Speak to a Young Liberal about why they are part of the movement and you are sure to hear the words “nanny state” and “socialism” very early in the conversation.
They describe themselves as
“a centre-right, mainstream political organisation with a political philosophy focussed on limited government power, low taxes, individual responsibility, a focus on the family and a strong belief in rewarding initiative and private enterprise.”
Considering membership is limited to 16-31 year olds, I found these to be unusual priorities for young people. Don’t they care about education, the environment, fast NBN, social justice, corporate greed, wars, income inequity, unemployment, affordable housing, discrimination, human rights, climate change – the sorts of things that usually interest and affect the young people of the world?
I decided to find out a little more about what makes them tick. I started by looking online at their national webpage. Under News, the last entry was 19 May, 2013, titled “National pledge for action launched.” It talks about their “latest weapon” to oust Gillard – a social media blitz. Apparently nothing has happened worthy of posting on their page since then.
In their newsletter, “The Young Australian – Summer 2012/13”, they give advice on how to get your facebook page ahead.
ENGAGE YOUR FANS
“LIKE this if you agree that Gillard is useless!”
Those updates are annoying, right? But they can be very effective. Don’t employ this tactic all the time but try it out at least once with an image or link you are posting and see what kind of response you get. You can also ask questions of your fans, conduct a poll, or prompt your followers to ‘share’ your post. Engagement is critical on Facebook and this is an easy way of doing it, even if it is annoying.
Trying to keep up with the times, I then checked their facebook page to get more recent news and views. Their last post there was February 10, 2014,
“We’ve compiled the real story behind the Griffith by-election results and it’s not pretty for Labor.”
The post before that invites applicants to be flown and accommodated, at party expense, to marginal seats in Tasmania and South Australia.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to build and develop your campaigning skills and have a lot of fun on the way.”
In January, the Young Liberal Movement of Australia held its 2014 Federal Convention in Fremantle, Western Australia. I went to the event page – it was enlightening in a way I am sure they did not intend. Here is a sample of the comments.
I am sooooo in!!!!
do I qualify as a young lib im 31????? if so ill be there depending on my wife’s status with the pending birth of the twins,
-you can only come if you out drunk (name deleted).
-come along to the social functions – you’ll have a blast
Can’t wait. Better start organising tables
Will I get a specific birthday function on the 27th?
Question: Is Bundy Rum readily available in Perth or should the QLD delegation just BYO its own?
Like John Farnham I keep promising to say farewell but I just can’t resist the lure of a good convention!
I really hope I win the iPad Mini
When someone finally asked in December if there was an itinerary they were given this
Friday, 24th January
7:00 pm: Welcome to WA Cocktail Party
Saturday, 25th January
10:00 am – 5:00 pm: Conference sessions (with lunch break)
7:00 pm: Gala Dinner
Sunday, 26th January
10:00 am – 12:30 pm: Conference session and AGM
1:00 pm: Lunch event
Monday, 27th January
ALL DAY: Optional informal events to be arranged by the WA Division
In answer to the question “Will the gala dinner be black tie?” they responded
Young Liberal Movement of Australia: As is tradition, Saturday night’s dinner will be black tie and the Victorian delegation, in a fit of self-importance, will ignore the dress code.
Eventually they provided a link to the conference details so I went there in the hope of finding out a bit more about their agenda. There was a lot of information about the cocktail party and the gala dinner – in fact, for a mere $195 you could purchase the “social package” which gave you entrance to the functions without having to bother with the conference sessions. The only information about the actual conference was as follows
Conference Session One will include policy debate and a host of guest speakers from Government and other fields.
Conference Session Two will include policy debate and guest speakers followed by the Movement’s Annual General Meeting.
I have been unable to find anything further about who spoke or what they discussed, other than
“Congratulations to Ben Riley and Chris Browne on their respective elections as President and Vice-President. Thank you to the outgoing President, Tom White, and Vice-President Henry Pike for their hard work steering the organisation over the past 12 months.”
If it was anything like the Liberal National Party Conference in Queensland last year, they come up with some rather disturbing ideas.
At the conference in July 2013, Young LNP state president Hermann Vorster presented three proposals:
- Reinstate cracker night
- Random illicit drug testing for long term unemployed and welfare recipients
- Remove Australian content quotas for free-to-air television
In a rare display of common sense (or perhaps political survival), the state LNP party rejected the second two suggestions, but they briefly considered the first. Mr Vorster urged the government to adopt the policy saying
“I think more than anything this is about sending a message that we don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion of the nanny-state. If something is safe and can be done in a reasonable way and it is in keeping with reasonable expectations, then I guess we ask, as the Young LNP, why not?”
Someone older must have remembered the maimings associated with firecrackers before sales were banned in the 1970s because that proposal was also eventually defeated.
In a further attempt to understand these young people, I engaged in an online conversation with a couple of Young Liberals. The mantra “nanny state” came up immediately and the word socialism was spat with abusive distaste. When asked if they thought that the government should subsidise their very affluent private schools, they responded that their parents pay taxes and they were entitled to the contribution. When asked if they would in future insist on paying the full price for any health procedures or medication they may need, they seemed a little confused. When asked about giving handouts to polluters under the Direct Action Plan’s Emission Reduction Fund, they seemed to know nothing about it
In fact, they were so repetitive, using the exact same phrases, that they could have been one person. Online that may well have been the case, except I find the same phrases repeated everywhere I look.
I am sure there are some very thoughtful, intelligent, caring Young Liberals out there but they are keeping themselves well hidden. Conferences seem to be parties for the privileged, policies are thought bubbles that come straight from the IPA (the home for aging and not-so aging Young Liberals who haven’t cracked a corporate or political job yet), debate is the regurgitation of phrases without understanding or thought, and tactics are more important than truth.
I remember the years from 16 to 30 as a wonderful time full of questioning and learning, passion and protest, caring about causes, searching for truth, as well as plenty of dancing and partying. People cared about each other. We had a weekly charity collection at school where kids would give a few cents and then, at the end of the year, decide what charities to donate the money to. As a school, we sponsored children overseas that were living in extreme poverty. When Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin we immediately collected money and goods to send as we did with the devastating floods in Bangladesh. We visited aged care facilities to do musical performances or help with bingo. As individuals we were challenged to think about what we personally could do to help, not only in times of disaster, but in our everyday lives. We were encouraged to become engaged and assured that we did make a difference.
To the many young people out there who truly care about the future, to those who feel empathy and compassion for their fellow beings, to those who want to make the world a better place for all humanity and the plants and animals that share our planet, to those that believe in tolerance and acceptance of differences, I would urge you to become involved. I can fully understand your disillusionment with our current political circus but, regardless of how much we would like to ignore them, politicians make decisions that affect the direction this country takes and every individual in it. Stand up for what you believe in. If the system is broken then help fix it. We cannot allow the shallow, greedy, and selfish to have the loudest voice and to exploit our country’s wealth for their personal enrichment.