DEAR reader, as a person interested enough in politics to read this column, you have a special responsibility. Since so many of the young people of Canberra who are not enrolled to vote are unlikely to read this article, could you encourage them to enrol?
Greens’ Senate candidate, Simon Sheikh, in a report prepared in the light of the coming election, has revealed the high level of complacency amongst young voters.
The report suggests that up to 600,000 Australians under 25 have not registered to vote. Greens are reliant on young voters as they are less conservative, more idealistic and more likely to support Greens’ principles and policies.
Understanding why young people are not registering to vote provides a tool to assist the Greens to get greater electoral support.
The Greens can see an opportunity for their best chance at an ACT Senate seat yet. The choice is between the left-wing Green candidate and a very conservative Liberal one. Adding fuel to the fire is the debacle around the Liberal preselection, the public divisions in the party, and the lack of trust across Canberra in the endorsed Liberal candidate. The struggle is likely to be closer than at any previous election. Every vote will count.
The release of the Greens report “Review of Youth Voter Enrolment in Australia” by Greens leader, Christine Milne, is unsurprising. What is telling is that it was jointly released with ACT Senate candidate Simon Sheikh. The Greens have let the electorate know just how much they need to have a stronger youth vote.
When I ask the young people around me why there is such a low enrolment in such educated electorates as Fraser and Canberra they point out that with such safe Labor seats their vote is largely redundant.
However, there is the Senate and there is the ACT Assembly. Sheikh points to the report’s findings that only 68.5 per cent of ACT under 25s are registered to vote.
The report identifies that “it has been estimated that over 18,000 residents of Canberra between the ages of 18 and 30 are either not enrolled to vote, or are enrolled in an incorrect electorate”.
Amongst these voters is where the Greens draw their strongest support.
The Greens argument is that Canberra will largely be ignored by the Labor and the Liberal parties because of the safe seats and the only way to make governments pay attention is to have a Greens Senator as part of the team that holds the balance in the upper house.
With the constant cuts to the public service that have been experienced under the Gillard Government and the even greater threats to public service jobs in Canberra under an Abbott government, the Greens have a plausible case to argue.
The case they argue should be even more important to young people. If jobs are slashed in the public service in Canberra, all the support industries suffer. There will be less demand for housing, for builders, for building suppliers, for hardware, for shopping… and the list goes on.
Small businesses in other States might wish to see a change in government – but one of the reasons that we have safe Labor seats in the lower house is that enough people in Canberra understand the impact. It is a message that needs to reach the young, potential voters who are not yet enrolled.
Complacency amongst the young goes beyond Canberra. Seeing Minister Anthony Albanese trying to sell the idea of 40 years to build a fast train link between Brisbane and Melbourne is simply laughable according to my thoughtful young (enrolled) voters.
On delivering capital works, they pointed out, how pathetic all Australian governments are, even compared to the old Soviet Union satellites.
Uzbekistan already has the Afrosiyob very fast train between Tashkent and Samarkand. The 344-kilometre track was built in 2011 with Spanish support. In a single year! The distance between Melbourne and Brisbane by road through Port Macquarie, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Albury is around 2000km or almost six times the very fast train distance in Uzbekistan. Perhaps we should allow six years for construction. Or build six sections of 344 kilometres and match the Uzbeks.
My young advisors suggest that if politicians really want to win young voters, they need to be strong. They need to have the courage of their convictions rather than bending when the pressure comes on. They need to get on with doing what they believe instead of spending endless hours discussing.
Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health.