Despite their minders’ best efforts, sometimes prime ministers have to answer unfiltered questions from members of the public.

Sometimes, especially when it involves young children, the result is comedy gold.

Other times, the questions and answers are indicative of something deeper, a sentiment reflective of the public mood.

This week Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unwittingly tapped into the frustration and despair felt by many young people during an interview on triple j’s current affairs program, Hack.

The government had a few things to sell young people – changes to HECS/HELP indexation, a bit of cash off their yearly energy bills and a much-needed funding injection for the ailing live music industry.

But for many listeners, like 23-year old university student Luca, those measures didn’t address the here and now.

Luca got in touch with Hack to say that her rent had gone up $400 a week in the space of just a few years, and if she didn’t re-sign her lease, she’d have nowhere else to go.

“I’m literally about to be homeless or have to defer from my degree that I’ve worked five years for, so I’m really upset. This has affected my mental health; I’m pretty depressed about it,” Luca said on the show.

Mr Albanese acknowledged that students on income support were struggling. Youth Allowance, paid at a lower rate than JobSeeker and only indexed once a year, amounts to about $45 a day.

But then, the PM went on to say he too had gone through hard times.

“I know what it’s like to be a student. I worked through multiple jobs in order to work my way through university.”

“I know that it can be difficult, I wasn’t in a position to have parental support because my mum was an invalid pensioner, and there was just us. So I know what it’s like to do it tough.”

Many Hack listeners had an issue with the PM’s comment that he knows what it’s like to be a struggling uni student.(triple j Hack)

The comments landed like a lead balloon with Hack’s audience, who pointed out that Mr Albanese went to university for free, and lived in public housing, which is increasingly hard to access today.

Without intending to, or realising it, Mr Albanese had unlocked a deeply-held pessimism among young people today — that older generations simply don’t understand or care about how tough life is for them.

Is generational inequality a thing?

In a word, yes.

While inflation has hit the whole population and household spending is the softest it’s been since 2020, recent Commonwealth Bank data found older people who own their homes outright are still spending big. Most are unaffected by interest rate rises and may in fact benefit from them, due to greater returns on investments.

That data is backed up by this year’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey by the University of Melbourne.

“Older people have very low rates of financial stress. This may reflect not only their low housing costs, but also their relatively high wealth beyond housing… and their lower expenditure needs (itself partly a reflection of government in-kind assistance and subsidies targeted to older people),” the survey said.

Which ties in nicely with the fact that Australia’s tax system, as it stands, is skewed towards older and wealthier people.

“We could reduce tax concessions that mostly benefit well-off older Australians, like the $45 billion worth of tax concessions for superannuation, and counting more of the family home in the aged pension asset test,” economist Elizabeth Baldwin from the Grattan Institute told Hack.

On top of that, the tax base itself is shrinking, meaning younger taxpayers today are helping pay for benefits that largely go to others.

The Grattan Institute’s report into generational inequality found that a 40-year-old today pays twice as much for benefits to older generations than Baby Boomers did at the same age.

The impact of this will be felt for decades.

“Budget deficits borrow from the future,” Ms Baldwin said.

“We’re asking future generations to foot part of the bill for today’s spending and leaving future governments with less room to respond to the next economic shock.”

Hack listeners who voted for Labor in the 2022 election flooded the textline.(triple j Hack)

Then there’s the issue of housing.

Around the time Mr Albanese was leaving high school in 1980, the average house in Sydney cost just shy of $65,000. The average age for a working man (that’s what the Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded back then) was just shy of $13,000.

So the average house in Sydney in 1980 when the now-PM was growing up was five times the average wage.

The median house in Sydney now costs $1.6 million, and the median wage for a man is around $78,500. In case maths isn’t your strong point, that means it would take the median wage earner 20 years to pay off a house in Sydney today.

It’s no wonder homeownership rates for young people have tanked.

You start to see why young people are feeling ignored and enraged.

Did the budget address generational inequality?

In a word, no.

Big issues with both expenditure and revenue were kicked down the road.

“This budget had precious little on either front,” Ms Baldwin said.

“If the government and opposition are serious about tackling intergenerational inequity, they will need to put forward some bold ideas before the next election.”

When asked on Hack this week what the government’s plan was to tackle generational inequality, Mr Albanese pointed to measures in the budget around higher education and free TAFE courses.

“That has made an enormous difference and is providing that opportunity to be spread, which is very important,” he said.

Political strategist and former Labor campaigns manager Kos Samaras said many voters, but younger ones in particular, are hungry for radical change.

“Australians are looking for a vision,” Mr Samaras told Hack.

He said young voters from diverse backgrounds feel especially ignored in the current political climate, and warned Labor that failing to speak to them would be detrimental.

“They think they’re invisible and want to rattle the cage.”

Fewer than two out of five voters under the age of 40 voted for Labor in the last election, and new research has found younger voters are more progressive than previous generations and aren’t getting more conservative as they age.

“[This is] all a product of a system that is stacked against [young people],” Mr Samaras said.

For a government that won office in 2022 with the lowest Labor primary vote since at least the 1930s, it’s a perception in a key constituency that Mr Albanese will need to do a lot more to shift.