No Youth Minister is 'no joke'
NXT MP Rebekha Sharkie has criticised Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s response to her question on March 23 about appointing a Youth Minister, calling it “patronising and a slap in the face to millions of Australian young people".
“Making a joke about his ‘youthful front bench’ doesn’t address the fact that this Government hasn’t had a Youth Minister for three years after nearly three decades of Federal representation for young people in Cabinet,” the Member for Mayo said today after Question Time in Parliament.
“I asked a serious question and I believe the 2.86 million young people aged between 15 to 24 years in this country deserve a serious answer.
“Describing his middle-aged, tie-wearing front bench as youthful, and saying his Government’s decisions were for the future of Australia’s children and grandchildren, doesn’t address the fact that there is no-one in the Cabinet whose job is to consider the impact of Government policy on young people.
“Former PM Malcolm Fraser appointed the first Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs in 1978 and until 2013 successive Governments, from both sides of politics, have recognised the importance of this position - Not anymore, and I think our young people are the worse for it.”
In the Prime Minister’s response, Mr Turnbull said he was honoured to lead a “thoroughly youthful Ministry”.
“Some of us more young at heart than young in years but all of us thoroughly committed to delivering great opportunities for young Australians,” the PM said.
“Of course everything we do is designed to deliver greater opportunities for our children and our grandchildren and I can say to the Honourable Member that it would be a mistake to imagine that only the young care about the young.
“The reality is everything we do is building a better future for the generations to come, paying off the debt; ensuring future generations don’t have less services and have to pay higher taxes.”
Ms Sharkie raised her concerns about the Government not having a Youth Minister ahead her motion next Monday officially requesting the Government to appoint a Minister for Young People.
Her motion will be seconded by the Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan,
“Being in Government is more than balancing the books, and that applies to all ages,” Ms Sharkie said.
“The Member for Indi and I both strongly believe that the Prime Minister needs a Minister who has a focus on youth engagement and youth employment and that this person should sit in Cabinet where policy decisions are made.
“Australia’s overall youth unemployment is 13.3 per cent and underemployment stands at 18.3 per cent and these figures are climbing, particularly in regional areas."
In May 2014 the Coalition Government stated publicly that it was planning a “focused and targeted approach” to consult with young people.
Ms Sharkie said she had seen little evidence of targeted consultation.
“In fact I see the exact opposite,” she said.
“Next week is likely to be the last National Youth Week with no funding for this national advocacy and awareness week in the budget forward estimates.
“What sort of message does that send to our young people?
“The Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey suggests that young people struggle to engage with major political parties.
“Not having Youth Minister acts as a clear signal that engagement with young people is not a priority for this Government.”
Ms Sharkie has set up a Young Mayo group in her electorate to directly consult with local young people and she has hosted four forums to date.