“Not to say I don’t trust you or anything,” high schooler LJ Margeit asks the Prime Minister, “But I was just wondering, why is a man the Minister for Women?”
Her question was the last in an impromptu meet-and greet between Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Year 9 students of Newtown High School of Performing Arts. It followed a range of questions centring on the issues of gay marriage, the carbon tax and asylum seekers. The questions prompted stuttering non-answers from the current PM, who at one point even called out in desperation “Let’s have a bloke’s question!”
It was the type of grilling you’d expect from Leigh Sales or Tony Jones, not a group of High Schoolers. A viral video sensation was born.
I caught up with her to get thoughts on her encounter with our head of state.
“It was all really spontaneous and unexpected. He didn’t even know what school it was until one of our teachers introduced himself…and I don’t think Tony Abbott connected the dots? I think he should have figured out that he chose the wrong school! [laughs]”
The enthusiasm LJ demonstrated in the video comes across as a natural trait, albeit when talking about her idol, photographer Annie Lebovitz, or the possibility of lowering the voting age to 16 (something she’d be “definitely for”).
When asked about her new found fame, LJ appeared unfazed, though the wide-reach of the video in its various incarnations did astound her. “I thought [the gifset on Tumblr] was pretty cool, that people were getting the message all around the world and it wasn’t just subject to Australia.” said Margeit.
Despite the eloquence in LJ’s answers, both Abbott and commenters on the video itself have talked down to her and her classmates as being “young and idealistic”.
“I think he took us to be “kids” in inverted commas, and because we’re “kids” we don’t really have an understanding of politics and we’re not educated,” opined Margeit.
“So I think he was personally really surprised when we came out with all these questions regarding current issues. You can tell that it took him by surprise because he was all like, ‘Oh… crap… Oh, I’ve got to answer this now, on the spot’”
While Margeit does open up the possibility of political growth, she does believe that the impact of her question will stay. “I think I’ll be looking back at this moment and thinking ‘Oh yeah, I owned the Prime Minister’”
“But, also, everyone’s views and beliefs change as they get older. So I know some of my views may change, but maybe not that much?”
When asked what else, aside from what the video presented, she’d highlight as key issues among the youth of today, she specifically noted “Gay marriage rights and women’s rights”.
“We’re also concerned about asylum seekers and Tony Abbott’s policy on turning back the boats,” noted Margeit. “I guess a lot of people at my school, and my circle of friends, we just want rights for everybody!”
And if LJ Margeit could say one thing to the Old Guard running Australian politics and corporations today? “This is the 21st Century, you really need to get out of your olden days and get with the times and see what’s happening right now in front of us”