Young people want real change, not empty promises

March 18, 2023
School strike for climate protest in Sydney
Young people demand action at the School Strike 4 Climate march in Sydney on March 3. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

As we get closer to the New South Wales state election, the differences between Labor and the Coalition appear more miniscule than ever.

A recent leadership debate broadcast on Channel Seven featured Coalition Premier Dominic Perrottet and New South Wales Labor leader Chris Minns in continual agreement. In a “rapid fire” question segment they agreed on every single point! 7News reported they were “largely in consensus”.

Labor has better policies overall, but both major parties are intent on continuing the fossil fuel-driven race to climate disaster. Neither have serious solutions to tackle the cost-of-living crises or the immense pressure on the state’s health and education systems.

Both parties have shown they want to continue to act on behalf of the ruling class, funnelling our taxes to their corporate backers and the rich.

Voters understand this and it looks likely that the trend of voters moving away from the major parties will continue.

Polls show 34% will put a minor party or independent candidate first. Election analysts suggest there is a strong likelihood of a hung parliament after March 25.

Young people, in particular, are moving away from the major parties for lots of good reasons; growing up in a climate emergency, reckoning with the prospect of never being able to own our own homes and soaring rents are some. Meanwhile, we are paying more for education and health care and trying to make ends meet amid increasingly insecure and casualised work with low pay.

For the first time, those aged under 40 are the largest voting demographic: 51% in this election.

Stewart Jackson, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Sydney, believes the major parties are ignoring the youth vote. Young people tend to vote for progressive parties, with Labor and the Greens attracting 65–70% of the youth vote.

This correlates with (alarmist) polls that show about 60% of young people prefer socialism to capitalism.

Youth Action NSW asked young people in a recent survey which issues would most influence their vote. It found that cost-of-living was the most important, followed by work and employment, climate change and healthcare.

There is a persistent idea that young people are disengaged and disinterested in politics, but this is far from true.

Yes, young people are turned off by the bipartisan support for neoliberalism and climate destruction, but they have also shown an appetite for real political change.

Research shows young people are further to the left than any generation before them — more educated, more secular and more diverse racially, ethnically and in sexual orientation — and, importantly, they are not becoming more conservative as they age.

The challenge for those campaigning for change is to work out how to convert opinion and anger into activism — which is the only real challenge to political parties that tell you to vote for them to make the changes.

Green Left, the not-for-profit ecosocialist media project supporting movements here and around the world, knows that lasting change can only come from powerful and sustained grassroots movements.

The School Strike for Climate movement is a great example of this; young people organising to fight governments committed to acting for fossil fuel corporations rather than put plans in place to stop climate catastrophe.

No matter the results of the NSW election on March 25, we know we will have to continue to build the climate and anti-war movements because the major parties have committed to dangerous policies in our name.

Green Left has been building the movement for a real alternative to the destructive capitalist system for more than 30 years. We need your help to continue pushing for real change. Become a supporter today or make a donation to our 2023 Fighting Fund.

[Isaac Nellist is standing for Socialist Alliance in the Legislative Council.]

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