By Caitlin Bailey
As the election campaign nears its end, it is clear just how little the futures of young people have been considered, despite the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, a global pandemic and soaring house prices.
Alannah Bates, a 21-year-old nursing graduate believes that the interests of young voters have been sidelined over the last several weeks.
“I think most young people feel like they have been ignored in this election campaign. Neither of the major parties have committed to doing the things that really matter to us,” she said.
Instead, our political parties have focused their attention on older voters, a demographic which is significantly larger than that of young voters.
Citizens 55 years old and over account for 40% of those enrolled to vote in this election, while citizens aged between 18 and 34 account for just 25%.
Australia’s ageing population and decreasing birth-rate mean older voters exercise disproportionate influence over government policies.
Young people want climate action
Climate change is consistently proven to be front of mind for young voters. Australia’s two major political parties know this, yet they have failed to offer solutions with the future in mind.
According to the latest figures from the ABC’s vote compass, 38% of 18–29-year-olds identify climate change as their most important issue.
However, according to experts, neither major party is doing enough to ensure Australia does its part to prevent the worst effects of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5C, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement.
Both the Coalition and Labor have committed to net zero emissions by 2050. But where the Coalition has maintained its 2030 target of a 26-28 per cent reduction in emissions, Labor has committed to a more ambitious 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.
Both parties have proposed different approaches to achieving this goal.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has advocated a “technology over taxes” strategy, through an investment of over $20 billion in low emissions technologies, including carbon capture and storage, and low-emissions cement and agriculture.
The Labor party has said it will upgrade the electricity network so that it can accommodate more renewable energy, make electric vehicles more affordable and install community batteries and solar banks across the country.
According to Professor of Climate Science at the Australian National University, Nerilie Abram, while the Labor party’s increase in its 2030 target “…is a substantial improvement on the Liberal Party target … [it] isn’t the 50-74 per cent reduction that Australia needs to make by 2030 to play our part in meeting the Paris Agreement”.
Young people fear they may never afford a house
While the cost of housing has been identified as the most important economic issue for young people, the policies of the two major parties are unlikely to improve the current situation.
The Coalition party’s Home Deposit Guarantee Scheme will allow up to 50,000 middle to high income earners to buy a house with a 5 per cent deposit from July this year. Labor has proposed a policy akin to this for a maximum of 10,000 first home buyers in the regions.
The problem with these policies is that they encourage first home buyers to take on substantial debt after interest rates have already started to rise and are expected to continue to do so over the next year.
In a final effort to distinguish itself from Labor, last Sunday the Coalition announced a new scheme to allow first home buyers to take out up to 40 per cent of their superannuation, capped at $50,000 with the proposition that they return this money, plus a percentage of the capital gain, to super when they eventually sell the property.
Last year, a report by Industry Super concluded that allowing people to take out $40,000 from their super would cause property prices to soar around the country, with the greatest impact in Sydney where the median property price was projected to increase by $134,000.
Experts argue that the only way to give young people a chance at home ownership is to change negative gearing, which allows investors to offset the losses from their property investments against the tax they pay on their income.
The Labor party took a policy to limit negative gearing to the last federal election in 2019, however, the Coalition depicted the policy as a threat to property-owners. Since Labor lost the election, the party has abandoned its support for the policy.
According to professor Nicole Gurran in the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, “the two major parties do not want house prices to fall because high house prices make the two-thirds of Australians who already own their homes feel wealthier, and that supports consumer confidence.”
As a result, neither party is doing what is necessary to create a more level playing field in the property market between older, wealthier voters and young people.
Not apathetic, just disenfranchised
Young people are frequently accused of being apathetic or politically disengaged.
On the contrary, dissatisfaction with the status quo has led them to organise some of the largest political movements in the country notably the School Strike 4 Climate, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.
Young people are just increasingly frustrated with the political parties’ disregard for the burdens they are already facing, and will continue to face, in the future.
Alannah Bates echoes the views of many young people.
“I think most young people care about political issues. We are just tired of being ignored. Political parties need to focus much more on what young people need to secure our support”.