I’m just gonna come out and say the word… POLITICS. Don’t run if you’re under the age of 25! It’s not as intimidating as you may think. And here’s why…
A lot has been said in the media lately about why young people don’t turn up to vote. This will be my third election and you can guarantee I’ll be at the polls ticking those boxes.
But the truth is that three out of five young people didn’t turn up to vote in the last election. I don’t believe it’s because we are lazy or uninformed, it’s because we’re looking for exactly what every other voting demographic is looking for – policies and politicians that actually appeal to us and our interests.
We face a number of real problems. Rising levels of student debt, a job market that’s forcing a lot of us into precarious work, a housing crisis that’s locking us out, mental health services that are so bad that many have given up on the system entirely, and many have done far worse. Benefit systems that trap us in poverty and fear…. Run for your lives! Or better yet? Stick your head in the sand!
We young people don’t like young candidates such as Chloe Swarbrick, Jacinda Ardern and Nikki Kaye specifically because they’re young, we like them because they’re authentic and give real solutions to these real problems.
And when they don’t have those solutions, they’re honest about it. They don’t pander to us, they don’t belittle us (just Google “Hillary Clinton student loan emoji” to see how well that goes), they respect us and offer real policy solutions.
When politicians adopt these ways of thinking, we reward that.
Look at Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In no way could he could be described as a “young politician”, but he was able to win millions of young people’s votes. How? By the simple method of listening to our problems and coming up with solutions. It’s a tactic New Zealand politicians would do well to copy.
And, to their credit, many have. Labour and the Greens have announced free tertiary education, changes to employment law that reduce precarious work, solutions for the housing crisis, mental health services that actually help us, and benefit systems that actually provide benefit. Because of these policies, they should expect an increase in their youth vote this time round.
You may call it pandering- I call it politics.
We like honesty, authenticity, and empathy, and we reward politicians who practise them. We deserve to be taken seriously, as do our issues, and we reward politicians who do so. We embrace diversity and diverse candidates.
All in all, politicians only need to do one thing to get our votes: inspire us to hand them over.
If you don’t, you’ll get beaten by the ones who do, and the ones who already are. That’s politics.
Us young voters may also think, like I’m sure many of us once did, that the Government with all its dense policies, boring speeches, and attention-seeking candidates isn’t relevant to your daily life. Unless it made it onto John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, it ain’t for you.
But if you drove to work today, or you jumped on a bus, or you’ve got a student loan you’re trying to forget about, then you should care.
Take our health issues for example. Going to the doctor is damn expensive. At whatever age, it’s easy to trick yourself into believing every cough, sniffle or itch will go away on its own to save yourself that $40 bill – but sometimes it just won’t. And that’s not even touching on our troubled mental health system.
Each party has different priorities when it comes to health spending, whether it be injecting funds into tackling our youth suicide rates, or helping fast-track elective surgeries.
Housing? As more and more ‘Bought a house this weekend!’ Facebook posts pop up on your feed (did they REALLY just geo-tag that in Auckland?!), home ownership becomes more and more of a contentious topic.
The average value of homes across New Zealand has skyrocketed 44 percent in the past four years. This is massive. If you’re looking to buy in Gore you might be okay. But if you’re looking to buy in Wellington or god forbid, Auckland, not so much. KiwiSaver won’t save you here. Every major party has a plan they say will make housing more affordable so this is your chance to tell them what you think.
Environmental issues? This area should logically concern us more than any other voting age group, since we’re going to be around for longer. Just last week a new study came out saying we’re in the middle of the world’s sixth mass extinction. The global bee population is in danger, and without them our food supply is in real danger.
Figuring out which parties are going to give us the best shot against global warming and the handful of other natural crises on the table is one way to actively take control of our future.
Social inequality? New Zealand has one of the worst measures of inequality among our developed countries. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is huge, and according to research it’s getting bigger.
We really need our politicians to care more about getting us to vote. Many young New Zealanders lack information about how our political system works, let alone what each party has to offer. All in all, the push to get young Kiwis engaged with our politicians and forming queues at the ballot boxes on September 23 is a shadow of what other countries have done.
In just under two weeks our Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has addressed student voters and school kids, she posed for selfies, and in the mix of this, she has somehow got young people to care.
Just over the ditch, our Aussie friends are actually fined $20 if they don’t vote. It seems like an aggressive way to engage the masses, but turnout for the country’s 2016 Federal Election suggested it worked.
Bill English can post as many Facebook videos about spaghetti on his pizza as he likes, but it’s unlikely this will get us lining up to tick the boxes. We deserve more credit than that.
But I refuse to condemn those New Zealander’s who choose not to vote, regardless of how well informed they are. I get it. It’s hard to accommodate over 4 million individual New Zealanders and squish that into a few political parties.
Just imagine for a minute if you were asked to vote and the options were Mongrel Mob, Black Power or Destiny Church? Would you still believe that “if you don’t vote then you can’t complain etc etc”? I appreciate not voting also exercises democracy at it’s core and if this is how you feel then all the power to you. But please continue to stay educated and informed.
This is your country- get passionate, participate in those discussions, learn about just who these political parties are and what they can offer you for the next three years.
LET’S DO THIS – coincidentally the Labour Party’s slogan? I think not.