July 26th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Universities: battleground for next election?

EDITORIAL: Helping the disabled

SPECIAL REPORT: Ethanol: the untold story

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Star Wars / Provocative

AGRICULTURE: Murray River debate hotting up

QUEENSLAND: Values make a comeback

Will Saddam win Phase II of the war? (letter)

Anti-Western animus (letter)

Deflation causes (letter)

Australia's population challenge? (letter)

Christian victims ignored (letter)

COMMENT: Abstinence: the new trend in sex education

GOVERNMENT: Democracy needs a professional public service

COMMENT: Iraq and future US foreign policy

HONG KONG: Mass rally forces back-flip on national security law


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Values make a comeback

by Victor Sirl

News Weekly, July 26, 2003
The Queensland National Party will hold its State Conference in July. Victor Sirl comments on the call from its youth to support conservative and socially responsible policies.

Are the Queensland Young Nationals the last bastion of social conservatism inside the mainstream parties? This is the question that springs to mind when considering the policy prescriptions they are taking to State Conference in July-August.

At their own conference in May, the Young Nationals passed motions that called for the repeal of laws in Queensland allowing legal brothels, a traditional definition of marriage, sexual abstinence to be promoted in school curricula, opposition to all forms of human cloning, and much more.


George Christensen, a 24-year-old staffer for De-Anne Kelly the Member for Dawson, was elected as State President. He has been an outspoken critic of the more social libertarian position some older and senior colleagues are seen to be advocating for the party regarding issues such as stem cell research, homosexual law reform and marriage.

"Young people are increasingly rejecting the failed, socially irresponsible behaviour of the 60s and 70s generations," he stated. "The social policy prescriptions of Left leave many of our youth feeling sick as they suffer the social consequences".

The consequences that worry the Young Nationals include higher rates of drug addiction, divorce, juvenile delinquency and illiteracy.

The stand by outgoing President Martin Klibbe against softer penalties for drugs abuse drew praise from Aboriginal activist Noel Pearson. Pearson rebuked many in the Left for their socially destructive influence in aboriginal communities. He was to speak at their conference but due to a local tragedy had to cancel. However, last August, in an address to the Centre for Independent Studies, he stated:

"Queensland Young Nationals' President Martin Klibbe told the Courier Mail that 'Queensland youth would be encouraged to buy hard drugs if the penalty was simply a counselling session'. I do not know Mr Klibbe, but judging from his statement it is Martin Klibbe (nominally on the far right) who is truly socially progressive and the lower classes' political ally".

Mr Pearson also said, "Unfortunately, there is an upswing for something called an 'economic conservative but socially progressive Right'."

The trend largely explains the leadership of the Young Nationals dissatisfaction with Lawrence Springborg, but at least in taking a tough stance on drugs he falls, like themselves, into what Pearson terms 'the socially responsible' camp. Pearson feels that aboriginal Australians need to work with 'socially responsible' people on both sides of Australian politics, and asserts that such groups need to collaborate more themselves.

Research indicates political necessity might eventually cause this unlikely scenario, because, interestingly, there is emerging evidence that it is not just the youth of the Young Nationals who are social conservatives, this trend may be emerging amongst youth in general.

Take two recent examples.

ABC radio in Darwin recently reported a survey that found a large majority of teenagers, 44% of the total respondents, believed there was too much violence on television.

A study by the Australian Institute found over 90% of parents with teenagers wanted government sanctioned filtering out of pornography on the internet but 100% of younger parents (24 years and under) were in favour of this measure. Many more surveys could be quoted, including international data.


Hence the Queensland Young Nationals may not be fighting a rearguard action in defence of traditional moral values but could actually be the vanguard of a movement for greater social responsibility.

Certainly their policy stance has resulted in increased membership. Perhaps, it is they and not the libertarians of Left and Right who represent the future aspirations of Australian youth.

The leadership of the Queensland Young Nationals expressed concern that too many parliamentarians are becoming more like Natasha Stott Despoja than John Howard. Natasha was suppose to attract the youth vote, and didn't. Martin Klibbe gives a very youthful explanation why, "She is just so eighties".

On a more serious, but no less upbeat note: Will older National Party members support the Young Nationals' strong stance on morality or will they also fail the younger generation?

George Christensen is so passionate about the need for them to do so he even suggests the very survival of the party will depend on it.

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