In a society where people will vote about absolutely anything, just how much does our generation really care about political elections? Facebook opinion polls, Twitter shout-out questions and the livelihood of X-factor and Big Brother contestants all gather our attention faster and more consistently than any political issue. I took to the streets to discover Generation Y’s opinion on voting in the (extra long) lead up to the state election.
“I think politics is mostly bullsh*t,” Sebastian Lew, 20-year-old audio-engineer and student, told me.
“From what I gather it’s a social competition: who can get the most likes, just like on Facebook. But if you pick the wrong person our country could end up in trouble.”
Sebastian raises an interesting point: has the current government and opposition let themselves be so drawn into a popularity contest that the real point of being in office has fallen by the wayside?
Every election, candidates spend millions of dollars on campaigns to be re-elected. Photography sessions, press releases, charity balls, baby kissing sessions, political cartoons to bring down the public image of their opponent. All of this has nothing to do with policy. Then, they tax everyone a minimum of 30 per cent of their earnings and claim it’s because our country is in debt. Looking at those numbers, I wouldn’t be too keen to vote either.
What our country needs is a government where the main goal is to improve Australia, not to keep the most popular person in office.
“The concept of career politicians and the personal and social gain afforded to those who win is harming good governance. To say politics has lost its humanity is quite a stretch; but our government is certainly not creating the kinds of leaders that our kids and people of all ages need as role models.”
That was Anthony Mason, social media analyst. The biggest part of the disenchantment has come from the neglectful nature of the political parties. Consistently, the issues close to our hearts have been drowned out by the theatre of political speeches and empty promises.
What was the last issue you can name that was quickly, efficiently and economically addressed and corrected? The Australian community is begging for changes. Our soldiers are still away from home. Our streets are getting steadily more dangerous. Volatile countries are being allowed to test nuclear weapons. More than two thirds of the world is living in poverty, and yet the only attempt to rectify any of these injustices has been to raise taxes and start penalizing companies who contribute relatively small amounts to global warming.
It’s pretty easy to see why our youth has turned its back on politics. What has the government done to make our country any better in the last six years? How can any young person be expected to be enthusiastic at the prospect of voting when the system refuses to act on the big issues?
“The youth simply don’t understand voting. No one in recent years has ever shown us the positive outcomes of voting,” says Ashley Johnston, a singer/songwriter, age 18.
One of the more prominent reasons that the youth have become apathetic to voting, simply put: no one has shown us why voting is so important.
Since the election of Kevin Rudd and the eventual mutiny masterminded by Julia Gillard, the youth, and Australian public as a whole have been over-exposed to the betrayal, deception and corruption politicians are capable of. We’re becoming disenchanted. What’s the point in voting when the tables can be turned so easily, despite our best wishes?
The current fad political concern all over the world has been legalising gay marriage, something that raises the blood pressure of conservatives, liberals, religious bodies and radicals. All have failed to find an outcome where all are happy.
We live in a fairly progressive era, where the answer to any question you have is available at the tap of a key. In our time, a man can become a billionaire simply demanding money for advertising alongside his cat video on YouTube, a time where it is fashionable to dress in clothes that your grandfather wore. And in all this progression it seems that government still can’t sway on the issue of gay marriage because of fear of backlash from older generations.
Over a century ago it was finally deemed legal for a woman to vote. It took until the early 1960s for African Americans to be given equal human rights. Only five years ago our nation’s leaders apologised for the atrocities executed against our indigenous people. What all these events have in common is that they were once argued, protested and negotiated, and became part of a history of shame that they were ever real issues int he first place.
This is where the disillusionment between the government and youth is shown in its fullness. Once again the need to be the most “popular” party has overruled what could benefit Australians. Perhaps a fearless government who isn’t afraid of being considered unpopular for a controversial decision can rally the youth and stimulate their passion as well as gain their respect.
“I feel so left out. I don’t understand the system. The big issues are just forgotten. Honestly the only reason I vote is because of the threat of a fine,” says George Fayad, university student, age 20.
George repeats a common sentiment that young people are left out of the loop. When we were young, it was a simple idea that the person you voted for would make Australia a better place. It takes only a surface interest in politics to see that many issues are actually left unresolved because of a fear of public reaction. Everything the government puts into action is a short-term solution to secure popularity until the next election. There are no long term goals for improving Australia. There is no investment in our future. Every day more of our youth can see their own families struggling thanks to cuts to benefits, more taxes and the removal of resources. How can we ask our youth to vote, when there is no change to be expected?
Some would argue it’s unfair to accuse the government of neglecting the youth or not attempting to stimulate change in Australia, from the standpoint that it would seem that there were wheels in motion to improve our nation. But closer inspection reveals quite a substantial amount of mistakes, negligence and ignorance.
The first such example of this is former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s laptop for students initiative; they were intended to “empower NSW students as citizens of the digital world”. Strong words from the former leader of Australia. What was provided but was a dismal piece of computer hardware which was delivered almost three years late, the “mini computers” themselves are running programs required for classes such as Microsoft Office and Photoshop which as basic as they are, have slowed down the computers to such an extent that teachers have stopped students from using them because of the halt to productivity they have caused.
Right up there with the laptop debacle is the “pink batts scheme”, a government funded initiative which proposed that new types of insulation would be cheaper, more energy efficient and lower green house gas emissions. In reality the result was four deaths of workers, house fires and serious maintenance issues that ranged from cut off electricity to walls falling down. In its haste to save money, the Labour Party neglected to properly test its newest funding project, which caused nationwide grief and turmoil. How the youth can be enthused to participate in the voting system when these attempts at improving Australia are half-hearted, with only saving money in mind.
A better education is a necessity to reinstating a sense of patriotism and compelling the youth to vote; and vote for the right government. What is needed is a mandatory subject solely devoted to politics and the importance of youth involvement in Australian high schools. Give the youth information so they feel empowered. It isn’t as simple as giving them all laptops to make it seem as though the youth are being valued as the new minds of our nation.
What our country needs is a government where the main goal is to improve Australia, not to keep the most popular person in office. A better introduction for youth to voting, an actual addressing of issues that not just the youth, but people in general care about, less soap opera antics and more real, tangible action. Australians are battlers, give us a goal and we will fight and work together to achieve it. Put the power back in our hands.