The Young Liberal Movement traces its origins to the earliest days of Robert Gordon Menzies’ efforts to build an effective political force to combat socialism and defend the principles of family, individual liberty, and free enterprise. History has since affirmed what Menzies knew to be the case: that the Liberal Party would never amount to a serious alternative to Labor without a strong, active youth wing at its philosophical heart.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the Young Liberal Movement of Australia is more than fulfilling its role of keeping the flame of the Liberal cause ablaze. It’s been just two months since our last Federal Convention, but in that short time we’ve already made great progress in advocating the values and beliefs dearest to our Movement.
Our recent Save Free Speech campaign was launched in February to make it unequivocally clear that Young Liberals stand for freedom of speech and nothing less. Recent cases like those involving the late Bill Leak and the QUT students prove that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act has absolutely nothing to do with stopping racism, and everything to do with policing what Australians say to one an- other. Compounded by the incompetence and obfuscation of the Australian Human Rights Commission, 18C poses a particularly egregious threat to young people, put at risk of prosecution, reputational damage, and being left with exorbitant legal costs over something as trivial as a controversial Facebook post or Tweet.
Save Free Speech has been a roaring success. We met with 55 Liberal Members and Senators to deliver the message that free speech is inseparable from our society, and the campaign reached 60,000 people and brought in 70 new membership applications. In the words of Senator the Hon. James McGrath, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister: “Without the Young Liberals’ advocacy on free speech, we wouldn’t have been able to move on 18C”.
As young people, we are the biggest stakeholders in the economic decisions that the government makes. The growing burden of intergenerational debt looms ominously in our futures, heralding a life spent paying higher taxes to cover today’s borrowings.
That’s exactly why the Young Liberal Movement made a pre-Budget submission, making the case that the government needs to be more proactive with fiscal repair to avoid saddling our generation with more and more debt.
Our submission also targeted one of the great affronts to individual liberty affecting young Australians today – the Student Services and Amenities Fee. The SSAF is an insidious mechanism to fuel the political activities of far-left student unions, at the expense of ordinary students left out of pocket and with no means of opting out. Our pre-Budget submission has already been met with positive feedback from Members and Senators pleased that we are tackling two critically important economic issues affecting young Australians.
Our success thus far as a policy engine is matched only by our contribution to helping elect and re-elect Liberal candidates and MPs. While the ultimate result of the recent Western Australian state election was disappointing, Young Liberals can be very proud of the efforts invested by the fantastic participants of our Electoral Development Officer programme. Over a dozen Young Liberals descended upon marginal seats all across WA, playing a critical role in delivering a number of narrow victories for Liberal MPs. This EDO programme had triple the number of applicants than the previous one, a promising sign that Young Liberals around Australia are excited to fight for the Liberal cause on the front line. We also launched an EDO blog to showcase the important work of the participants, which has been a tremendous success, generating over 3,000 unique website hits.
The Young Liberal Movement of Australia celebrates 50 years since its formal inception this year. To ensure that the YLM continues to enjoy success after success into the future, we have applied a special focus to financial stability. We have renewed our emphasis on fundraising, generating more funds in the two months since Convention than we have in any of the last five years. The long-term survival of our Movement has also been bolstered by a boost in membership applications and a rejuvenated presence on social media, allowing us to deliver our message to more people than ever before.
Decades after Menzies envisaged an active, passionate Movement of young people to carry the torch for the Liberal cause, the YLM continues to make its mark on the policy direction of our party, to enhance the party’s campaign efforts through tireless on-the-ground support, and to invest heavily in our financial security and member- ship growth. 2017 is well and truly a year to stand up and be proud to call yourself a Young Liberal.
Aiden Depiazzi is the Federal President of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia
This article originally appeared in the LibLeader, a publication of the Victorian Young Liberals