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News News The young are taking note, and many will vote for a better society

As a 23-year-old voter, I disagree with comments that young people are self-interested voters. I also dislike insinuations that we are incapable of a sound decision because we have not tasted a recession.

Recent polls suggested 18- to 39-year-olds will turn against John Howard. This is not a reflection of partisanship, but rather a reasonable assessment of the Coalition's contribution to Australia.

Many voters like me keep up with politics and current affairs, and not just during the election campaign. Nor do we just watch YouTube. Our judgment is based on a party's decisions and policies over the years.

Personally, I acknowledge the tremendous and sustained economic growth Australia has enjoyed under the Howard Government. But we need more nuanced leadership that consolidates economic strength to address social issues. The glory is not in economic growth, but in what economic growth delivers for Australians and Australian society.

Global warming, social inequality, reconciliation, education and fair labour outcomes are some issues important to many young Australians. These are tough, long-term issues that require resolute leadership, sustained engagement, passion and hard work. These are issues that cannot be silenced by $34 billion in tax cuts.

Work Choices, for example, does little to address social inequality. The Government never notes the obstacle of a disproportionate power relationship in bargaining between the poorly paid, unskilled employee and the employer. Nor does Joe Hockey ever mention that "flexibility" in the averaging of working hours provision means an employee can legally work 72 hours a week for six months without any penalty loading. And the impact? For starters, social traditions such as a family dinner are eroded.

Long-term issues require a long-term horizon. T hough they may be politically unattractive, history will reflect more fondly upon successful reconciliation and social equality than plasma TVs and cars per household. Many young people are conscious of today's impact on the future. We are alert to the social challenges that lie beneath the economic discourse.

I think many young people would rather be poor and happy than rich and dissatisfied. Happy in the feeling that we've done our best to address global warming. Happy in the fact that we've bridged the inequality gap of indigenous Australians. Happy that there's a narrower divide between the rich and the poor. And happiest of all that we live in a society, not an economy.

Frank Tao Burwood


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