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Australia's youngest Senator will introduce bill today to Lower Voting Age to 16

Media Release
Jordon Steele-John 18 Jun 2018

Australia’s youngest ever Senator, Jordon Steele-john, will today introduce an historic piece of legislation to lower the voting age to 16 and improve democratic engagement calling it an ‘opportunity for his generation to be heard.’

“16 and 17 year olds can legally work full-time and pay taxes, own and drive a car contributing to the maintenance of our roads and transport infrastructure, have sex and make medical decisions about their bodies, yet they can’t vote!” Senator Steele-john said.

"They can be tried as an adult by our justice system, join our Army, Navy or Air Force, legally sign a tenancy agreement or become part of a political party. Our society treats 16 and 17 year olds as adults in so many ways yet politics ignores them almost completely.

“The old parties view the perceived disengagement of young people as politically convenient but what this approach is doing is turning a generation, who cares deeply about the future, away.

"Due to the rise of digital and online media platforms, especially social media, 16 and 17 year olds are more aware of, and taking a greater interest in, the issues affecting them such as climate change, rising youth unemployment and workforce casualisation and housing affordability.

“If the Australian political establishment actually listened to young people and looked past the three year election cycle then we would see real action on these issues, but instead they continue to lock us out. Young people care deeply about our future and the world around us and yet we rarely get a seat at the table in making those decisions.

“Lowering the voting age to 16 also represents an exciting chance to reinvigorate the way we teach civics education by bringing democratic participation into the classroom in a tangible new way and helping young people to form good voting habits early from a sound understanding of our electoral processes, not just however their parents vote.

“But, we need to see state and federal governments working together with schools and teachers to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Whether it's in Australia or globally, young people are proving their right to be included in the democratic process. This reform is just another example of how the Green movement is committed to realising the rights of our generation."

DETAILS ABOUT THE BILL: 

Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Lowering Voting Age and Increasing Voter Participation) Bill 2018 - Explanatory Memorandum:

The changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 are intended to lower the minimum age of a voter in Australian federal elections and referenda from 18 years to 16 years of age, while keeping the minimum age of compulsory voting and eligibility to stand as a federal parliamentarian at 18 years of age. The changes also allow 14 and 15 year olds to be added to the electoral roll in preparation for their eligibility to vote at 16 years of age. 

The changes to the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 are intended to ensure that the Electoral Commissioner includes 16 and 17 year olds in the certified list of voters and that 16 and 17 year olds will not be given a penalty notice if they do not vote. 

The Bill also provides that Australians who are eligible to vote but who are not yet on the electoral roll or are not enrolled at their correct address, can enrol to vote or update their address at a polling centre on election day, or at an early voting centre, and will be deemed to be enrolled at that address and eligible to cast a provisional vote at that time.

Key facts:

  • Amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 years of age;
  • Maintain the minimum age of compulsory voting at 18 to provide a ‘grace period’ for young people to engage with the political process; 
  • Maintain eligibility to stand as a Federal Parliamentarian at 18 to prioritise children being in school and facilitate better civics education and democratic participation;
  • Amend the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 to ensure 16 and 17 year old voters are not penalised if they do not vote; and
  • Improve democratic engagement across the board by allowing enrolment and changes to the electoral roll to take place in person at an early voting centre or on polling day. 
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