Dear IPA Members
I am writing this as the National Manager of Generation Liberty. As you may have heard Generation Liberty had a great start to the year, with our 16 IPA Campus Coordinators manning stalls at orientation weeks all over the country.
The response to Generation Liberty from incoming students was fantastically positive. Young people of many different backgrounds, and from all sorts of degrees, were approaching the Generation Liberty team to find out more. Some had prior political knowledge, and some were merely curious – but all of them were greeted by an eager and knowledgeable IPA Campus Coordinator.
After all the excitement to begin the year Generation Liberty now faces new challenges, and that is because young people are now facing new challenges, or perhaps to be more accurate, there are some new challenges combined with the exacerbation of those that already existed.
Young people are the ones who are going to have to clean up this mess. They will have to pay off the massive debt and rebuild the nation.
The problem is current culture and education has created a situation where young people are encouraged to have very little sense of community, let alone a national spirt of self-sacrifice.
To rebuild a prosperous nation like Australia, you need to understand and believe in its value and values. Deeply embedded ideals, the most fundamental of which are egalitarianism, meritocracy, and mateship, make up a unique and under-appreciated part of the Australian success story.
But the current generation of young people have consistently been told that their nation is deeply racist, sexist and bigoted. I was told throughout my education, and I can confirm that this message is still being taught, to think of myself as a global citizen rather than as Australian.
Many institutions that helped young people feel like they have a place in society have also been eroded, whether that be church youth groups, women’s leagues or even sporting clubs. Currently young Australians do not even have the footy as an outlet and forum for engagement.
Financially it is very difficult for young people to gain assets and build a stake in society, a problem that an economic downturn will only accentuate. Australia’s heavily regulated and taxed economy has made housing, electricity and the cost of living generally more expensive while our stringent labour laws have made it harder for young people to get a job.
Some of you may have previously been dismissive of the housing price complaint, insisting that young people who do the right thing and save diligently can enter the market easily. Now imagine all the young people who were doing the right thing and saving, only to now have to churn through those savings to get by. Things will only get worse if the government stimulus drives up inflation, punishing those who have done the right thing by saving.
This crisis has the potential to exacerbate all these tensions and frustrations that young people have been feeling for a long time. That is why the most important thing for the government to be focusing on doing long term is creating opportunity, cutting red tape and easing the barriers to employment.
As Australians we need to be doing all that we can to bridge the generational gap. It has always been true that youth culture is inherently different, but right now the lack of connection and values between the generations is growing. We must not let the deepening cracks between each side become a chasm that we cannot reach across.
Many young people right now are being forced into a state of deep personal reflection. Their future is more uncertain than ever and as such their place as part of it seems more unstable than ever. Questions like “Is this degree really what I should be doing?”, “Am I going to be able to follow the career I imagined?” and “Am I going to be able to have a family?” will be flying around most young people’s heads right now.
But even more significantly a lot of young people will be asking themselves “How can I help?”, “How do we rebuild?” and “Where do I belong?”. That is where the opportunity lies for their elders and the community to turn this crisis into a chance to rebuild character and community spirit.
During this time, I have been talking to my team of coordinators even more than usual. We have 16 IPA Campus Coordinators all over the country, some in small towns, others in big cities. Some living with their parents and some already living independently.
I would like to share with you some of their thoughts on the big questions right now to provide you with a glimpse of what young people are thinking across the country.
When I spoke to the coordinators about the impact of the lockdowns, many were unsure of their effectiveness and believed that there would be unintended consequences further down the road.
Luca Rossi, our Campus Coordinator at Monash University, worries that “the free flow of information is being stifled and the government alone is dictating what is or is not correct” – for him, the mixed messaging coming from the federal and state governments shows the unreliable nature of depending on government for information in a time of crisis.
However, Anjali Nadaradjane, our Coordinator at Macquarie University, was concerned that the current measures employed by the government are overblown and possibly damaging: “when balancing the likelihood of fatalities with the prospect of social isolation, economic devastation, mass unemployment and the curtailment of many basic freedoms to go about our daily life, the total lockdown is unnecessarily harming the lives of ordinary Australians”
She went on to say, “Much of the population who will contract the virus may only experience mild symptoms and therefore a lockdown is only slowing the rate of exposure. Social distancing measures are sufficient to slow the disease, as is the encouragement for individuals in high risk groups to stay at home where possible.”
I also spoke to Chris Dekker from QUT about what he thinks government should be doing at this time, and he agrees with the IPA stance that regulations and taxes need to be cut, saying that the government should “improve incentives for private health care without propping them up like current tax schemes do”, and arguing that “states should abolish payroll tax to improve job prospects, as well as stamp duty to allow for liquid moving of assets in these tough times”.
Finally, I asked all of them what I thought was the most important question: What does this crisis teach the younger generation about personal freedom?
Luca believes that the crisis “shows us that freedom comes with a certain level of social responsibility and that if we use our freedom responsibly and in service to the community, no government should ever have to step in”.
Anjali thinks that the crisis teaches our generation that “personal freedom is not something we can unfortunately take for granted, despite living in a democratic country where the principles of individual liberty are deeply embedded in our culture and tradition”, and that “the ‘Big Brother’ intrusion written about in Orwellian literature can manifest within our Western democracy and erode the very values of liberty and freedom we hold dear.”
Chris recalled the words of Ronald Reagan who said that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.’ Freedom goes through ebbs and flows and these are no doubt hard times for our philosophy. We can only secure prosperity by fighting for individual control over our mind, body and possessions.”
Generation Liberty’s future will be carried forward by coordinators like these and listening to their insights at this time has given me hope its future will be bright. I will continue to work closely with all of them this semester, particularly Chris, as we await a response from the Queensland Human Rights Commission regarding the discrimination claim that we lodged earlier this month.
As many of my colleagues have said before me, this is a difficult time for Australia. Right now, I am focusing on supporting my team and providing them with new ways to contribute to the IPA so they can feel a part of something at this dark time.
Many of them have lost their casual jobs and have called me to thank the IPA for continuing to provide them with the small, but consistent stream of fortnightly payments that are helping provide some stability in this time. I have told all of them that it is the members and donors that they need to thank, so as a message from them to you, thank you for all of your support.
Although this is a challenging period, I have often observed that from adversity comes creativity and new resilience, and Generation Liberty will continue to push our message of hope and opportunity.
Many kind regards Renee