When Tony Abbott first put his hand up for the Liberal Party leadership back in 2007 (withdrawing before the ballot), Paul Keating called him the “young fogey” – an apt description of an anachronistic man whose personal beliefs are out of touch with those of the majority of Australians.
Scott Morrison assures us that he has installed a “new generation” of leaders but it is increasingly apparent that what we now have is a government full of young fogies.
While Australians overwhelmingly endorsed marriage equality in the very expensive non-binding voluntary survey thingy, when it came time for our politicians to vote, 25 Coalition MPs and Senators chose to ignore the will of the people by voting NO or abstaining. These included Scott Morrison, Bridget McKenzie, Matt Canavan, Michaelia Cash, David Littleproud, Stuart Robert, Zed Selesja and David Fawcett, all of whom now hold positions in Morrison’s ministry, as well as ‘Special Envoys’, Abbott and Joyce.
Scott has quickly launched his attack on the values taught at state schools (despite having attended one himself), exhorted us to all to pray for rain, and to love each other.
Yet several others who refused to vote for marriage equality are those who are suspected to be among the infamous bulliers in the recent leadership spill – Andrew Hastie, Michael Sukkar and James McGrath for example.
The Christian lobbyists are sensing an ascendancy and lining up to make their demands, but does this “new generation” of leaders understand, let alone represent, the new generation of Australians?
In the 2016 census, 39% of young adults aged 18-34 reported no religion. A further 12% reported a religion other than Christianity. That is over half of our young adults who are not interested in some sort of Judeo-Christian version of the world they live in.
Debate about free speech has flared again – whether it is for religious people, angry about marriage equality and Safe Schools, who want to enshrine their right to shun, or white nationalists who demand a platform to attack minorities.
But views on this tend to be age-related too.
Forty percent of millennials in the US — where free speech is enshrined in its constitution — think the government should be able to prevent people from saying things that offend minority groups, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. That drops to 27% among generation X respondents, 24% among baby boomers and just 12% for “silent generation Americans,” aged 73 to 90.
There is also a generational divide in major emitting countries over who should bear the greatest burden in curtailing greenhouse gases. Young Americans, Japanese, Indonesians and Australians (those aged 18 to 29) are significantly more likely than their elders (ages 50 and older) to assert that rich countries should do more than developing nations to address climate change.
Vote Compass revealed that young Australians also hold different views on offshore detention for asylum seekers and on immigration more broadly.
Young people are more opposed to boat turnbacks and offshore detention, and more supportive of an increase in Australia’s refugee intake.
“Young people overall tend to have a more cosmopolitan view of the world,” said Dr Aaron Martin, a lecturer in political science research methods at the University of Melbourne. “That’s obviously a pretty sweeping statement but I think having travelled more, having lived in a more diverse country … that explains the age differences there.”
ABC election analyst Antony Green agreed. “Young voters grew up in a more multi-ethnic society than older Australians,” he said.
Old white Christian males in our government, and the young fogies who lust after that exclusive power and privilege, are moving us away from science and back to the days of fear, intolerance and discrimination where faith trumps fact and “others” are viewed with suspicion..
One bonus is that the marriage equality plebiscite motivated many young people to enrol to vote. In fact, in the couple of weeks after the voluntary survey was announced on August 8 last year, almost one million Australians had either enrolled for the first time or updated their details.
The next federal election will be the first chance for many of these voters to give an opinion on the man who stopped the boats and who denied abuse was happening in our detention centres, the man who refused to vote for marriage equality and who doesn’t want our kids to talk about respectful relationships or gender diversity, the man who brought a lump of coal into parliament and who scrapped any policy for emissions reduction, the man who wants us to pray to break the drought.
It’s time for our young to raise their voices and for we oldies to get behind them and elect a government who cares about the new generation of citizens rather than their ‘new generation’ of political hacks.