77. Pinidu Chandrasekera

26 Feb

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Pinidu Chandrasekera admits he’s probably not interested in the things 16 year-olds are typically interested in, but his interests have taken him on incredible journeys in recent times, including to the set of Q&A.

In July last year, Pinidu was one of four high school students selected to sit on the Q&A panel alongside federal politicians Josh Frydenberg and Catherine King, to discuss topical issues.

But the Parade College student admits being selected was purely “coincidental”.

“My friend tagged me in a post on Facebook about the event, I had to send a one minute video into the ABC, where I answered a set list of three questions, why you would be good for Q&A, what issues do you care about most, and how would you go head to head in a debate with politicians, so I sent one in, and I got accepted, it was a big surprise,” Pinidu said.

You can only imagine the calibre of students who applied for the show, but in listening to Pinidu talk about politics and current affairs, it’s no surprise he was selected.

The three topics he said he cared most about were education, economic policy, and foreign policy.

“As a kid, I was always interested in news and current affairs, and what’s going in the world, which led to a natural interest in politics, because that has so much influence on the world,” he said.

“I also like speaking in front of people, and debating, I’ve been doing debating and public speaking at school since I was in year 7.”

He said he gave himself three criteria for if he was selected to be on Q&A.

“I said I wanted to have an extensive knowledge of the issues that would be covered, be consistent with my point of view, and respect everyone’s arguments by always attacking the argument, not the person,” he said.

“We didn’t know what topics would be discussed on the show, so I made sure I was prepared with everything that was going on at the time.”

One of the topics that was discussed was youth involvement in politics, and whether the voting age should be lowered.

“I’m in favour of it being lowered, but before we do it, we would need to make sure we fix our national curriculum, so students get a strong look at the real world, legal studies, politics, and finance,” he said.

“If we can transform the national curriculum to suit this, then I think when kids get to 16 and 17, they’ll be more knowledgeable and suited to vote.”

Another topic discussed was housing affordability, something Pinidu is passionate about.

“I think there’s a general perception that the housing affordability crisis is a lot bigger than it is, which I think is driven by the perception of future prices,” he said.

“Rather than huge policy overhauls, I think we have to be smart, and incentivise things to make it easier for young people to buy their first home.”

He said being on Q&A was an amazing experience, albeit an incredibly nerve-wracking one.

“I hadn’t been on a television set before, let alone a panel, that whole day at school, everyone was telling me good luck, and that just made me more and more nervous, I had butterflies all day,” he said.

“Funnily enough, the nerves actually went away as soon as the show started, I got totally immersed in what was being said that the hour just flew by.”

Following the show, one of the politicians on the panel, Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, was so impressed, that he approached Pinidu to ask if he would like to do work experience at his office.

“During the school holidays, I did work experience at his electoral office, and it was a really interesting experience to see all of the behind the scenes work,” he said.

“I’d never been to a political office before, you see politicians talking on TV all the time, but you never realise all the work that goes on.”

At this point, Pinidu isn’t entirely sure where he sees himself going.

“I’m currently interested in politics, law, and economics, but I’m still deciding exactly what I want to do,” he said.

“They’re all connected in some way, so I’m sure I’ll find something that I’m passionate about doing.”

Words: Joely Mitchell

Picture: Sean Porter

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