Millennial Greens senator Jordan Steele-John (Image: AAP/Rohan Thomson)

After years of being maligned as lazy, millennials are now running countries.

Sebastian Kurz, sworn in as Austria’s chancellor in January, is just 33. Shockingly, it isn’t Kurz’s first rodeo — he held the position between 2017 and 2019, first elected at the tender age of 31.

Meanwhile, 30-something leaders are having a moment in Europe. In December, Sanna Marin became prime minister of Finland at 34. Oleksiy Honcharuk, prime minister of Ukraine, is 35.

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But the trend toward younger leaders hasn’t quite reached Australia. Crikey’s number-crunching reveals that the average age for a lower house MP is 50.7.

Both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese, at 51 and 56 respectively, are older than this. The Coalition’s Phillip Thompson is, at 31, our youngest MP, while Bob Katter is the oldest at 74. The average Australian, meanwhile, is a far younger 37. 

According to Zareh Ghazarian, senior lecturer in politics at Monash University, Australia’s older political class is a structural product of our two-party system.

“Many people who end up in parliament do so because they’ve worked many, many years, and in some cases decades in the parties, as branch members and delegates,” Ghazarian tells Crikey. 

When younger politicians do rise up, such as 26-year-old Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, they tend to be from minor parties.

Ghazarian says given the barriers to entry, a young party leader rising up through the ranks would be “quite unexpected”. On top of that, the Australian electorate is naturally hesitant to throw their support behind a younger candidate.

When 43-year-old Mark Latham contested the 2004 election the Coalition ran a successful ad campaign depicting him as an “L-plater”.

Still, when it comes to getting young people into politics, the raw numbers suggest we’re doing better than the Americans (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aside). The average age in the US House of Representatives is 57.8, slightly higher for senators (61.8).

The country’s most powerful politicians are even older. Donald Trump is 73, while two of his most likely rivals in November, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are 78 and 77 respectively. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi turns 80 in March. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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