On Saturday, 2 July Australians will be voting to elect all 226 members of Parliament in the first double dissolution election since 1987.
Earlier in the year, as part of the Golden Key Asia-Pacific Conference 2016: Be the Change in February, a Q&A Panel discussion centred upon the topic of “Why should I care about politics?” to question the importance of politics and political engagement, particularly regarding the younger generation. This panel was especially pertinent as 2016 is an important year for politics with the Australian federal election on July 2 and the United States presidential election on November 8.
Recent figures from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) show that the 18 to 24-year-old demographic has the worst numbers on voter enrolment. Approximately half of all 18-year-olds, and a total of nearly 350,000 young people, are not enrolled to vote in the upcoming federal election where voting is mandatory.
Discussion topics included issues such as disenchantment with Australian politics and a lack of representation within the political parties for matters that notably concerned younger Australians. Also discussed was the accusation that political parties are more concerned with holding power than implementing policy change and social progression. Students in the audience were encouraged not to disengage with politics, as panel member Dr Andrea Carson succinctly stated: “Someone else will make the choice if you don’t.”
The panel examined the importance of mandatory voting and how the youth vote carries significant power in shaping the future. In countries like Australia and the United States, being able to vote is a democratic right and something that all of us need to take responsibility for. This point was emphasised by panel member Akram Azimi who noted that democracy was not a universal privilege open to all, as his family had arrived in Australia 13 years ago from Afghanistan.
The panel was made up of prominent members of the community. This included: Akram Azimi, 2013 Young Australian of the Year; Adam Bandt MP, the Federal Member for Melbourne; Dr Andrea Carson, Media and Politics lecturer at the University of Melbourne; and Professor Michael Leach, Professor in Politics and International Relations at Swinburne University of Technology. The discussion was moderated by Frances Bell, a Victorian State Political reporter with the ABC News.