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The Strange World of an Australian Teenage Conservative Political Commentator

16-year-old Caleb Bond collects fountain pens and considers his "misguided youth" a brief period when he supported Kevin Rudd.

Caleb outside his parent's Adelaide home. Photos by Royce Kurmelovs

This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.

Being a teenager is weird no matter who you are. Everyone feels out of place, like you're constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong body. Caleb Bond might actually be right though. A self-described "conservative with a splash of libertarianism," he regularly writes about Australian current affairs for The Daily Telegraph and The Advertiser in his native Adelaide. He also lends his views to radio news shows, and last year Miranda Devine interviewed him on 2GB. They're friends now.


His resume reads like that of a seasoned overseer of the political landscape, which he kind of is, except Caleb wasn't able to talk to me earlier in the week because he had school exams.

VICE caught up with him to get a sense of a very different kind of teen rebellion. The kind where you collect fountain pens and refer to supporting Kevin Rudd when you were eight as your "misguided youth."

VICE: Hey Caleb. You're 16, why spend your time on politics rather than, I don't know, trying to score beers? Was there a watershed moment for you?
Caleb Bond: Apparently when I was two I watched all the coverage of 9/11. I think it is an interest that has existed and developed over time. I can remember back to 2007 when, in my misguided youth, I wanted Rudd and Labor to win. Buggered if I know why. It was probably some rubbish I cooked up as an eight-year-old. Many people transition to conservatism over their lifetime. I did it a little quicker.

The signed Tony Abbott photo was obtained by Caleb's brother Keaton.

The shift to conservatism is common with age, as someone doing that at warp speed, why do so many people make that change?
They get more sensible. They realize the idealistic ways of socialism aren't practical. There's a saying often attributed to Winston Churchill: "A man not a socialist at 20 has no heart, a man not a capitalist at 40 has no brain." I'm heartless.

Is your family political?
My father is a militant atheist. We're not an overly conservative family. There are no strong feelings. I think I'd describe my father as a centrist. My mother is not particularly politically interested. It's not like I've risen from a really conservative family with lots of money who go to church every weekend. When I hear people say, "I vote Labor or I vote Liberal because my parents did," that's absurd. That's not your vote. That's someone else's vote. Make your own mind up.


I feel we need to mention that the way you speak is unusual for someone your age. Who do you model yourself on?
I don't model myself on people, I think that's a recipe for disaster. Some things just happen and this is likely one of them. I've been described in a host of different ways: A cross between Alan Jones and Jeremy Cordeaux, the lovechild of Alan Jones and Bronwyn Bishop, and Christopher Pyne are among them. Though I am interested to know what makes it different.

Judging by the photo, and the ticket on his shelf, he is also a Rove McManus fan.

I guess you just sound very adult and proper. You seem to exist so much in the adult world. How does this all go down at school? What do girls think of you, for example?
Look, not one of the fairer sex showed any interest in me before I started in the media, nor have they shown any interest since. So you could say it has been neither a help nor a hindrance. I suspect the problem is that I have a face for radio and I fancy girls either too attractive or too old for me. Never mind. Sandra Lee [the journalist, not the American pimple-popper] once told me I'd "break hearts aplenty." I'm still waiting!

Do you understand other teenagers?
I spend enough time around other young people to know what's going on. Some are into politics, some aren't. Some are more interested in chasing the opposite sex or partying or whatever it might be. Young people tend to care about social issues. Things like same-sex marriage and so on, they have very strong opinions about.


What's your opinion on same-sex marriage?
I'm absolutely sick to death of same-sex marriage. Just get it over and done with. I support its legalization, although not fervently. It's such a non-issue that continues to dominate our political discussion. But if you ask young people about the economy they look at you edgeways. As for what they think is cool: girls, cars, much the same as me apart from music.

His Lego collection was admittedly pretty sweet.

How so?
They listen to FM, I listen to AM. I like a wide variety of music from Frank Sinatra to 60s to country. Young people seem to hate country.

What else do you do for fun?
Well, politics is my fun, really. I enjoy communicating and being involved in that scene. I do local theater with a group that I have been a part of for seven years. At the end of the year we do a traditional Christmas pantomime that incorporates a cast from eight to 80 years of age.

I always particularly enjoy the pantomimes—I usually play some sort of cockney. It's a wonderful form of theater. The audience interaction and opportunity for ad-libbing and dirty jokes makes it fantastic fun.

What about day-to-day stuff outside politics?
I have a fascination with fountain pens. These days, with computers, you write less and less, so I firmly believe that when you do write it should be an experience, not a task. I often go to the various auctions around Adelaide to pick up fountain pens for a bargain. Not everyone's cup of tea, but it amuses me. Parkers are my favorites but I've also been using a Jinhao X450 for quite a while. Some cheap Chinese thing for $5 on eBay. It's superb value for money.


Caleb describes himself as a "fountain pen evangelical."

We mentioned girls before, but in general has you political commentating given you a profile at school?
Certainly. My interest in politics was apparent long before I started appearing in the media. I've been telling everyone around me this stuff for years. I don't think my teachers are intimidated—most of them appreciate it. One particular teacher, a strident unionist and socialist, has a chat with me at least once a week about the latest political gossip.

Do you get bullied?
Not at all. I can't remember a time when I've been bullied. Occasionally someone—always a year or two below me—tries to take the piss out of me. The novelty wears off pretty quickly. I've built up respect in my school because I do a lot things to help various people and activities. Plus, I think everyone is aware that whatever they give me I'm liable to give back threefold verbally. It's much easier to bully people who get hurt by it. I don't, so they don't waste their time.

I can't help but feel like you've electively skipped a huge part of being young. Don't you worry you're missing out?
Never. The only bit I've really skipped is the part where you don't care about anything. I haven't gone off the rails. I have many friends and we talk about inane things like anyone else. Politics is one facet of my life. It creeps into others, but it doesn't dominate. Besides, anyone who wants to leave me out probably isn't worth my time in the first place, so they can get stuffed.


His bedroom was tidier and contained more golf clubs than your average teen's room.

Speaking of going off the rails, what do you think of drugs?
I've never touched them and I don't intend to. They're terrible, destructive substances. I find it difficult to sympathize with people who get caught up in drugs. The ice epidemic is bloody awful, though this isn't the first time we've seen such an issue. Not that long ago heroin was a major problem. We need to look back to the Howard years for inspiration on how to tackle drugs.

What about tackling weed and other drugs with legalization?
I don't plan on pleasing the potheads. People make out like it's as harmless as a hundreds-and-thousands biscuit. They're mad. The evidence shows a link between whacky tobacky and mental illness, along with a number of other adverse effects. Tobacco and alcohol already cause enough problems without adding another one.

Hanging with the family cat, Fudge.

What are your thoughts on data retention?

I'm not overly miffed. The internet is a public place—if I have to rely on a third party to use it, then it isn't private. It's like having a conversation with someone in a café, I'm chatting quietly at my table but you're stupid if you don't think someone might be eavesdropping. I've not been planning any terrorist attacks, so I think I'm all clear.

Do you ever wonder if your conservatism is a phase you'll grow out of?
I've not once thought it might be a phase. As far as I'm concerned, conservative is just how I am. Opinions change, but I'm not expecting to join the Socialist Alliance anytime soon.

Do you have a fanbase?
Occasionally someone works out who I am. A few months ago someone heard me speak and came up to ask if I was Caleb Bond. They'd heard me on the radio the week before. I was having coffee with a friend the other day and the manager of the cafe asked me if my name was Bond. He recognized me from Twitter. It doesn't happen often, but I haven't been to Sydney yet where most of my stuff has been published. The plan is to visit old Sydney town next year. I adore Adelaide, but I crave an affair with Sydney. I'm sure Adelaide won't mind. I have no plans to go near Canberra any time soon. I visited in March and the coldness of politics was more than evident in the morning temperature.

Considering his political opinions, the rest of Caleb's family aren't particularly politically interested. His mom collects teddy bears, which she displays around their house.

So you don't have political aspirations?
I would never say never, but politics is somewhat of a dirty game and I'm not particularly sure whether I'm cut out for that. I'm not sure I'm cut out for toeing a party line either. I tend to have my own view and think it's best. The idea of having to sing to someone else's songbook doesn't really appeal to me.

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