Youth Vote Up For Grabs

Gordon Campbell says the decision to make third party insurance on motor vehicles is another example of Labour’s punitive stance towards young people and first time voters.

According to to Labour Party president Mike Williams, there will 190,000 eligible first time voters in this election, and they’re supposed to be a Labour priority. Yet the array of policies that the Labour government has promoted over the last year or so have targeted young people and their leisure habits, mainly to score brownie points on law and order issues.

Add them up. There has been have the attack on youth drugs of leisure ( the party pills ban) and on forms of protest and expression ( the anti-tagging Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti vandalism) Amendment Bill.) Labour has vowed to keep young people compulsorily inside learning institutions until they’re 18, via the Schools Plus initiative, which is already in some trouble.

The Schools Plus initiative won’t be popular with 16 to 18 year olds who want to leave school, nor with those who want to stay and find their education disrupted by those who’d rather be elsewhere. But the party pill ban and anti-tagging legislation probably only affect a small minority.

Now, we have this 3rd party insurance move against their driving habits and related risks. Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoeven has been quite upfront that the compulsory 3rd party insurance idea was ‘brought into focus’ as a mechanism to get boy racers off the streets. Unfortunately, the measure will further offload the cost onto all motorists, and onto young drivers in particular, and the insurance industry is already contesting Duynhoeven’s cost estimates.

He is right about the added expense but I don’t think it’s a big enough issue by iteslf to repel or attract votes.

This punitive stance towards the young is not an election year tactic, since it has been evident throughout this term of government. Late in 2006, Labour MP Martin Gallagher sponsored an attempt to raise the drinking age, which would have forced young people out of clubs and bars, and denied them the chance to listen to bands on licensed premises. [ Disclosure of self interest : I co-promote tours by indie bands, and raising the drinking age would have killed such tours stone dead ]

You get the pattern, and that’s only on the punitive side. In the Budget, when Finance Minister was handing out the sweets to everyone else, he conspicuously failed to address student debt and student allowances. His token best effort was to drop the age that students will be regarded as dependent on their parents from 25 to an insulting 24 – apparently, according to Cullen, because United Future wanted it that way.

With the exception of students, most young people aren’t generally organised about lobbying so are easy for Governments to ignore.

There’s a word for it : ephebiphobia. It means fear of the young and Labour needs policy treatment for it. So, of course, does National – always a haven for young fogies – who have shown themselves more than willing to pack young offenders off to boot camp, even if the armed forces supposed to be running them don’t want a bar of it. For the Maori Party and the Greens, those 190,000 voters really are theirs for the taking.

I’m not sure why the Maori Party would be attractive to non Maori and today’s Fairfax poll shows Maori are favouring National (39%) with Labour and Maroi both at 22%. (David Farrar blogs on the significance of this here and No Minister comments here).

However, the poll also shows Labour has clawed back some support from National among young people and those on low incomes – but these two groups are also most likely to change their minds before polling day.

Labour targetted the youth vote (and their parents) in 2005 with the last minute interest free student loan bribe. The public coffers aren’t so healthy now, but that won’t necessarily stop them trying to snare the young – and any other sector they feel is worth targetting – with a last-ditch spend-up.

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