Young people lose whoever wins this election

June 24, 2016

On July 2 Australian voters head to the polls — although by that date up to 40% of voters will have voted at early polling centres across the country.

Despite a number of minor parties and progressive independents running in lower house seats and the Senate, we know that come July 3 we will be looking at three more years of evil bastards or the lesser of two evils.

The upside is that more voters are waking up to the fact that the lesser of two evils is still evil. A recent Newspoll indicated that one in four voters will not be voting for the two major parties this election.

Looking at the issues that matter to young voters is indicative of why people are losing interest in the major parties. A Youth Action Survey showed that asylum seekers is the top priority for young voters and young people generally, followed by marriage equality and climate change.

The treatment of asylum seekers by previous Coalition and Labor governments has been an international disgrace. Both parties will continue offshore mandatory detention and both parties support stopping or turning back the boats. Neither party shows any serious leadership when it comes to negotiating a humane regional solution.

Both parties have fallen short on marriage equality, despite for the first time having a prime minister and opposition leader who both supposedly support marriage equality. It only needs a legislative change, but all we have seen from the Coalition is talk of a plebiscite as a delaying tactic. Every radio shock jock, bigot and conservative apparently has to have a say on whether two people who love each other can get married or not.

Labor, on the other hand, at their party conference last year refused to bind their MP's vote, thereby allowing bigots in their own ranks to vote against marriage equality. However, one of their election promises is to pass marriage equality legislation in the first 100 days of a Labor government.

In March this year, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose to 400 parts per million and stayed there for a month. The point of no return for runaway catastrophic climate change is when the concentration reaches 450 parts per million. We are right on the verge, but there is still time to turn things around.

However, once again we see a lack of serious leadership or action from either of the major parties. We still see climate change denialists elected to parliament, made ministers and even prime minister in the case of Tony Abbott. Australia needs to rapidly shift to a zero carbon economy, which is possible if we stop investing in unconventional gas extraction and coalmines and instead start investing in solar and wind.

Another issue affecting young people is housing affordability, which surprise, surprise, is also not being addressed by either major party. Research by Anglicare reveals that only 1% of properties in the rental market are affordable to people on Youth Allowance and Newstart. Only 5.3% of properties on the market are affordable for those who receive a minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the Coalition is campaigning on how decreasing negative gearing could disproportionately affect the cost of rent and prevent people from owning investment properties. This is despite evidence from the Grattan Institute that indicates negative gearing largely benefits the wealthy. Both major parties have been silent on ways to address the increasing lack of affordable housing for young people, with no discussion about increasing the stock of public housing in Australia.

The needs of young workers are also not being addressed by either major party, with the Liberal Party and its big business mates actively attacking penalty rates at every opportunity. Young workers are often employed in hospitality and retail industries, and they rely on penalty rates to make ends meet.

In contrast, Labor leader Bill Shorten has said that a Labor government would accept the decision of the Fair Work Commission, even if the decision is to reduce penalty rates. This shows that despite the rhetoric of Labor being a party for workers, they are not willing to take a firm stance on an issue that is important to working people.

The recent push from the Coalition government to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission could also impact on the safety of young construction workers, with statistics from Worksafe Victoria indicating that more than 2000 young people are injured in the workplace each year across all types of employment.

Both major parties are failing to deliver solutions that address the needs and concerns of young people. This means that we cannot rely on electing the right politician to create lasting political change.

To address fundamental issues such as refugee rights, marriage equality, climate change, affordability of housing, wages and working conditions, we need to break the illusion that political change is confined to the doors of parliament and the whims of our elected political leaders.

To create political change we need to take collective action by getting organised on our campuses, in our workplaces and in our communities, to build campaigns with concrete demands that put people's needs first.

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