Bill's Speeches

SPEAKING NOTES FOR THE NEW SOUTH WALES YOUNG LABOR CONFERENCE

SPEAKING NOTES FOR THE NEW SOUTH WALES YOUNG LABOR CONFERENCE

 

ULTIMO, NEW SOUTH WALES

 

SATURDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2015

 

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Thank you for being here on a Saturday morning – it’s wonderful so many of you are here.

I know you all lead busy lives, so it gives me a real lift to see you giving up your time for a cause you believe in.

You’re here because you care about building a better future for our country - and for your fellow Australians.

Sometimes it’s not easy to be a young person in Australia.

Youth unemployment is too high, in our suburbs and in our regions.

And your generation faces a unique set of challenges:

  • Assembling a deposit for a house, when it feels like your best chance to own a home is to inherit one.

  • Paying off larger HECS debts, because you’re studying longer to enhance your opportunities.

  • Having to compete in a really tough jobs market – a global race.


And you are also inheriting problems that were not of your making:

  • Climate change

  • Rising inequality

  • Liberals always wanting you to incur more debt – at Uni or TAFE

  • Or pay more through a higher GST


You look at these challenges, you weigh them against the daily experience of life, and then you turn on your TV and see a Parliament that isn’t shaped by your views or your reality.

It’s easy to think…how is politics meant to help me in my daily life?

Perhaps it’s no wonder that our democracy has a participation problem – especially among young people.

Consider this:

400,000 Australians turned 18 between 2010 and 2013 – and did not enrol to vote.

Too many of your peers are falling through the cracks in our democracy.

More fines and penalties from the AEC won’t fix this.

More speeches from politicians won’t change it.

Only you can change that.

Only you can show your friends and classmates and workmates and teammates that the best way to fix our system, is to get involved.

I know we live in times when it is easy to be disengaged, it’s easy to be cynical.

But the worst outcome for our country would be for young Australians like you to lose faith in the power of our democracy to change our nation for the better.

Australia can’t overcome the challenges of the next 15-20 years, the challenges of the next generation, without your generation.

We need your ideas, your energy, your ambition for our nation to be the best it can be.

Our democracy depends on trust.

That trust has to be mutual – it has to run both ways.

People put their trust in the judgment of their representatives.

And Parliaments have to trust the people they serve.

This is why I want Australia to think about lowering the voting age, to give more young Australians a say.

In 2012/13, more than 17,000 Australians under 18 paid $41 million in taxes - not to mention the GST.

And if Australia trusts our 16 and 17 year old citizens:

  • To pay tax and work

  • To join the military

  • To drive on our roads

  • To fly a plane

  • To make independent decisions about their medical care


Then we – the Parliament of Australia - should extend that trust to include a direct, empowered say in our democracy.

It’s certainly occurring in other parts of the world.

Young Australians like you deserve the right to shape the laws and policies that shape your lives.

Friends

I believe young people want to be involved in decision-making processes - and should be offered the opportunity to do so, within our existing political structure.

This will increase transparency and community-centred action in politics.

Your generation is more connected with the world than any before you.

The future belongs to you and your generation.

And your generation should have a say in defining that future.

I believe the more voices in our national debate, the better.

Just from the conversations I’ve had with people here this morning, I’ve met passionate advocates for:

  • Marriage Equality

  • Real action on climate change

  • The equal treatment of women

  • Youth wages

  • A better university system

  • International development

  • And animal welfare


And the more of us who are involved, engaged participants in our democracy, the better.

Better for our society, our country and our future.

Thank you

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