Should the Australian parliament make room for young people?

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Helen Berents, a lecturer in the School of Justice at QUT, asks, 'Why can't the 'leaders of tomorrow' be the leaders of today?

When we talk about young people and politics, it’s usually to discuss young people’s supposed disengagement with formal politics.

But young people aren't apathetic, they're disenchanted by what's happening in Australian politics. This disenchantment results in non-enrolment, non-alignment with parties - but young people are still willing to march in a protest and get involved in issue-based politics.

If we talk about engaging young people in politics, that normally means policy consultation and things like youth parliaments. Rarely is the election of young people to formal political institutions discussed. This says a lot about prejudices against their age and supposed competency.

Young people do run for public office - don't forget that Wyatt Roy was elected in 2010 at age 20. Curiously, even though Roy's focus was on electoral reform, not issues popular with young people, the media was preoccupied with his age, which says something about the establishment's willingness to take a young person seriously.

What do young people care about?

In 2016, when there was a push to get young people to enrol to vote, the Australian Electoral Commission reported that enrolment went from 51% to 70%. So young people listened. And they care.

But it seems the major parties don't campaign on the issues young people care about.

Climate change, same-sex marriage, and asylum-seeker policy were rated most important to young voters in a study conducted in 2016 by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and Youth Action. But the major parties didn't campaign on these issues.

If we think young people are capable and should be encouraged to be involved in making decisions about who is elected, it follows that young people should also be encouraged to run for office. Parliament and its members has been criticised for its limited representation of people. Many people argue that a government should be representative, and this element of representation gives parliament greater legitimacy.

Who says the 'leaders of tomorrow' can't be the leaders of today?

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Jan Fran and Michael Hing spoke with Liberal MP Chris Crewther.

 

Source The Conversation