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Tuesday, 13 March 1973
Page: 497

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I would point out to the honourable member - J ask honourable members who are seeking to interject to be quiet while I am addressing the House - that it is the duty of honourable members in the House to maintain a quorum. Any honourable member at any time has a right to draw attention to the state of the House if he so desires. If he draws attention to the state of the House and a quorum is present, he will be dealt with by the Chair.

Mr Garland - That was a deliberate Government tactic.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will not rise to speak without being called. I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SNEDDEN - Before 1 was interrupted I was dealing with the youth of this country. I had said that the educative process has made them better informed, better able to judge, more confident in their judgments, more critical in their appraisals and on more mature terms with society around them. 1 am quite unwilling to conclude that al) people between 18 and 21 years are irresponsible simply because some are, any more than I would apply that logic to the older members of the community. I believe that this measure will inject more enthusiasm into Australian public life and put further pressure, on us to examine critically our values and attitudes to ascertain whether they answer contemporary needs and aspirations.

People often speak of a generation gap. There is an explanation for this. Older generations have value systems based on a pursuit of material objectives conditioned by a memory of when they were so difficult to achieve. Most of these material objectives are now won and are taken for granted by a younger generation. Consequently values shift towards seeking higher levels of achievement. Perhaps a clear example of this is the emphasis on security of a person who was affected by the depression. Older people urge security on their children when they are choosing a career. Young Australians, however, with their proper optimism are more adventurous, valuing security less highly, and take a more willing attitude towards risks which enterprise entails. This is an appropriate point for me to say that the present gallup polls which show a majority of young people leaning to the Labor Party, is a temporary aberration which will disappear as they find the doctrine of socialism is neither modern nor a natural companion for young vigour and confidence which they have.

Young people, because of the rapid pace of social change, detect a gap between what are their own real needs and the solutions which are offered by adult society. They see many aspects of our life and institutions which were developed in the past to cope with needs of the past. They see them now as irrelevant to their own problems. These practices and social conventions of the past do not have relevance to their developing attitudes and philosophical positions. Youth has always generated the question of values and individual personal reappraisal of past truths which may have become for them mere myths and which have been thrust upon them.

There is no question that much of the momentum of the new idealism which we see around us today results from the evolution of new values and high objectives of young people. We can see it in the strong participation of youth in what are regarded as the concern' or the 'life quality' issues in our society, for example, the elimination of poverty, concern for those persons unable to adjust to a complex society, the socially handicapped, the preservation of our environment, the generation of better cultural and educational facilities, and interest in the wellbeing of people in other countries and aid for them. By this means they have made an immensely valuable contribution to Australian community life and it is a source of strength that the idealism of youth is being expressed in such creative and positive directions. Our institutions and entrenched values ought constantly to be challenged, as well as defended, and out of the polemics of this challenge and defence should emerge a new consensus of what is valuable, real and important to our community interests. Providing young people with the vote adds to the reforming influences in our community. It makes the pace hotter for the community to adjust to, but those who are seeking to build a better society will welcome the momentum.

I have referred briefly to the effect on voting patterns in party political terms. I believe the Liberal Party has nothing to fear by lowering the voting age. Studies have shown that the first votes of a young voter are more volatile, reflecting the fact that young people have not settled their political allegiances. Further, that as people become older their voting pattern solidifies; the voting patterns of young people reflect pretty well in party political terms the overall pattern of voting in the community. I believe we will be able to demonstrate to young people the superiority and greater relevance to their needs and interests in the philosophy of the Liberal Party. We are not bound by a doctrinaire and reactionary socialism which is itself an anachronism. Socialism is a philosophy founded quite reasonably by oppressed classes in another century, modified certainly to some extent. But still the manifestation of socialism in the Australian Parliament is one where the members of the Australian Labor Party are dominated on the admission of its own leader, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), by the policy directives of an outside body. Socialism does not meet the challenges of the new age and exacerbates those forces of de-personalisation with which modern societies have to contend. Socialism is predicated on a rigid science of human behaviour.

It is perfectly clear that the attitude of the members of the Government Party is that they believe they can always predict human behaviour. They most certainly cannot. They cannot even predict the behaviour of those people whom they acknowledge to be their political masters. They acknowledge in this Parliament that they have to wait until the July Conference before they know what their decision will be about such a fundamental matter as the stationing in Singapore of Australian troops at the invitation of that country. Socialism does have this predication to a rigid science of human behaviour which is quite unacceptable to the young people of Australia who know that they cannot be predicted because they are individuals who want to find their own enterprise, who want to find the rewards for their own actions and their activities and who want to express their views fearlessly and without favour. Socialism is a doctrine which by its very nature must be contrary to the free-wheeling aspirations of youth in Australia.

The Liberal Party, on the other hand, will seek new ways in changing circumstances to give fuller meaning to the aspirataions of individuals throughout the entire community, and to youth in particular. We will provide an outlet for the vigour and idealism of youth. We will encourage their individuality, their enterprise, their personal dignity and their freedom of expression. Young people will always provide political parties with a challenge, but it is a challenge that we as a Party will meet and in the process the quality of our community will be enriched. I support the Bill.

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