"I know a lot of kids my age that do not want to vote at all, but I will take my vote seriously, simply to get those pack of liars out."I directed their attention to the Coalition’s plan released before last year’s federal election. It told us of the Coalition's plan to build "a stronger 21st-century Australia" by creating 2 million more jobs within a decade, providing better services, lowering tax and debt, and creating stronger borders, including stopping the boats. I suggested that it was far too soon to judge the Abbott government on this. What’s more, we can’t really accuse anyone of lying if the plan is not realised. The students concurred with a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, "I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you". Former prime minister Bob Hawke pledged in 1987 that "by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty", yet children continue to live in poverty today. Did he lie? The kids were split on this. Is there a difference between a broken promise and a lie? Deyshan said: "A lie is intentional, while breaking a promise may be out of their control." "So why do they make them?" questioned Rani. "Because they want power," said Tim. Later in the day I asked my year 8 English group why truth-telling was so important. "Because it’s drummed into us by our parents, teachers and through stories," said Anna. Like Pinocchio? "Yeah, like Pinocchio." Sam said: "It’s OK to be a little lazy and irresponsible like Pinocchio when you’re really young, but nobody wants to be like that forever." "The more they say, the more they lie," said Joseph. So you’re suggesting that politicians are becoming less trustworthy? I asked. "Have they ever been trustworthy?" said one boy. "Lies are of no use to anyone," said Beth ... "except for politicians," replied Tim. "All I know is that they are making life harder for my mum and dad," said Diane. I wondered if such cynicism comes from their parents. Are these kids echoing their dad’s disgust at the daily tabloid headlines, or mimicking mum’s disbelief at the evening news grabs? Perhaps they’re parroting remarks picked up at family gatherings or a neighbourhood barbecue? A Facebook post shared by an ex-student a few days ago provides a clue. It shows a photo of Tony Abbott winking. The accompanying comment reads, "Seriously this has to be the most cringe-worthy thing that has ever happened ever!! Surely he's not human, more like some type of reptile". The ensuing comments, "[email protected]#$ing sleazy turd", suggests that social media plays a part in teen cynicism. I continued the discussion with my year 10 media group. "Politicians say they have our interest at heart, and then they get caught behaving like dumb boys," said Sophie. "Like when he was caught on camera winking at a grandma who does phone sex." I showed them the ABC Radio 774 clip of the Tony Abbott wink. Most of them were unsure of the context. The Prime Minister's office said the wink was to reassure Jon Faine, the radio host, he was happy to take the call. The students laughed in disbelief, which brought George Washington quote to mind: "It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one." I suggested that they keep this in mind when they get caught doing something wrong. It certainly would have helped the Prime Minister. Abbott’s excuse infuriated the girls, while the boys couldn’t see anything wrong with it, reflecting the talkback gender split on the issue. I suggested that sniggering, laughing, eye-rolling, smirking and yes, winking behind one’s back is a form of bullying. So how seriously would they take their vote when they turn 18? "I know a lot of kids my age that do not want to vote at all," said Abdullah. "But I will take my vote seriously, simply to get those pack of liars out." *All children's names have been changed
Truth and lies: what young people think about politicians
Is it acceptable that politicians lie? Is there a difference between a lie and a broken promise? Keen to find out what young people think, secondary school teacher Chris Fotinopoulos talked to his students.