Youth Advocates Held A Pre-Election Q&A With Pollies And Guess Which Party Didn’t Rock Up?

A group of advocates came together in an online forum on Wednesday night to ask politicians some of the big questions affecting young Aussies. Reps for two of the three major political parties were present. 10 points if you can guess who didn’t show up!

The forum was called Youth on the Mic and featured a load of different youth advocacy groups.

Those included the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Democracy in Colour, National Union of Students, School Strike for Climate, Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, Tomorrow Movement and Foundation for Young Australians.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Youth Amanda Rishworth and Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John both took part in the forum. Members of the different orgs were able to speak about their experiences and put specific policy questions to the politicians. Some of the hot topics were the climate, access to Centrelink and the cost of living. We do love to see it.

But the current Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, the Liberal National Party’s Luke Howarth didn’t rock up. Say you don’t actually care about the voices of young people without saying you don’t care about the voices of young people.

Director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition Alex Fuller was one of the youth advocates hosting the event. She explained early on that the LNP wouldn’t be taking part in the forum. In the Q&A sections, Luke Howarth was represented by an empty chair graphic. A visual gag that never gets old.

“Our team engaged with all of the parties equally. And we invited all the youth portfolio holders with about six weeks notice,” she said. 

“It’s safe to say we’re pretty disappointed that the Liberal Party wouldn’t even make the time… to engage meaningfully with young people on these issues.” 

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The event featured speakers from Seed Indigenous Climate Youth Network, Democracy in Colour and the National Union of Students.

On the topic of fossil fuel investment, Amanda Rishworth said Labor wouldn’t announce more money for fossil fuels. But she said she’s “not going to turn up and tell people I’m going to take their jobs away”.

“What we do need to do is invest in [different] types of technologies for the future so that we can help transition our economy to renewable energies which will bring down power prices and create jobs,” she said. 

She also emphasised that Labor wants to market Australia as a leading exporter of clean energies.

“If we don’t actually look at how we export those clean energies there will be countries that will try and just get their fossil fuels to somewhere else,” she said. 

Jordan Steele-John laid out The Greens’ approach to fossil fuels. Surprise surprise, The Greens are not a fan.

“The Greens totally oppose the provision of public money to fossil fuel projects and these subsidies that exist for these projects need to be stopped,” he said. 

“Our Government, whether it’s Labor or Liberal, is currently committed to continuing to pay these polluters for their trouble and that is morally unjustifiable.” 

It would’ve been nice to hear the LNP’s take on the question given the woeful lack of energy (pardon the pun) given to climate change in this year’s Budget. But alas, it was not to be.

One of the other focuses on the night was the cost of living for young people.

Wiradjuri Student Unionist and University of Technology Sydney environment officer Bailey Riley pointed to the fact that many young people are ineligible for Centrelink. For example, you can’t get JobSeeker until you’re 22.

Riley asked what the Labor Party would do to help students struggling amid the rising cost of living. She also pointed to the Labor Party’s announcement that it won’t raise the rate of JobSeeker in their first budget.

Labor’s response focused on long-term structural change. That’s something Labor Leader Anthony Albanese highlighted in his Shadow Budget while talking shit about the Coalition’s one-off cost of living payments.

“One of the things we want to do in those issues that you spoke about, whether that’s in housing or cost to see a doctor, is to make some structural long-term changes,” Amanda Rishworth said. 

“[We want to make] long-term changes in those issues so we’re not just constantly playing catch up with the current system… We’re actually trying to invest in changing the system.”

Rishworth specifically highlighted accessible housing, clean energy and childcare as being part of that strategy.

Steele-John criticised Labor’s decision not to raise the JobSeeker rate, describing it as a commitment to maintaining poverty.

“The rate of Youth Allowance [and] the rate of Job Seeker, we know, is below the poverty line and is not something that you can actually live on,” he said. 

He then reiterated The Greens’ commitment to scrapping student debt.

We want to see at least $88 a day in Youth Allowance and in JobSeeker, the abolition of mutual obligations and the return of the welfare system to a space where it actually is focused on ensuring people have the support that they need,” said Steele-John.

“We want to make sure that university and TAFE are free again, and to abolish all currently existent student debt. Because that debt held by people is an immoral debt.”

Considering we’re in the run up to an election it would’ve been nice to see reps from all three major parties showing they’re invested in the voices of young people.

As they say, actions do in fact speak louder than words.

If you want to catch the whole forum, you can watch it here: