The Hand Over

What a year. What a Week. What a time in my life.

Being the YMCA NSW Youth Governor for the last year has been amazing but I step down, knowing that my successor is the right person for the role and will undoubtedly do an amazing job! This blog is dedicated to the hand over!

Whether it is the expansion of the program to the Legislative Chamber, speaking in front of the Premier of NSW, witnessing some of the most amazing debates I have ever witnessed or being an advisor for the first time… YP2013 has been the greatest learning experience of my life and I hope I have done the position justice.

As Youth Governor, I recognised the potential which social media held to reach out to our target audience; the engaged youth. I hoped to bring the excitement to YP2013 through Facebook and Twitter. I was also committed to attending as many community speaking events as possible, never passing up an opportunity to promote the program. It was amazing going to Melbourne to the Council of Australian Youth Parliaments to discuss how we, as a movement, can move forward together, stronger.

I make special reference to YMCA NSW who under their pillar of developing young people, has consistently ran the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament for the past 12 years. Their continued dedication to the Youth & Government suite of programs leaves us with the amazing Youth Parliament we know and love today.

To Brydan, mate, have fun with it and enjoy the role. The role is what you make of it, but continue on with the hard work of past Youth Governors before you bring your own personal ‘swagger’ to it.

Having said that, there are some serious… very serious goals you must meet. #demnumbers

1. After inheriting the Youth Governor (@NSWYouthGov) Twitter that was running a 100% following to followers account deficit, I have managed to grow the pie but also bring the ratio to a respectable 10% deficit. I look forward to Brydan running for the first time in Youth Governor History a Twitter Surplus! :P

2. Brydan, I also noticed you only have 738 friends on Facebook… this must change. I look forward to seeing this rise to at least into the 4 figure mark.

3. Smile. As serious as the job is, and as important as it is to be on top of your game, it is important as Youth Governor to stop and smile! I expect a minimum of 5 smiles per day for the duration of your term.

In all seriousness Brydan, it is with great pleasure I hand over the duties of the YMCA NSW Youth Governor to you, and know that you have a mate in me if you ever need any guidance.

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Geeth Geeganage
Former YMCA NSW Youth Governor
Current and Always Lover of YMCA NSW Youth Parliament.

What does Australia Say to Violence Against Men?

Violence against males constitutes one third of domestic violence cases in Australia. However, due to social stigmas and stereotypes male victims are provided with minimal support, and are often ridiculed in response to attempts to seek support. Whilst this issue is typically neglected as a result of the belief that males cannot reasonably be victims of domestic violence, the Youth MPs of YMCA NSW Youth Parliament 2013 heatedly debated the topic earlier this week. Continue reading

Legislative Council Concedes International Students Deserve More

The campaign for international students to qualify for travel concession cards found another supporter on Tuesday with the subject debated in the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament. Grievances arise from the exclusion of international and domestic part time students from half price fares on all public transport, which increases the cost of travel considerably for those who don’t qualify. The current concession rules, which only grants discounts to full time students, were characterised as “discrimination” and “denying equal access to education” by Youth Members of the Legislative Council in debate.

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Youth Parliament Bingo

You may not know all of our names but you’ve probably seen us lurking in the chambers throughout the week, filming your speeches and live tweeting your puns. But having spent so much time listening to you all, we, your humble press gallery, have compiled a list of phrases and topics that have been heavily relied on. Youth Parliament clichés, if you will. So here you have it – YP bingo!

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Contributed by Maddie James @itsmaddiejames and Daniel Dummer @ddummer 

First Generation MLCs old at heart

The Government’s Matter of Public Importance to make organ donation opt-out prompted all sides to reach into the annals of philosophy

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The YMCA NSW Youth Parliament Legislative Council might be new, but it was clear from its first day of operation that its collective personality is old at heart. It could be the high proportion of “pasties” (rhymes with “nasties,” although they are in fact kind, gentle politicians) which fill the benches in that chamber. Or it could be the aura of the chamber itself – which is, we learned today, the oldest continuously-operating parliamentary chamber in the world.

The Legislative Council chamber aura is warm and affectionate. The deep pink carpet forgivingly invites your heel to plunge into it, notwithstanding the fact you haven’t read a single page of the historical leather-bound tomes that line the bookshelves. The polished timber of the benches supports your toosh as stoically as if you were a founding father of the nation, even though you’re probably not.

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Fat Tax Carries Little Weight with Youth MPs

YMCA NSW Youth Parliament debuted for 2013 with the Unhealthy Fast Food Tax Bill, written by the Health Committee under the guidance of the “smouldering” Samir Kinger. The Bill proposed a tax on all fast foods based on kilojoule density and would only be applied to businesses with annual revenue greater than $10 million i.e. the large fast food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks and Red Rooster. The revenue raised from the tax would be returned to these businesses as subsidies for healthy menu options. The Bill targeted obesity, a prominent issue in NSW, provoked robust, diverse debate in the Legislative Assembly over the economics of the tax and the merit of education. However, it was not passed by the Legislative Assembly.

Obesity has reached epidemic levels across NSW and Australia, with 63.4% of Australians classed as overweight or obese, and a quarter of children overweight or obese. Similar taxes to that proposed by the committee have been implemented in several European countries, including France, Britain and Ireland. Another high profile example is Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, and his crusade against large soft drink cups.

The most hotly debated argument of the Bill was the economics surrounding the “fat tax”, as it was dubbed by the Opposition. Many YMP’s showed an advanced knowledge of their HSC economics textbooks, to a much greater degree than their respective state and federal MP’s. Band 6’s all round. The argument boiled down to whether the increased price of fast food and corresponding fall in the price of healthy options would actually influence demand and behaviour.

The key plank of the Opposition’s argument was that public education campaigns would be much more effective than incentives from prices. Riley Richardson, YMP for Kiama, defined obesity as an addiction and compared that to efforts to reduce smoking, where graphic advertising is more powerful than higher prices.

At the final vote however, the Unhealthy Fast Food Tax Bill didn’t secure a majority of YMPs, defeated 35-44. Despite this, it will still be debated in the Legislative Council on Thursday.

“I’d rather you vote against me than not at all”

YMCA NSW Youth Parliament 2013 was officially opened yesterday by the Premier of New South Wales Mr Barry O’Farrell. Mr O’Farrell had one thing to say to our Youth Members of Parliament: it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just know what’s going on.

At the Opening Ceremony, O’Farrell, the Member for Ku-ring-gai, said that he was happy if the 140 young people did not vote for him, as long as they took an interest in the political arena.

“I’d rather you vote against me than not at all,” said O’Farrell.

“Your passion for politics is close to my heart,” he said, commending all YMPs for being advocates for their communities at such a young age.

Not only do 2013 Youth Parliamentarians embody advocacy and leadership, they’re also hoping to extend their knowledge and passion to NSW schools.

The Committee Investigating Communities will introduce the Youth Apathy Reform Bill in the Legislative Assembly this Thursday which aims to educate all young people about elections and parliamentary process by introducing political education into the NSW curriculum.

The bill aims to tackle donkey voting, and to arm young people with the tools they need to exercise their greatest power of all: vote.

Don’t worry Mr O’Farrell. NSW Youth Parliamentarians are on top of this.

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FUN FACT: O’Farrell has attended more Youth Parliament sittings than any other Member of Parliament.

Written by Katerina Jovanovska, the Campaigns & Advocacy Officer in the Media & Public Relations team. Follow her at @katejovanovska for updates during Sitting Week

Indigenous Bill Freed from Legislative Assembly

Monday in the Legislative Assembly was finished off by Aboriginal Affairs, with Youth MPs debating the Indigenous Juvenile Justice and Incarceration Bill. Chaired by the Hon. Linda Burney MP, the first Indigenous woman elected to NSW Parliament, the Bill proposed reforms to the NSW justice system, aiming to reduce rates of recidivism and incarceration amongst Indigenous people. The Youth Government, refuting the Bill, agreed that Indigenous young people are not supported by the justice system. The proposed solutions to this issue were vigorously debated, with the Youth Government accusing the Youth Opposition of not going far enough to provide a deterrent.

This is currently a hot issue in NSW. Indigenous young people are 24 times more likely to be held in detention (compared to non-Indigenous young people) and are 187% more likely to reoffend. Combined with the fact that only 2% of police are Indigenous, this shows the justice system in NSW is not working well with Indigenous young people.

In the debate, the main point of contention was the Youth Government’s insistence that the Bill be amended so that punitive fines remain a form of punishment. They justified this as it would lower the incarceration rate, considering that without fines available to the courts as an option, more Indigenous young people would be gaoled instead. The Youth Opposition defended the original Bill by arguing that the cost of fines placed a tremendous financial burden on Indigenous young people and their parents, preventing rehabilitation of the offender. During consideration in detail, the Youth Government proposed an amendment to retain punitive fines, which was passed 56-21.

Another recurring theme of this debate, in line with other debates today, was the role of education. A system of education involving police and local elders was proposed by the Youth Opposition, but the Youth Government argued this wasn’t thorough enough, and successfully moved for an amendment to introduce mandatory legal education into the high school curriculum. Ultimately the Indigenous Juvenile Justice and Incarceration Bill passed the Legislative Assembly with 60 votes to 17, the largest margin of the day. It now goes to the Legislative Council, where it will be debated on Tuesday.

The pioneers of independence

They’re from all corners of the state, but these four teens have one thing in common.

They’re pioneers.

Jeff Tan, Erica Balilo, Jared Ackerman and Suzanna Moschetti are the first Independent YMPs to take part in YMCA NSW Youth Parliament.

In previous years, YMPs were divided into Government and Opposition, but this year, the YMPs could request to become an independent when they attended Training Camp in April.

“I really wanted to get involved in a different role and take advantage of the new opportunities incorporated into this year’s program,” says Suzanna Moschetti, an 18-year-old representing NSW in the upper house.

Erica Balilo, one of the independent YMLC, was enticed to undertake this new role by the thought of greater flexibility.

“I didn’t want party lines to determine my vote, especially on the issues I am particularly passionate about,” the 17-year-old said.

As an apolitical program, Youth Parliament allows a conscience vote on all bills. This year’s bills cover issues as diverse as drug and alcohol, youth incarceration to transportation.

The YMPs from all over the state have kept contact through social media as their bills and reports are refined, which all YMPs have found to be a learning curve in itself.

“Figuring out how to write reports is certainly a difficulty and not as easy as your typical essay you might do at school,” says Jeff Tan, who is part of the Aboriginal Affairs committee in the Legislative Council.

“Responding to other committee members with school commitments [can also be tricky],” he said.

Jared Ackerman, who is investigating Health in the upper house, says preparation behind the scenes makes the process seem effortless.

“Everybody who does this is always so natural, like we belong in the process,” the YMLC said.

And many are political naturals.

Former participant Adam Marshall, who was the program’s first Premier in 2002, is now a full-fledged MP. The MP for Northern Tablelands provides much-needed inspiration for future goals, however for the next four days, the Youth MPs will be advocating for the voice of the youth in NSW Parliament House.

YMCA NSW Youth Parliament will be sitting on the 2nd, 4th and 5th of July at NSW Parliament House in both the Legislative Assembly and Chamber.

This piece was written by Georgie Mitchell, one of six Press Gallery Interns assisting the Media & Public Relations team at YP2013 this year. Follow her on @gmitch_news for the latest updates!

Welcome to YMCA NSW Youth Parliament Sitting Week 2013

Snaps from Opening Ceremony

YMCA NSW Youth Parliament 2013

YMCA NSW Youth Parliament 2013

Youth Premier Theodora Von Arnim and The Hon. Barry O'Farrell MP, NSW Premier

Youth Premier Theodora Von Arnim and The Hon. Barry O’Farrell MP, NSW Premier

The inaugural YP Legislative Council

Governor Geeth Geeganage addressing the chamber

Governor Geeth Geeganage addressing the chamber