I live in Tony Abbott’s electorate.
The northern beaches is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. There’s Sydney Harbour on one side of the peninsula, and beaches on the other.
Despite it being home to the nation’s prime minister, the community is divided about his leadership.
It’s not him personally. It’s his policies, his party and politics in general that has young people switching off.
I’ll clarify that I am talking about young, smart, 20-something-year-olds who are watching Canberra fight and bicker over issues that we see as black and white, not 50 shades of grey.
This has been underscored by Abbott’s handling of same-sex marriage.
For a generation that has grown up in a progressive community, it’s hard for us to understand the archaic rules under which we live. To say MPs who don’t fall in line with the party view will be sacked is like reading Animal Farm all over again.
This is just one of the many things that has had Gen Y shaking their heads and despairing at an institution that should be igniting passion and support.
Others may not agree with what follows, but here are some of the other problems young people in my electorate – Abbott’s electorate – have with politics at the moment.
There’s really only one quote from politics that comes to mind when thinking about the government’s attitude to the Australian housing market at the moment. It comes from the treasurer, Joe Hockey. Here it is:
“The starting point for a first homebuyer is to get a good job that pays good money.
“If you’ve got a good job that pays good money and you have security in relation to that job then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money.
“That’s readily affordable, more affordable than ever. (It’s more affordable to) borrow money for a first home now than it’s ever been.”
In Hockey’s eyes my friends — 20-somethings earning a graduate salary — should be able afford to buy property in a market where the median house price is now $1 million.
There are a number of problems with this.
Many young people who have bought a property in the past 12 months have received financial support from mum and dad, who have been able to pitch in and put down a deposit.
Others have had to compromise, and either rent for longer, or try and buy in areas where the market isn’t so hot, moving away from the area they grew up in.
Hockey also thought it would be a good idea to allow young people to access their superannuation to buy a home.
The key to super is the power of compound interest. By taking money out of super, particularly for younger workers with lower balances, buying a home with that money completely neutralises the interest return.
As Business Insider’s Greg McKenna said recently that it would “hurt those it is trying to help by freeing up more buyers to drive up property prices. It will hurt those it seeks to help by reducing their superannuation balances in retirement.”
Where to start with this?
Young people can barely afford rent in Sydney but that hasn’t stopped MPs blowing taxpayer dollars on helicopter trips that would take an hour by car.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop, who resigned after revelations about her use of parliamentary expenses, lives in the next electorate over. It might be one of the wealthier corners in Australia, when measured by average earnings, but people are livid about how she treated taxpayers’ money.
The spending scandal one was one of the few political issues that got my friends talking, and not in a good way. In fact, I think if she had chosen to contest at the next election her seat might be under threat with her 13% margin on a two-party-preferred basis.
I just don’t understand when politicians say: “yes but, it was inside the rules of parliamentary expenses”.
Many feel that there are bigger problems at hand. Flying their families business class so their kids can watch them in parliament makes people question their priorities. Is it that they feel entitled or are they just out of touch?
The reduction in emissions
Listening to the PM and the environment minister bang on about emissions and climate change can not only be hard to follow, but it can at times be as dull as anything.
While you try to keep up and understand what they are saying, at the end of the day no one cares what they are doing as long as it prevents more pollution being released into the atmosphere. As long as we, with the rest of the world are working towards a healthier, more sustainable planet.
But when Abbott says that Australia is cutting its carbon emissions reduction targets from 30% by 2030 to between 26-28% he’s just giving people another reason not to trust what he says at all.
“We’re not leading but we’re certainly not lagging,” Abbott says. But really in per capita terms, Australia’s emissions are the highest among all major countries, and this would continue under the announced target.
This is to ensure that we have “jobs and growth, growth and jobs,” Abbott says. Well, at this rate we’ll have neither jobs or growth if we don’t have a planet to live on, mate.
The honours system
Remember that time Tony Abbott gave Prince Phillip, the 93-year-old husband of the Queen, a knighthood? If I’m going to be honest, it had most of my friends saying, “Who’s that?”
Abbott’s decision to announce the award on Australia Day shocked many, including within his Government.
Why not use such an award to recognise, not only Australians, but everyday people who are working hard in Australia, making a difference and helping others. Rather than an old man who lives in England and no one knows.
To his credit, Abbott has since removed himself from the process of choosing who receives Australian knighthoods, but announcing such an honour on such a random person on a day that we are celebrating the nation was tipping point for many.
The “captain’s call”
I have a real problem with this term, and there are others, too. This line has an air of arrogance and dominance that I think is reflected in Abbott’s public appearance.
“I made the decision,” he says. “I am the leader, I had to make a call”.
We get it. That’s your job. But don’t sound so entitled while you do it.
Women in parliament
This is a simple one. The gender split in the nation’s parliament is nowhere near reflective of the community.
Women make up just 26.7% of the House of Representatives and 38.2% in the Senate. And the Liberal Party fares worse than the Opposition.
And then in business, women only represent 19.3% of the directors of Australia’s top 200 listed companies.
Parliament should be taking this issue by the horns. If you’ve only got old men in suits speaking to an ambitious and dynamic generation it will continue to be an unchanged pattern of disinterest and disengagement among voters.
They’re all the same, and out of touch
When I was voting for the first time I was a 20-year-old university student from a family that listened to the news but didn’t get too involved in politics and where we were allowed to form our own ideas about things. When thinking about casting my first vote, I asked older friends for guidance.
One said: “Who can be bothered with it all? I just Donkey vote”. She was 22.
Another said: “My parents are Liberals and their parents were Liberals so I just vote Liberal too.”
The petty bickering between the two parties has most young people too confused to keep up. The yelling and screaming in Question Time is an epic turn-off. In the words of the newly-elected of the Speaker, Tony Smith, “Parliament is a robust place … it is the arena for the battle of ideas and ideals. But it needn’t be rude and it needn’t be loud”.
The other thing it needn’t be is completely out of touch with community sentiment on simple, straightforward issues like marriage equality.
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