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Message to youth democracy is not spectator sport

Message to youth: democracy is not a spectator sport

Green Co-leader Rod Donald welcomes the beginning of the fourth Youth Parliament today and hopes that it will stimulate debate on how to get more young New Zealanders involved in our democracy.

“It’s a sad fact that 38 per cent of 18 to 24-yrs-olds and 37 per cent of 25 to 29-year-olds didn’t vote at the last election,” said Mr Donald, the Green Party’s Electoral Reform Spokesperson, “this contrasts with only 16 per cent of over-50s not exercising their right to vote.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport; it only works when people actively participate.

“Whether the reason is politicians failing to inspire our young people or just plain apathy, the biggest challenge facing both Youth and ‘old’ MPs is to make Parliament relevant.

“I’m looking forward to listening to what Youth MPs have to say about how we can encourage more of their peers to join political parties and get involved in politics. Total political party membership in New Zealand is now only ten per cent of what it was in 1974 when I joined the Values Party, the forerunner of the Greens, at the age of 16.

“At the very least we need to give young people a good reason to get on the roll and vote in both national and local body elections.

“While the Youth Parliament is a good initiative, it only takes place once every three years and involves only 120 young people.

“If we want to address declining voter turnout, the Government needs to introduce a comprehensive civics education program throughout the school curriculum so that all our young citizens understand their rights and responsibilities by the time they reach voting age,” said Mr Donald.

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