters. We do care about politics, our political leaders and our standing in the world. Unless you’re in a politics class though, you won’t hear this. I’ve never met a friend who won their partner’s heart with an admission they only vote for the Liberals (or any party for that matter). It’s not cool-speak but they’ll talk about it if the conversation comes up.

Like all sorts of other voters, they want relevant policy positions brought to the fore. The cost of university is one. Housing affordability is another. Earning a wage that they can actually live on is the next. Climate change, foreign aid, local roads, a FUNCTIONING economy!

This is not a matter of dumb young people who just smash avocados and complain about why their Netflix isn’t working anymore. This is a matter of young people so cynical that they feel like their vote is useless. So to the media: if you’re having a conversation about young voters, have some young voters on. Get fellow young reporters to talk to young people. Involve them – we ARE the next generation of democracy.

To the young people reading this, please – for the love of God – be informed. Log onto Vote Compass and test yourself against the parties. If you don’t know much about an issue that they’re asking about, look it up. If you can ramble on about The Bachelor or Married at First Sight, you can certainly take a few minutes out of every day to make your mind up.