Karen Lomas
August 14, 2013

A Grasshopper in a Jar

My 19 year old daughter gets to vote for the first time in the Australian Federal election. Confusion abounds, unsurprisingly so. The TV news is congested with images of 2 middle-aged men cuddling terrified babies, and it’s only going to get worse. The political platforms are somewhat baffling, in that when claims of equity and free enterprise, for example, are stated as the fundamentals, it is really hard to work out how they translate into real initiatives when so much that occurs in society appears to contradict those tenets.

Parents are scratching their heads and getting into debates over coffee around which of the two candidates for leadership is competent and trustworthy. I admit to struggling over Abbot’s budgie smugglers, but also at the twitter post of Rudd with bits of tissue mopping up his shaving cuts. They both come across as more than a little foolish. It’s difficult to guide my daughter other than to say that we should perhaps take no notice of their blame tactics and take a look closer to home at what our local candidates are pledging. Unfortunately it’s not so easy when the news focuses so on Mr Speedo and Mr Razor Nick.

So it is no surprise to hear that 30% of unregistered voters are in the youth bracket-the new generation of first timers for whom access to good quality tertiary education and youth employment should be of particular concern. But are you lovely young people interested in politics? Apparently not, with, according to ABC News reporter Pamela Medlen, half a million still unregistered.

Fundamentally we wonder, “How do we know they’re not going to do a back-flip and do the opposite of what they said?” or, “how is it when politicians are interviewed they don’t even answer the questions put to them?” It is this disillusionment that is blamed for such apathy, not least amongst first-time voters. John Lowton, Director of Dare to Lead, a youth advocacy group in the UK, and guest speaker on ABC Radio National program “Life Matters”, believes that lack of engagement comes about when nobody is listening, or if you don’t get to speak at all. He shares a lovely analogy of a grasshopper in a jar. If the lid is off, the grasshopper will jump as high as it can. But if there’s a lid on the jar the grasshopper will learn only to jump so high. It’s ambition has been squashed.

But in politics, as in most other domain, it’s not as if we cannot find out the answers and persevere in finding solutions. A good start here is to engage with teachers and parents and by doing so a good discussion may well eventuate that can benefit everyone. We discovered a great internet resource called Vote Compass, that asks some fundamental questions and then plots your political stance against that of the major parties. We have had quite a lot of fun in our family and have learned a few things too. We now have 2 decideds, one floater and a Green. The greenie was particularly concerned about the grasshopper.






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