In recent years, politics has finally begun to feel like a young person’s game. Yes, most of our politicians still look like extras from a Midsomer Murders episode. But at least young voices are breaking through mainstream political discourse.
This year young Australian voters broke enrolment records, with 89 percent of eligible 18 to 24-year-olds signing up. Cynics might suggest that engagement is largely due to mandatory voting and our hatred of fines, but it’s also part of the warm afterglow of a massive push to get young people to enrol and take part in 2017’s marriage equality plebiscite.
Either way, our concerns, priorities, and passions are going to shape the outcome of this weekend’s election. So we headed out to find out how first time voters were feeling, who they were voting for, and why.
VICE: Who are you voting for?
Ivy: Labor. I don't know a whole lot about how the election process works and the ballots and whatever but I've heard a lot of good things about my local member.
Do you know about Labor's policies and what they’re promising?
Honestly I don't know a whole lot. I just know that the Liberals are the worst because I'm Indigenous, queer, and don't have a whole lot of money, and they don’t have a great track record on any of those things. Apparently the Greens are a bit corrupt this election, but Labor represents working class people the best.
What are the main issues you're worried about and want to see change on?
I guess I'm studying and I'm on Centrelink, so a party that does good things for those two issues is pretty important. Medicare is also important to me, so trying to keep all that going would be good because it's a big part of my life.
Do you think Australia will get better if Labor gets in?
I think it's a lot about party politics, and I don't know if anything will change, but it's just important that power goes into the hands of people who might potentially be able to turn things around. I guess it’s just important things don’t get worse.
VICE: Who are you voting for?
Amy: I think I’ll vote Greens first and then Labor.
Why the Greens?
What I think to be the most pressing issue is the environment and obviously their whole party aligns with sustainable action and taking care of the world we have. I understand we need a strong economy for the country to run but we haven't got very long on the world until it explodes or something.
Do you think putting Greens first is going to make a difference?
I think people often have the idea—my parents tell me this all the time—that you're throwing away your vote by voting for a party like the Greens. But because it's a preference system, it's not a throw-away vote. Putting Greens first, I think it gives them more of a shot. If everybody thought that, maybe it would build them some momentum.
Everyone up in Parliament house is pretty old. Do you feel alienated because of that?
Diversity in our leadership is definitely important because it's meant to represent who we are as a country. Not feeling like I’m represented as a young person would never stop me from voting though. We are really lucky to be able to vote, and it's a privilege that not everyone has in the world.
VICE: Hey Kayla, who’s your number one pick this weekend?
Kayla: I haven't completely decided yet if I'm honest. I did the Vote Compass and it said I aligned mostly with the Greens and Labor which made me question a few things. My family has always voted Liberal so that's the way I thought I would vote, but after finding out I align with Greens and Labor I’ve been wondering if I should follow that.
Is there anything you believe in strongly enough that it would swing your vote?
At the moment it's really important for us to focus on the environment because they say it's around seven years until it's irreversible, so I think we need to focus on that first as a nation.
That sounds like the Greens.
They are very focused on the environment, but it's more likely I'll vote Labor because it's less likely that Greens are going to win. Labor also have a lot of policies about health care I think and that’s also important.
Do you have a preferred Prime Minister?
I don't think I do. I focus mostly on the actual policies rather than who's leading, because they're just a speaker on behalf of their party unlike America where the President can veto things. The Australian Prime Ministers also get moved around so much that it doesn't really matter who it is anyway.
Andrew, 20, Not a fan of photos
VICE: Hi Andrew, who are you going to be voting for?
Andrew: The Greens.
Why do you want them to win?
I haven't had much time to study up on the politics, but from where I'm standing a lot of their policies align with what I want.
What exactly do you believe in?
Compared to everyone else I think they are doing a good job with policies on the environment. I also like what they’ve said about Medicare and Youth Allowance.
Do you think your attitude would change if you were earning a lot of money?
If a party was like "we have these plans for the environment, these plans for universal healthcare, plus you don't have to pay as much tax" then I'd be like, "hell yeah!" But if it's just paying less tax but the planet's gonna get dicked down, your internet is crap, and everything sucks, then I don't think that's a viable trade-off.
Was it important for you that you enrolled to vote?
Yes, because there are going to be bad people out there who have equal power to vote and they're not going to be voting for the things I want. It's also not that difficult to vote. It’s a little bit annoying but it's very infrequent and the result is worth the minor inconvenience on the day.
VICE: Who are you voting for?
Nathan: The Greens.
What have the Greens done to swing your vote?
I'm voting for them because of how they talk about the environment. A lot of the other parties barely have any environmental policies. They may not be the best financially, but it would be best to have them in power.
Have you done much research on what the other parties are offering up?
I know that my mum is a Liberal and dad goes for Labor… so it's kind of a split household. I would say it has influenced me a little bit because they always argue about politics together and that has made me say I don't want to be in either of those parties because both parties sound bad.
Interview and photos by Maggie Coggan-Gartlan. Follow her on Twitter.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.