Talking about my generation

FutureNextExitI was thinking the other day about my generation, or the people I come into contact with from my generation, and how little they care about politics. This isn’t surprising. Not everyone can be interested in every minute detail of the political process like I am. But what concerns me is not just how little they care, but how little they actually understand what elections like this one are all about.

I was born in 1981 and it’s fair to say, living in Australia between then and now has been pretty bloody easy. Sure, house prices have been high, but this is probably the most stressful thing for most people of my generation. And if this is as bad as it gets, it’s no wonder there is so much mass apathy towards politics. And even more worryingly to me, is the mass apathy towards the Labor Party and what it stands for. I’m starting to think Labor is being squished between two very different types of voters in my generation – those who’ve had it too good for too long and therefore expect progressive policy as if it’s a birth right, but don’t want to work hard to get it. And those who think they are better off if their bosses are better off – all hail the boss. Let me explain.

I’ll start with the progressive voters who don’t support Labor. You can guess where they flock. And yes, as I’ve had to debate seemingly hundreds of times on Twitter, I do understand preferential voting. But there is a very large difference between quietly giving Labor your number two (or second to last) preference in a polling booth, and campaigning for Labor in your community. I count campaigning as everything from joining the party, to the odd ‘like’ on your Facebook page, to a conversation with a work colleague about which political party you support and why. I’ve written before how easy my life would be if I were a Green. Time and time again I meet perfectly reasonable and passionately progressive people, who take great joy out of bagging Labor and praising everything the Greens say. (I said ‘say’, not ‘do’ for a reason). But here’s what I don’t understand about these people. How can they say they are all for progressive policies, when they spend their entire lives attacking the only major party which is going to deliver anything close to the progressive policies they seek?

I understand that many Greens voters are concerned about the plight of asylum seekers, and are outraged by Labor’s policy. But how secure in their lives must these people feel, how perfectly catered for in all other areas of progressive policy must they be, to only care about one policy? Do these people think their rights at work are safe forever and therefore not worth shoring up and defending? Has the union movement been the victim of its own success, breeding a misguided belief amongst my generation that rights can’t be taken away? Do these people not care if the gap between rich and poor gets wider, and social mobility is crushed for future generations? Do they think health and education, and the government ownership of public assets important to the community are less important than asylum seeker policy? Do they think policies like the NDIS and the NBN being available to all, and action to reduce the effects of climate change will just happen without them lending a hand? Do their ‘principles’ on one issue really make them totally blind to how detrimental their public bagging of the Labor Party is to their goal of having a progressive government? And if they really do care so much about asylum seeker policy, what do they think of the Liberals’ alternative?

Sometimes on Twitter, I get the most inane tweets from Greens supporters, which just make me want to cry. For example, one person tweeted to me that he couldn’t vote for a progressive party that doesn’t have a mining tax which is progressive enough. Seriously. In other words, this person is saying they can’t support the progressive alternative because Labor haven’t gone as far as he would like, so he’ll bag Labor, in effect supporting the conservative alternative that will get rid of the progressive mining tax altogether. This is ludicrous. Juvenile and ludicrous.

I understand that many Greens voters take great pride in despising both the major parties, and the whole two-party system. It’s the ‘you can’t trust any of them’ mantra. But is my generation really so flippant about how easy life is, that they can’t see that politics is all about one alternative over the other? Progressive versus conservative? It’s not about finding a soul mate, or some spiritual quest. Yes, the progressive major party might not be perfect. Just like people aren’t perfect. Progress takes time and a lot of effort, it never happens overnight. It takes compromise and pragmatism. This means the Labor party might not match up to your policy preferences 100% of the time. They might not be as progressive as you want them to be all the time. Two-party politics is messy, it is unglamorous and it does make progressive reform difficult.

Is my generation really so impatient and scared of hard work, that the progressive voters amongst us would prefer to bag the progressive major party, rather than get in there and help them to beat the conservatives? The worst part of this is, bagging the progressive alternative helps the conservatives. Don’t you realise Tony Abbott is thrilled every time he hears Christine Milne complaining about Labor? Don’t you understand why you would never see the Nationals criticising the Liberals in an election campaign? If progressives can’t get behind Labor, why would a swing voter looking for something to believe in vote for them? Every time you bag Labor, especially during an election campaign, you’re limiting the likelihood of Australia having a progressive government. You’re putting at risk all the progressive policies Labor has implemented in the last 6 years, and all those they plan to strengthen and implement in the future. So what exactly are you trying to achieve? The only thing that can beat Abbott’s Liberals, who enjoy the backing of Murdoch, Rinehart and the rest of the big business community, is a united, strong, progressive alliance. I’ve been so disappointed during this election campaign that my generation aren’t interested in this fight.

Now let’s look at the conservative voters in my age group. To be blunt, I don’t know many and those who I do know most likely vote Liberal for one or both of two reasons – they think rich people vote Liberal and would like to consider themselves as belonging to this group, or they just vote how their parents do. Actually, some of them want a tax cut and to hell with the impact of reduced government services for their community. But presumably, there must be a sense amongst Liberal and National voters that when the 1% is looked after, the 99% get some trickle-down benefit, no matter how stupid this idea is. Sure, there might be some entrepreneurial, business owning Liberal voters in my generation who strongly believe that a free market solves all problems, and any government intervention in a privately owned market is just bureaucracy getting in the way of profit. And maybe some really do think a minimum wage is bad for the economy. But honestly, I don’t think most Liberal voters in my generation think hard enough about politics to come to any conclusion as deep as this.

Many are likely to think the economy is always better under the Liberals, and choose to ignore the economic success of the Labor party in bringing the country through the GFC without recession. In some ways, my generation is even more likely to rest on their laurels because of the reduced impact of the GFC, which ironically is even more likely to produce more Liberal voters – ‘see there wasn’t a crisis so why did Labor have to spend so much to save us from something that didn’t happen?’ To this, I say for fuck’s sake!

My biggest frustration with conservative voters from my generation is this – they’ve been trained well, by vested interests in the media and by conservative politicians, to blame the government for everything that goes wrong in the economy, and to praise capitalism for everything that goes right. In these people’s eyes, Wall Street greed wasn’t to blame for the share-market crash which caused the GFC, it was various governments and their failures to do something about it at fault. But then you use the word ‘regulation’ to try to explain that this is the only thing the government could have done about it, in advance, to stop the capitalists from eating themselves, and the response to even mentioning the word regulation is revulsion and sneers.

So when I have these Green progressives on my left, refusing to support Labor, and these un-thinking Liberals on my right, hating everything Labor stands for, it really does feel like I’m fighting a war on two fronts. Yes, I support Labor. No, it doesn’t mean I love Kevin Rudd – but I would be overjoyed if he wins this election. Yes, I support most Labor Party policies, but not all of them. Yes, I was devastated about what happened to Julia Gillard, and I’ll be upset about this for as long as I live. No, this doesn’t mean I’ll give up on the Labor Party. Politics isn’t about personalities; it’s about policies – the people who come up with them and the people who successfully implement them. Those doing the heavy lifting on our behalf deserve our support. Maybe Labor voters like me are the most stubborn voters from my generation of all the ones I’ve described. I just want to live in the country Labor can give me and I’ll fight against anyone and anything that tries to get in the way. This is how I stand up for what I believe in.


  1. This is a GREAT article. Well written and nicely sums up the appalling ignorance that I also note in younger people (I’m Gen X). The filthy looks and sarcasm I have received from people who have never known real financial hardship or unemployment or just how hard it is to get ahead socially and financially is mind boggling.
    I live in Australia’s north where illiteracy and ignorance will earn you $100k+ if you know the right person to get you a job driving a truck. These people don’t believe that they are living it up on borrowed time and they certainly wouldn’t know how to spell ‘progressive’ let alone its meaning. I totally agree with what is written and unfortunately, I suspect that the children born of your generation will be reaping the sown seeds of scorn for a long time. I am convinced that my own children will too.

    • Unfortunately that is what we get for the years of great reforms that Labor governments have put in place. Our young people have only known the easy life because of Labor’s major achievements over the years and they forget where these great reforms came from or never Knew it in the first place. Especially when we have such negativity from the Liberals. The brainwashing that has been done over the last few years by them has been so effective that these young people now believe Labor has done nothing. I at least think if heaven forbid Abbott gets in that they will soon work it out. Perhaps they need Abbott in government to make them see who is the better party. Of course there are some very clever young people out there and they have already worked it out. Just unfortunate that the majority of them have not. Abbott can so easily brainwash them. A lot of grown ups are no better either they suffer with short term memory problems, they forget the Howard years because they have had it too easy the last six years or so. I am thinking maybe Kevin should have let us go through the GFC that would have woken a lot of people up with a Jolt. Had Abbott been in that is exactly what he would have done and we would still be in recession.

  2. Well said Victoria, I totally agree with you. I too was devastated when Julia was put out and I still am. As much as I would prefer Julia up there we have Rudd and I am voting for labor anyway because I do not like Liberal values and I never have. Labor’s policy’s are so much more me. I have said in this election many times that a vote for Greens in this election is a plus for Abbott. The more votes we take away from Labor and give to minor parties the less votes labor gets and will be struggling to win. Greens are ok a bit radical and unbending for me. Right now Labor needs all the votes they can get especially to keep Abbott and his cronies out. Surely no Greens voter wants Abbott running this country. I would hope not anyway.

  3. Take Heart Victoria…I believe (and yes one of the very true believers at age 76) that the Labor Party will do a “barak obama”. The polls/commentators (as hysterical as ours) were proven wrong. we DO have a great country that has generally been well served by all pollies… sure some more than others…however what we have to work on IS getting those hundreds of thousands of unregistered voters, those hundreds of thousand that refuse to vote and those tens of thousands that deliberately or accidentally make informal votes to contribute more effectively. A bit late for this one…so keep up the good work with well informed that we dont fall in to the complacent idea..that our economy is invulnerable/ that we wont have ratbags ‘lead’ us in the future. It could happen here and we (you) must continue to fight .

  4. Wonderfully clear and concise summary of the political positions. Like you I am fed up of hearing ‘Politics is boring’ or ‘I’m not interested in politics’- I want to scream that they deserve all they get. And then those who say Politian’s are all the same NO they’re NOT. The Liberals’ are for the big end of town- Labor is for everyone else.
    As for those who say, usually with a smug smile ‘I vote Green’, well I want to shake them and scream ‘you will get the LIbs- don’t you know the Greens cant enact any of their policies and if the LIbs get in they never will.
    Like you I wish we had Julia at the helm- I think the party treated her shabbily and she achieved so many good things BUT reality is we need to win this election so we have to get behind Labor..

  5. Victoria, I love everything you write, but this is your best yet. You couldn’t have expressed my views better or more succinctly.

    I despair about the Greens. People call them the far-left progressives, but I don’t see them as that at all. They seem to me to be more aligned with the LNP. And if you look at the demographic that votes for them, it is generally well off professionals.

    Interestingly, I did the ABC Compass survey to express my views on the current political policies -(all ALP leaning). I even tentatively supported the government initiative in PNG.
    ABC Compass then scored my position on the political spectrum, and told me that I am a ‘Green’.

    Is this poll skewed ? Is it trying to direct voters away from Labor?

    I feel so beset on all sides these days that I am seeing conspiracy everywhere.

  6. Great stuff, Victoria. Now tell the non-university-educated young people the same thing and make sure it gets through their skulls!! It’s so hard listening to people of my generation, Labor voters of the Vietnam War & conscription era, finally turning on their mates after all these years. They say “We need to give Abbott a go because he’s been waiting in the wings for so long; our Super is doomed if Labor beats down the mining companies; the Carbon Tax is making electricity completely unaffordable…”.

    Sure the Greens are getting some people to think about the whole Planet rather than just their own backyard but how can we convince young people that the Greens actually have NO POLICIES on huge areas such as Health! They couldn’t even put together a decent Cabinet if they all got elected by some miracle, let alone a comprehensive Government.

    Keep yelling!!

  7. Yes, I was made Green too, probably because of the Asylum Seekers question. I don’t like Lobor’s answer to the problem, it’s inhumane.

  8. Thanks Victoria, another great post. I think the Greens-ALP schism is largely a product of media interference. Gillard was proud to form an alliance with them, then the Murdoch-led media decided they hated the Greens, forcing Gillard to differentiate her brand from theirs.

    In reality, Greens and Labor could work very well together, much better than Libs and Nationals. I don’t think the Greens are a problem per se, it’s just that people don’t seem to accept their alliance with Labor the same way they accept the Coalition. As to why, well those questions always seem to end up at one person: Rupert Murdoch.

    • No one seems to mention the Nationals- of course its because they are the ‘silent partners’ in the Coalition- without them the Libs would struggle. But they have been in coalition so long that seems normal.
      Personally I think the Greens did better under Bob Brown- he was more pragmatic than Christine Milne and Sarah Hansen Young. So compromise meant they got some things achieved.

  9. Dear oh dear, where to start…..One could say, hmm, another anti-Green rant, but that wouldn’t be very constructive would it?

    I don’t agree that people are deserting Labor wholesale for the Greens; in fact most seem to be going to the Liberals – see the awful rout in Queensland last year, due in no small part to the fact that Anna (another woman, and you don’t want to hear the names the LNP were calling her) couldn’t get any policy into the public arena, couldn’t get her accomplishments aired, because RUDD CHALLENGE COMING SOON! Fair suck, those brawling bastards in Canberra killed Bligh’s government stone dead. The Greens didn’t do near as well as they’d hoped, but that’s life for a new party, and they quietly got back to work, building up their base.

    What has Federal Labor done since? Let’s see, excise the entire country from the migration zone, brawl some more, have a bloody leadership coup (out of desperation and panic); and then be even more cruel to refugees. Surely that will bring people back into the party, right? Uh, why would anyone come back to that mess – seriously. Saying Labor has done wonderful things in the past is a bit like the oldies who say, ” The Yanks saved us during WW2, we must always follow them – into Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia.” Etc etc etc. You don’t hear many people saying that anymore.

    During the Qld election campaign, Rudd didn’t give a stuff that he was hurting his own party. He doesn’t give a stuff now, and I’m sure he’d use much more robust language than me to confirm that.

    As he said while bawling out a staffer, “Repeat after me, I am a fuckwit.” Yes, I’m sure people will come back for more of that.

    You say you would be delighted if Kevin were able to form a government. I would be even more delighted if the Greens were able to form a government. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

  10. Thanks, Joy Cooper! Chris Grealy’s comment sent me back looking for doggerel which expressed how even then I didn’t take them too seriously. It was written before S.H-Y, came to such prominence since when I have become strongly resistant to them, even hostile. Compromise with the Greens just isn’t possible these days. Where is their common-sense?

    Why, we all know the Greens.
    They’re so often seen
    Wearing blue jeans
    And eating their beans
    And sometimes sardines
    With their raw cuisine
    In simple canteens
    Set in a natural scene
    Which have outdoor latrines.
    Our TV screens
    Show they like marines
    If not submarines
    And other machines
    Which use gasoline.
    And they’re kind to ‘queens’
    Because of their genes.
    When the party convenes
    With their leader Christine
    They go into routines
    About limited means
    And how it’s obscene
    Lib and Labor has-beens
    Smash their Mr. Cleans
    To complete smithereens!

  11. Adam Bandt showed how connected the Greens were with his ‘attempt’ to live in Newstart for a week- he took a taxi- he outsourced his dogs . You don’t get that opportunity when you are on Newstart – you get a choice -do you get rid of the dog?

    As for SHY- don’t get me started- her antics have encouraged people to get on boats!

  12. You are an idiot. I too used to think like you . . . that it wasn’t about personalities, but policies, that is until the two things happened 1. the NSW right took down Gillard for Rudd: the man who leaked in 2010 and cost Labor 16 seats, and created the minority government; the man who spent 3 years white-anting and undermining the Gillard government; and 2. the PNG solution. I mean, really? Then, I had an epiphany. Men like Rudd, Bowen, Albenese and the Carrs don’t give a shit about good policy, they only care about their egos and power.

    We will never know what Gillard could of really achieved if she had been given a fair go, because Rudd and his acolytes were determined to wrest power from her, at any cost.
    What I do know is that the Liberals are mouthing motherhood statements so as not to panic too many folk (mainly disgruntled Labor voters), promising variations on NBN, Gonski, NDIS. But, for me, and many people I know, can’t in all conscience vote for the LIberals just because of disillusion with the Labor party. No. What I will do is vote informal, because I’ll be dammed if I am going to tell the Labor party that the politics of the last 3 years is acceptable. Yes, I know it may mean that things like Gonski etc may never come to fruition. But, you know what? If Labor cared, really cared they (meaning Rudd and his cronies) wouldn’t of acted the way they have for the last few years. They obviously care more about themselves. Rudd fouled his own nest, (he should of realised hurting Gillard was also about hurting Labor, but the man is too arrogant. FFS, he even backgrounded the Liberals on policy announcements!!!!). So, as far as I’m concerned, goodbye and good riddance.

  13. Ok, of course we all have strong feelings, but to baldly state “untrustworthy” isn’t exactly a convincing argument. Consider the recent events in the ALP; what’s that done to the party’s trustworthiness? Isn’t that accusation the pot slagging off the kettle?
    And doggerel isn’t even an argument at all.
    I still haven’t seen any indication, not the slightest one, that the Greens could do any worse than Labor. And the Greens aren’t cruel. That’ll do me 🙂

  14. “I understand that many Greens voters are concerned about the plight of asylum seekers, and are outraged by Labor’s policy. But how secure in their lives must these people feel, how perfectly catered for in all other areas of progressive policy must they be, to only care about one policy?”

    Oh Victoria that comment is so wrong on so many levels. Or do you suggest self interest must rule us all?

    By the way you might find that the Greens are interested in all the other things you mentioned esp the climate change bit

    • Yes Deborah. This article is so full of straw men you could thatch a house with it.

      For the author and anyone interested in facts rather than emotive blather, here is the full list of Greens policies.

      It pretty much shits all over what passes for ALP policies which talk more about Abbott than actual policy goals, and also fails to acknowledge the policies that were pushed through by the Greens such as Denticare.

      And by the way, the Greens are not “anti-union”. In fact some of the unions are now shifting their electoral funding from the ALP to the Greens because they see better support for their workers coming from the quarter.

  15. spot on summary victoria – i’m simply non plussed at people even contemplating this current bunch of sinister and nasty mob known as the liberal party – they have offered nothing positive for the future and worse, obscene policy that has almost no guts of relevant benefit for this country
    and sadly, too many greens supporters are prone to cutting off the nose to spite the face

    • Yes Alan, “too many greens supporters are prone to cutting off the nose to spite the face”.

      This from Coffs Coast Advocate, 7.9.13:
      “One of the issues Mr Navarro (Cowper, Country Labor candidate) believed went against him today was invalid/informal votes.
      In the 2010 election, the percentage of these votes in Cowper was 4.6%. That number has jumped to a current level of 5.67%.
      Mr Navarro’s scrutineers have reported to him that a lot of votes for the Greens have been declared invalid as they only have a ‘1’ on them rather than having a number alongside each candidate.
      This issue could stem from the fact that the Greens How To Vote cards asked to place a ‘1’ next to Carol Vernon (Greens candidate) but then asked them to make up their own mind on preferences.”

      Too haughty to acknowledge even ‘second-best-to-us’!

  16. Pushing the fallacy that a vote for Greens is a vote for Liberals is pretty poor form, don’t you think?

    I’ve only seen the HTV for Adam Bandt, and he preferences ALP second. The ALP has the Greens at number 4. Given that the Greens policies most nearly match the ALP then you would think that they would preference Greens 2, wouldn’t you?

    I live in Batman, a swing seat for the Greens against ALP. I’ll be voting Greens 1 and placing ALP last and Liberals second last. The Libs have no chance here, so that maximises my effective vote and if the ALP wins, that’s fine by me.

    If I lived in a Liberal seat, or a marginal Lib/Lab seat I would place Greens 1, ALP 2 and Liberal last, in order to maximise my Green vote, which would then devolve to second preference ALP.

    I would assue that most Greens will vote more or less this way, and very few would be preferencing the Liberals.

    As for “doing the heavy lifting on policy” – seriously? If the ALP had not handed over the MRRTax to the mining companies to write for themselves, or had implemented the Greens amendments, then we’d have in immediate income stream from the mining sector.

    The ALP had the chance to close Hazelwood power station, the worst polluting in Australia, but flubbed it because Ferguson and Fitzgibbon have not got the courage to stand against the coal barons. Has Martin taken up his seat on the board yet?

    The ALP has punished one of the most vulnerable groups – single mums, just to get a little bit of income and a populist vote grab. The Greens opposed this move. Rudd’s statement on PNG and refugees sounded like no-one else but John Howard. The ALP knows that Newstart needs to be raised, it is economically sound and even the business groups want it. But Labor does not have the courage to do it. The Greens do. That’s heavy lifting on policy.

    Detaining refugees in offshore camps is not only illegal under international law, but it is hellishly expensive. And all that money goes to multinationals such as Serco and G4S who profit from incarceration. It is economically irresponsible and ethically bereft.

    So stop whinging, Victoria. If you are unhappy about the Greens holding Labor to account, then fix the policies. Because that is what it boils down to – a massive policy failure on the ALP’s behalf. That’s why people like me, who handed out HTVs in the “It’s Time” election are now members of the Greens.

    I didn’t leave Labor. Labor left me.

  17. Thank you Victoria,so very well put.

    I am an ex green voter,now working actively for Labor, for the very reasons you have outlined here.

    I know 4 people who have similiarly changed alliegance to labour,not actively supporting though.

  18. Reading this particular piece was wonderfully amazing. My own words and thoughts – every bit of it. I’m 63 and have a nearly 30 year old daughter and a nearly 27 year old daughter. They think a lot like you too (wonder where they got that from). I have said for decades that many people vote Liberal because they actually think they are better BECAUSE the word ‘liberal’ is so much nicer than ‘labor’.

  19. Re. The Greens: “Do their ‘principles’ on one issue really make them totally blind to how detrimental their public bagging of the Labor Party is to their goal of having a progressive government?”

    Great article Victoria. Yes, The Greens are a great disappointment of late. They might change their name to: THROW OUT THE BABY WITH THE BATHWATER PARTY.

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