EXPERT ANALYSIS: How Liberals Can Unite & Appeal To Young Voters

Analysis by: Dr Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer In Global Politics & Policies at Murdoch University.

As young voters increasingly turn their backs on party politics and look for other ways to participate in political life, senior members of the Liberal Party are more interested in settling personal scores and refusing to compromise.

Older voters are tired of the leadership games that both parties have been playing during the last decades. But the Liberals are divided in a particularly damaging way when it comes to younger voters. This is because the “dry” or “right-wing” of the party pushes policies that have little appeal to most younger voters.

These Liberals are either skeptical about climate change or refuse to accept any policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that might cost jobs in the short-term. They are in favor of the toughest immigration measures and “turning back the boats” at any cost. They have little interest in funding higher education. And their concern is more with people’s mortgages than with whether young people are adequately trained or receive livable benefits.

This last one doesn’t look so bad until you realize that as a result of policies introduced under the Howard government, most young people can’t afford mortgages. They hope that some day they can afford to get into the property market. But for now they aren’t yet interested in mortgages because they need higher education or vocational training and decent benefits if they can’t get a job.

And I find it impossible to believe that anyone on this side of the Liberal Party thought much about how most younger voters would react to Peter Dutton as leader. They were more interested in winning the Prime Minister’s position than in what most younger voters thought of Dutton.

Just as importantly, these old men (and they are mostly men) are determined to keep bashing out the same political tunes they’ve been bashing out since they were young. I’m not against old folks wanting to keep singing the (ideological) songs they’ve always sung. There just comes a time when they need to find a new song and they need to sing together.

And the biggest obstacle to breaking down the “dry” faction and looking to actually accept that refusing to change tune and sign together is a problem, Tony Abbott, just doesn’t get it. As long as he continues to lead the “dries”, listening to the Liberal Party is like being at a music festival when the stages aren’t properly set up and you can hear two bands at the same time.

A third of the members of the Warringah branch of the party were telling Abbott it was time to go. More importantly, many were telling him that his continued presence means that the struggle over the direction and leadership of the Liberal Party will continue to produce a divided party in which Abbott will throw a temper tantrum and lead his people on a destructive path as soon as he feels that any of his values might be compromised by Liberal policy.

Older voters find it hard to take politics seriously when it is filled with spoilt brats who scream and carry on when they don’t get their way. Younger voters find it even more difficult, because none of division is about how to best represent younger voters.

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