Young voters may not be fans of the new NSW premier, but he’s a fan of them.
Much has been made of Dominic Perrottet’s pledge to be a “premier for families”, but the country’s first millennial leader also has his sights on young people.
The 39-year-old was in that cohort when he entered parliament 10 years ago.
But after a meteoric rise, culminating last week when he became the state’s youngest-ever premier, it’s perhaps fitting that his focus is on the plight of youth across NSW.
They’re respectful, have a “phenomenal” spirit of service and deserve better, he says.
“One of the biggest issues that I’m focused on is generational equity,” he told AAP.
“Every young person should have more opportunity than the generation before … (but) millennials have not had the opportunities that (baby) boomers have had.”
But while Mr Perrottet has built a name for himself in politics as an economic reformer, it’s his reputation as an old-school conservative on social issues that may see his love for the state’s younger voters prove unrequited.
He voted against the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW, opposed the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and in 2016 described Donald Trump’s election as US President “a victory for people who have been taken for granted by the elites”.
He has also railed against “throwing money” at welfare, claiming it drives up divorce rates, and, as a devout Catholic, spoke out in opposition of laws forcing priests to break the seal of confessional to report child abuse.
Views like that make Hannah McGrory nervous.
She is a self-described Gladys Berejiklian fan and has voted Liberal every time she’s gone to the ballot box.
But the 25-year-old – a constituent of Mr Perrottet’s Epping electorate in Sydney – says she’s unsure if he is worth her vote.
“I’m definitely anxious about his leadership,” she told AAP.
“I would think twice before voting for him.”
She cites the recent challenge to abortion rights in the US state of Texas as amplifying her concerns. Mr Perrottet has, however, ruled out changes to abortion law.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, she says, but some of his past comments are unsettling.
The good news for Mr Perrottet is he’s got 18 months before the next election in 2023 to convince Ms McGrory he’s worth a shot.
“I’m quite conflicted about whether he still believes some of those things,” she said.
“I don’t believe in what he may think, but in the long run is the picture better? That’s what I’m probably going to have to think about.”
She’s far from alone in her anxiety over his leadership.
Scores of young people have expressed similar sentiments on social media, with videos – many of them negative – about the new premier racking up five million views on TikTok alone.
That’s juxtaposed by tributes – some of them extreme – to the outgoing premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Mr Perrottet concedes his predecessor is “incredibly popular” – a fact that would daunt some, but one he counts as a blessing.
“I had a great opportunity to actually learn from the best,” he said.
“It is much better to be following a premier who has been incredibly successful at her job, and learning from being up close to that each and every day for five years, than to be following somebody who wasn’t as successful.”
And despite what could be an uphill battle to win over young voters – particularly young women – Mr Perrottet is not concerned.
“Young people are incredibly tolerant … we don’t always have to agree on policies but we can respect other people’s views on issues,” he said.
“That’s certainly something I see as one of the main attributes of our young people today – greater respect, greater understanding, greater tolerance.”
But what does he offer young people?
“What you’ll see under our government is a significant focus on helping young people achieve, not just the same but more than their parents,” Mr Perrottet says.
He points to his government’s job-creation credentials, first home buyer support packages and the Generations Fund – a state-owned investment fund intended to offset the government debt down the track – as examples.
Young people are also the driver behind his passion for reform.
“You don’t get into public life to sit still,” he said.
“Reform is tough … but that’s what politics is all about.”
One of his pet projects as treasurer – replacing stamp duty with an annual property tax – is about opening up the housing market to young people.
“Stamp duty is the biggest impediment to people getting into their very first home … and getting people into the housing market, that sets up so much opportunity for success in the future.”
Also in his sights is a rejig of state and federal funding relations: the pandemic, which has seen the federal government take on a greater share of health spending, has demonstrated the merit in his arguments, Mr Perrottet says.
Ironically, the root of some of his polarising views – his faith and family values – is also what drives his desire to lead a life of service to the people of NSW, whether they like him or not.
“Serving as premier is a real honour and privilege … I’m humbled by that opportunity,” he told AAP.
“I’m completely committed … not just to lead but to serve every single person in the state the best that I can.”