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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 3002

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (09:39): I am very pleased to report to this chamber about a visit and the honour I had last week in hosting 10 students from the city of Casey as part of the 2013 Australia Day study tour. Each year on Australia Day, the city of Casey presents Australia Day study tour awards to young people in year 11—young people who have been nominated by their school or employer for their demonstrated interest in and understanding of politics and community events and issues. The awards are designed to give the opportunity to explore the political and administrative systems of our nation as well as to visit the three levels of government—including the city of Casey, the Victorian state government and the federal parliament. This year's recipients included Sasha Bowler-Clements from Narre Warren South P-12 College, Scott Chantry from Gleneagles Secondary College, Carla D'Angelo from Beaconhills College, Sara Forte from Haileybury College, Shanatel Mauauri from Narre Warren South P-12 College, Habibullah Mohammadi from Cranbourne Secondary College, Liam Peel from Narre Warren South P-12 College, Shabab Safa from Cranbourne Secondary College, Sophie Ward from St Margaret's School and Aidan Wright from Beaconhills College.

It is incredibly refreshing when you get to engage in conversation with a group of young people who represent the future and the hope of your country. They were obviously quite impressed with what they saw here in federal parliament, although there were some things they did not like. I will raise one issue. Our young people are often accused of being disengaged from politics. I heard this again on Q&A the other night. Interestingly, they had Viv Benjamin on the show, but every time they tried to cross to her some of my colleagues talked over her.

We have to give young people reasons to be engaged. The division they see in this country at the present time is not a great example. Whilst those of us involved in the process understand what happens in politics and political theatre, we need to remember how young people—who want to be involved, who want something to believe in and who want a purpose and a higher goal—see our behaviour. In the conversation I had with these young people, they talked about youth suicide, mental health, drinking and many other issues. The collective wisdom in that room was quite extraordinary. I do get sick to death of hearing people, as I did on Q&A, saying that our young people are not engaged. There was more common sense in that room than on some parliamentary committees I have sat on.

Our young people are our hope; our young people are our future. We have to spend more time encouraging them into the political process and showing them what politics is really about. There is a lot that is good about the political process in this country. We need to emphasise that more. We need to reach over the divide to each other more often to demonstrate that to young people—because we need these young people active, engaged and involved.