The Generation Conflict Behind the Election

Words by Connor, 18 NSW

The recent election sparked an interesting debate with my grandfather over Australian politics, and in particular around the management of our economy and the best party for that job. I argued that Labor were the better economic managers; he staunchly supported the Coalition.

In the eyes of my grandparents, Labor were reckless spenders and if they were elected, would heap taxes upon our shoulders until we could stand no longer under the burden. While I presented plenty of evidence to the contrary, they maintained their position and we agreed to disagree.

This event got me thinking; was the recent election a battle between young and old? Between the boomers and the zoomers? At first glance, it looked like it. For example, the Coalition characterised Labor’s franking credit reform as an extra tax burden on retirees. Additionally, Labor’s negative gearing reform would supposedly hurt older Australians who have invested in property, as the propensity to own an investment property increases with age.

Meanwhile, many young Australians are siding with Labor on their economic policies. The Australia Institute conducted a survey based on age and found that 44% of people aged 18-24 years old thought that the Labor party were better economic managers, compared to the 28% that believed that the Liberal party were better. Labor’s policy also seems to benefit younger demographics; their policies include more TAFE funding and increased opportunities for young people to go to university.

However, many of the policies that are apparently aimed against the old, for example, franking credits cuts (while still concerning the older generation), are only affecting around 200,000 – less than 0.6% – of the population. Most of these 200,000 gain very little from franking credit refunds, to the point where cutting them would have a negligible impact. Furthermore, the Labor party promised guarantees against cutting the pension, which the Coalition have attempted to do for the last five years, and promised a pensioner dental plan, giving free dental care to older Australians.

So why is there such a generational gap in opinion?

I believe it seems this way due to the differences in media that older and younger generations consume. The older generation mainly consumes “traditional” media – the Murdoch press, Sky news, 2GB – to get their news, while over half of young voters get their news digitally, either through social media or news apps. “Traditional” media in this case is usually Liberal-aligned, as the party that gives benefits to corporations is more likely to receive favourable coverage in the publications of corporations like News Corp. This results in the kind of scare tactics employed by legacy media institutions against Labor party policy.

Meanwhile, older Australians who are online are misled by the infamous “fake news” endemic to the Internet. There were 87 cases of election ads breaching AEC rules, many of them online. These included unsourced claims and unauthorised ads. We all know how older folks are on the Internet, and many older Australians seem to have been taken advantage of in these cases.

There is also an important point to be made for the climate in which these respective generations have grown up. Many older Australians grew up in and made their fortunes during a period of continuous economic growth, and now simply wish to rest on their laurels. Conversely, young Australians are seeing stagnating wages and cuts to penalty rates, causing anxiety and a desire for change. Socially, older Australians lived through the Cold War and thus have an aversion to anything remotely “communist”, even though that label means very little nowadays as everyone’s definition differs. This difference in definitions is something that the young generation can understand; policy, instead, is the main thing that drives young people to be involved politically.

The proliferation of misinformation, stemming from the mainstream media and sketchy online sources, leads to fear in older Australians. They cannot be blamed for this either; social factors during their upbringing have led them to be this way. It is young Australians that must be a beacon of truth for the older generations, helping them to understand what is correct and what is blatant mistruth and fear mongering. Although I may not have been able to change my grandfather’s mind, other informed youth around Australia may very well be able to spread truth and combat deception and sway the political course of the country. 

Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on @aileenetc

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