A word from Zach Kitschke

Posted on July 20, 2010 by


Each afternoon I get home from work to the house I share with four others. Most days at least two of us – sometimes more – venture out of our hollows and end up in the kitchen discussing and dissecting the political events of the previous 12 hours. For the past few days, this has revolved around Asylum Seekers. But I think it’s time to take a step back and look at the state of affairs for youth and politics.

Five young people in our house– one who thinks its all irrelevant is more or less uninterested, three of us who love a good political argument, and another who is more passive; playing to a particular online form of engagement, that of ‘facebook politics’. Joining groups such as ‘If Tony Abbott is elected, I’ll actually jump off a cliff’, does little to contribute to public debate or help pursue their concerns, achieving better policy outcomes.

Just the other day the AEC released statistics which show that 1.4 million Australians are simply missing in action from the electoral role. It’s a huge concern – especially considering the timeframe Australian’s now have to enrol and update details once the election writs are issued (till 8pm for new voters, 3 working days to change details for current voters). In the Sun Herald over the weekend, the AEC was quoted as saying that the number of Australians without the vote was “the most serious threat to Australia’s democratic model”.

At the 2007 election over 100,000 young people were left without the ability to vote, a result of the Howard Government cutting the timeframe to enrol. A third of those unenrolled voters are aged between 18 and 24. Whether apathetic or disillusioned, this means those views are not represented by our pollies.

What’s missing from the political debate for young people? Politics has for many become a cycle of apathy or disillusionment. This is seen in the enrolment numbers. Youth issues are never fairly represented, young people don’t feel they like they have a say and thus become disengaged.

The issue? Well, as I have discussed with our rather disillusioned housemate, politics is the difference between a climate change response and no action, a decent and fair education system or one that favours the wealthy. It is the difference between equity and greed, employment and unemployment, sustainable & vibrant cultural industries or censorship.

Not only is it essential that those missing in action get enrolled, it’s vital that the young make their voices heard – online, to friends; and by voting in the election.

The most concerning thing leading up to Election2010 is that a fair chunk of our population, particularly younger voters, are not having their say. Issues that affect them now and will do into the future them are not being considered with appropriate weight by people held accountable to their views. We’re locking ourselves into a future we don’t necessarily support, simply by not taking action.