I am the Wentworth Electorate Local Campaign organiser for the Adopt a Politician Campaign run by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC). The campaign encourages young people to communicate with their local politicians (all of the candidates) and seeks to open a visible channel between the candidates and youth.

I have met with many of the candidates in the electorate on behalf of the youth group including: Malcolm Turnbull, George Newhouse, Susan Jarnason, Dannielle Ecuyen and Pierce Field.

We, as youth, have been receiving some interesting responses from the candidates. Some have been really supportive, some understanding, some incredibly helpful and some absolutely ridiculous.

Our example of the ridiculous involves our meeting with Malcolm Turnbull. Firstly, it took nine weeks to arrange the meeting after a series of misplaced emails, letters and not passing on messages to assistants.

Then, during the meeting:

  • Most of our facts, such as the fact that Sweden has a 60% renewable energy target by 2010 or that China has a higher renewable energy target than Australia were answered by Turnbull with “no, that’s wrong”.
  • Our youth journalist (a student from UTS) was prohibited from sitting at the meeting with us.
  • We genuinely felt patronised by interactions such as the following: Us: By investing so heavily in nuclear and coal, we believe Australia is placing all of its eggs in one basket. Turnbull: Which basket is that?
  • When we asked why Australia was committing to a fixed quantity MRET rather than percentage target, Turnbull proceeded to give us a lesson in how to convert a fraction to percent.

Turnbull refused to take a photo with us and refused to accept the Adoption Certificate (which the other candidates willingly accepted). We did not feel like our youth perspective was heard.

Turnbull ended by saying “I have no problem communicating with youth, we do it all the time, we have facebook”. At the end of the meeting our phones were checked by Turnbull’s assistant to make sure that we did not record the interview.

It seems Malcolm Turnbull is seriously ignoring the youth perspective and diminishing its importance in the climate change debate. Further, Turnbull has just recently declined to attend the Wentworth Climate Change Forum (on tonight) which comes in a long string of refusals to communicate openly with the public.

We think it’s important to get this experience across to other people, in the hope that others will be better prepared for interactions with politicians, in the hope that politicians clean up their act, and in the hope that politicians would listen to the very people whom they are supposed to represent.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey