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Tick the youth box with climate change

By Sophie Trevitt - posted Monday, 26 July 2010

The election is merely weeks away: 20 per cent of voters will be younger than 35, and one of their primary concerns is decisive action on climate change. Gillard took a bizarre leap on Friday and estranged all of these voters when she announced that there will be no carbon tax and no reconsidering of Labor decisions until 2012.

Community concern about climate change boosted former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd into leadership in 2007 with a massive primary-vote lead in the youth belt. This community concern also contributed to his recent demise as he failed to demonstrate decisive and effective leadership when it came to following through with 2007 promises to tackle climate change head on.

Gillard has a matter of weeks to cement her stance on climate change and to potentially capture or lose an important constituency in the coming election - the youth vote. Polling suggests she is well on the way to losing it, to the more progressive Greens.


Young people have the most to lose when it comes to climate change, and also the most to gain from strong, immediate action. Despite the direct correlation between this youth imperative and Rudd’s massive decline in popularity, after the shelving of the CPRS scheme, Gillard seems to have failed to realise the political cost - all other more significant costs aside - of not acting on climate change.

Gillard has been working through a checklist of somewhat controversial issues that were left unresolved after Rudd’s sudden departure during his first term. It has been a strange process watching our new PM take two steps forward and one step back.

Gillard acted immediately and with authority when she leapt to resolve the tensions surrounding the mining tax. She did, however, also compromise with one of the most unsustainable and environmentally damaging industries in Australia.

She then cleared the air with assertions that she wanted to end the petty rhetoric surrounding our border security, and then proceeded to try and dump asylum seekers on a country that has neither the capacity nor volition to receive them.

She spoke of the importance of not compromising our freedom to legitimately access information on the internet, and concurrently threw the internet filer bill back into a state of precarious uncertainty by putting it on hold for review sometime after the election.

It seems like Gillard’s going to try and play the same game with climate change. The problem is, young people understand the urgency and gravity of the situation and aren’t going to play ball with politicians focused only on short-term electoral gain; especially not when our long-term future is at stake.


It is looking as though Gillard’s climate strategy has three elements: first, she has emphasised the need for community consensus; second, she is expected to implement a direct action policy involving collaboration between energy companies to ensure households reduce their individual energy consumption; and third, she is not going to put a price on carbon.

To address each point in turn, one must question how much more of a “consensus” Gillard needs when all the research (including Newspoll surveys and CSIRO data) indicates that more than 70 per cent of Australians believe the science that climate change is happening and is caused by humans.

Furthermore, since when does the government need to wait for a “consensus” to act on scientifically proven facts? The whole concept behind having a society that's based on different groups of people having different areas of specialised knowledge is so that those who have spent years researching and collating information can advise those who implement policy. Our scientists have been very clear about what is going on. Consulting a group of "ordinary Australians" who undoubtedly (like Gillard) lack that specialised scientific knowledge seems to be nothing more than a political tactic in the lead up to the election.

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About the Author

Sophie is studying Arts/Law at Sydney University and is a scholarship recipient. Sophie is currently NSW Director for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and project manager for their latest campaign Climate Reality Week. Sophie has been a part of the AYCC for almost a year, working on Australia's first ever 3 day conference on climate change Powershift, as well as the first ever youth vote on climate change - YOUth Decide. Sophie has recently returned from working with the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation in Vietnam attempting to stop child trafficking and support street kids. Sophie is heavily involved in a wide range of Indigenous and youth issues.

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