The Greens Will Introduce A Bill To Lower The Voting Age To 16 Next Year Bc Teens Are ‘Left Out’


The Australian Greens will make lowering the federal voting age from 18 to 16 a legislative priority in 2023 and it is about fkn time politicians formally discuss this.

Federal MP for Brisbane and the Greens’ spokesperson for youth Stephen Bates submitted a Notice of Intention to move a bill to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote on Monday. It will be the first Private Members Bill (a bill that’s not part of the government’s planned legislation) of the year when parliament returns in February.

“Sixteen and 17-year-olds shouldn’t have to worry about these things like climate change or the housing crisis or HECS debts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but this is the society we’ve created for them and that is why they are concerned,” Bates told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“They worry because these issues directly affect them and the decisions of politicians and governments over successive decades that have led to this scenario.”

Australians aged 16 and 17 can work, drive, enlist in the defence force, go to jail and even become members of political parties. Teenagers can join the Greens and Young Labor from age 15 and the Young Liberals from 16. But they can’t have a say in the country’s future.

Bates’ electorate of Brisbane has the second youngest demographic in the country, so he says he’s no stranger to seeing “really, really passionate” high schools kids taking action to fight for what the issues they care about in other ways.

“They have no other choice. They’re being left out of the critical decisions that impact them and want their voices to be heard,” he said.

“At the moment young people see government as a hindrance to those issues so they have to protest outside the political system to try and affect change and I think giving them this additional option inside the political system is really beneficial and will force politicians to actually listen to young people for once.”

Several countries already around the world allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in elections and the most recent to announce voting age legislation reform was New Zealand just last month. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her government would draft legislation to change the voting age after the NZ supreme court ruled that the voting age should be lowered to 16 to not breach young people’s human rights.

This also isn’t the first time Australian governments have been called upon to lower the voting age. Several submissions to the joint standing committee on electoral matters made in September called for expanded voting rights, including from the deputy vice-chancellor of the University of New South Wales Professor George Williams who said the changes should be incremental and voting could be voluntary for teens at first.

Williams argued it was “notoriously difficult to get 18-year-olds to enrol and vote” as they have loads of other things going on at that age, like finishing school, getting into uni and well, hitting the club.

“On the other hand, 16 and 17-year-olds tend to be in a more stable family environment and still at school,” he said, which would make enrolling to vote a higher priority.

In February, 30 academics and advocates also submitted to the government their strong support for the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021, which would lower the ACT’s voting age to 16.

Submission lead author Associate Professor Faith Gordon from ANU said at the time: “Young people already make a host of important contributions to socio-economic and political activities, and have many rights and responsibilities in society.”

Former opposition leader Bill Shorten made an election promise to lower the voting age back in 2016 but no Labor leaders since have made a similar commitment. Pauline Hanson did however try to raise the voting age to 21.

Bates’ bill will suggest voting rights are extended to 16 and 17 year olds on a compulsory basis, but that the financial penalty for failing to vote be waived for them.

He also called the counter-arguments to allowing young people to vote — like that perhaps they weren’t mature enough or didn’t yet have the cognitive ability to form rational decisions — were “lazy”.

“We would never question anyone else’s right to have their own opinion and to be able to vote,” he said.

“There are so many things we expect them to do in the realm of adulthood but we deny them the vote.

“The best way to dispel this myth that 16 and 17-year-olds don’t know what they’re doing and they shouldn’t have the right to vote is actually getting them to talk about what they would vote for and why they want to vote. Thats how we’ll get people to see they do have cognitive ability to make rational decisions.”

Private Members Bills often don’t become legislation because they, by nature, aren’t guaranteed to be backed by the government, which holds the majority. But Bates said he was “genuinely really excited” and optimistic for the bill getting through the lower house because it was an issue that had come up a lot in public discourse lately.

“Australia has previously led the way in democracy, being among the first nations to give women the right to vote. It is time for us to pave the way forward again,” he said.

“We’re going to make something big of this.”