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Photo: ABC

What Scott Morrison doesn’t get about most of the voting public

When now-Prime Minster Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into parliament in 2017, pleading “don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you,” he made a critical error. That is, assuming he wants the Coalition to retain power at the next federal election.

That’s because to Generations X (b. 1961–81) and Y (b. 1981–96), which together comprise the largest segment of the voting public, combating climate change is their priority.

Australia’s generational spread, per 2016 Census data. Photo: ABC

This is a key finding of the University of Melbourne’s Life Patterns report, released this week.

The longitudinal study, which followed a cohort that left high school in 1991 and another that left in 2006, further revealed that although they both cared about minimising the use of coal, they did so for different reasons. Gen-Xers generally worried about their children’s health, whereas Gen-Yers tended to want to protect future generations.

Report co-author Dr Julia Cook, Research Fellow at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, explained how the researchers reached this conclusion.

“In 2017, we asked participants to nominate the three most important issues facing Australia.

“One major issue unites both generations: concerns about the environment and climate change …

“… Both groups consistently expressed grave concerns about the general lack of action towards climate change mitigation from the current government.”

Among Gen-Xers (now aged 43-44), women were almost twice as likely to think this than men, yet among Gen-Yers (now aged 28-29), men predominantly held this view, albeit by a slim margin: 40 per cent compared to 34 per cent.

“We’re not going to have air to breathe soon,” a mother living in a country town said.

A father living in a rural area was equally alarmed: “Climate change could ruin their [his children’s] lives and our governments are not acting.”

The other issues the groups aired tended to reflect their respective life stages. For instance, Gen-Yers were concerned about jobs and housing affordability, while Gen-Xers were anxious about the cost of living and education – a worry potentially exacerbated by Scott Morrison’s independent and Catholic schools funding announcement on Thursday.

Photo: UniMelb

In a conversation with Cook, Campus Review dug deeper into the data. We began by asking her about demographic differences (aside from the gender one) in the climate change finding.

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