Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton launched a scathing attack on Queensland’s Deputy Premier yesterday, labelling him a “schoolchild”, “a fool”, and only fit for “university politics”.
Dutton’s fury stemmed from ongoing border protection tensions, after Deputy Premier Steven Miles earlier accused federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg of “lying” in his claim that Queensland hadn’t asked for an extension for ADF troops.
“This is yet another example of a Federal Government minister being sent out by the Prime Minister to attack our government in the local media here in Queensland being caught out lying” Mr Miles told reporters on Thursday morning.
Jumping to Frydenberg’s defence later that afternoon, Dutton lashed Miles calling him “juvenile”.
“On a daily basis now, Mr Miles goes out and frankly makes a fool of himself in front of the press,” said Dutton.
“He’s done it again today. It is like watching a juvenile go out there on a university campus and engage in university politics.
“He is supposed to be the Health Minister and Deputy Treasurer – Deputy Premier of this state and he is acting like a school child.”
It would be easy to hear Dutton’s words and attribute them to everyday, political argy-bargy, but they go beyond that. Because in the space of just three sentences, Peter Dutton managed to undermine young people and youth input no less than five times.
His sarcastic reference to ‘university politics’ is particularly illuminating. Every day, hundreds of students across the country partake in meaningful rallies, protests and debates, and they’re hugely anxious about the impacts of the pandemic on their lives and livelihoods. For months, young people have been calling for greater transparency and consideration of their needs from elected officials.
In a survey conducted by YouthInsight earlier this year, many university students described feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about their short and long-term future, with loss of work and employment instability causing severe anxiety. Young people (especially young women) have born the brunt of the economic fallout linked to the pandemic.
They’ve graduated into Australia’s first recession in 29 years, and since March, 11.8 per cent of jobs for those under 30 have disappeared.
In another survey, conducted by the Wellbeing, Health & Youth NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence and the Australian Association for Adolescent Health, young people accused the government of inconsistent messaging when it came to protocols around the virus.
Of course, beyond the pandemic, millennials and Gen Z have been engaging in a profound way with social and political issues for years. The tired line that millennials are too apathetic to look up from their almond lattes, just doesn’t link up with fact. Examples are everywhere– at Women’s Marches globally, pro-refugee protests, climate rallies –the list goes on.
Earlier this year, Australia’s Black Lives Matters protests crescendoed with youth leaders at the helm. In Darwin, a rally of more than 1000 people was organised by two Indigenous Larrakia women, cousins Sharna Alley and Mililma May, both aged 21. It was the second event they’d peacefully organised.
In last week’s episode of Women’s Agenda’s The Leadership Lessons podcast, youth activist Yasmin Poole described her hopes for a more progressive Australia, in which youth input– especially that of women– was valued more highly.
“Often, young women are expected to sit down and listen, but there is so much scope in unpacking their lived experience,” Poole said.
“It’s also about telling young women, you have the right, as much as anyone, to think about the future you would like to see and create.”
It appears that Peter Dutton– like the rest of his mostly middle aged, pale and male colleagues– would disagree. His attack on Steven Miles revealed how little he regards youth participation and leadership and how out of touch he truly is.