The recent Mission Australia survey of young people aged 15 to 19 showed that only 8.5 per cent have any level of involvement with political groups or organisations.
A total of 13,600 teenagers were surveyed, of which 61.2 per cent were girls, and, unsurprisingly, 93 per cent were studying full-time.
Yes, I concede that the age of this group – the vast majority are under the voting age of 18 and that studying and other activities consume most of their waking hours – makes any political activity problematic if not unlikely, yet the survey clearly shows that any belief that young people are passionate about engaging in political debate in any formal way is an urban myth.
When I was a boy (oh how I hate to write that!), we had the Young Liberals which we called the Young Libs, Young Labour which we called Young Labs and the Young Country Party which we called the Young Country Party – at least in front of our parents. I joined the Young Libs when I was 16, not particularly because of any passionately held opinions although my parents were staunchly conservative, but because it was marketed at least by word of mouth as an outfit where you could party, party, party but not necessarily Liberal Party, Liberal Party, Liberal Party.
I had a look at how today’s youth wings of the major parties are appealing to today’s young.
A lingering residual loyalty first took me to the Young Liberals website and what a dismal place that was. It has only 3,643 Facebook likes – I can only wonder how they got so many – and the last news they posted was on 13 May, 2013: “The Young Liberals have unveiled the latest weapon in their grassroots effort to oust the Gillard Government in September” . Nothing about how Abbott and the team smashed the hated socialists, nothing about how fabulous the Abbott Government is and nothing about how the Young Liberals are such a force for all that is decent, good and wonderful. The latest edition of The Young Australian appears to have been published in December, 2012.
So, off to Young Labour which proudly announced “AYL (Australian Young Labor) has its first official website” on August 4 last but, sadly, not much since. Considering how long the internet has been around, they didn’t exactly feel the need to rush anything. The last posted blog was on 23 November, 2013 and I learned that the last AYL conference was held on 12/13 April last but, I assume, nothing much happened there because there is no further news.
The site features a snap of fresh-faced youngsters – at least one of whom is wearing his Kevin 07 T shirt – looking thrilled to bits to be with the Hon K Rudd Esq but there are none with the Hon Bill Shorten MP or even the Hon Julia Gillard. Another snap shows activists waving signs around for Mike Kelly MP who was defeated in the 2013 election. Not exactly up-to-date or inspirational.
We are told that AYL is the largest political youth movement in Australia but, of course – as with all political parties young and older – the exact membership total is a deep secret.
The Young Country Party is now called the Young Nationals which means we can call them the Young Nats without being rude.
Their “links” section is headed by a snap of Ron Boswell who had been a Queensland Senator since Adam wore shorts leaning against a huge B-double cattle transport – it’s a toss-up to what is the biggest – but good old Ron retired on 30 June last. Presumably, the Young Nats can’t find anybody in their current Parliamentary team who measures up to Ron in the straight-out-appeal department.
Their last tweet was on 28 August, 2013, so they have either been terribly shy about praising the invaluable contribution of their team in the Coalition Government or…well, you work it out.
The Young Greens are rather more active. They even have a “how to donate” section which the others don’t and helpful hints about ”How to Run An Amazing Fundraiser” which surprised me somewhat. It’s all very formal and stresses such things as the need to obey liquor laws and gaming laws (if there is a raffle). I mean this is supposed to be the organisation for the hip, cool, caring kids and they have to be told how to run a party? I don’t recall we needed that advice when I was a Young Liberal.
Always having an eye on raising a dollar, there is a shop where you can order such nice things as T shirts emblazoned with “Standing Up For What Matters” which are bargains at $40. However, be warned, they advise, “These shirts are printed on demand in the US so please allow 10 -15 days for delivery once ordered”. Perhaps the Australian T-shirt industry is not one to stand up for.
All very dreary and I’m reminded of Oscar Wilde’s comment, “Youth is wasted on the young”.
Were you involved in a youth political party? What party were you in? What do you think is the reason why we don’t have youth parties anymore? Tell us below.