One of the first bills to be put to parliament in 2023 will be to lower the voting age to 16 in order to give younger Australians the voice to shape their future. Although not the first time such a bill has been put to parliament, the renewed push by the Greens will make it compulsory for 16 and 17-year-olds to vote; however, those who do not vote will not be fined.
Speaking to the media, the party’s youth spokesman and Brisbane MP Stephen Bates said, “16 and 17-year-olds can drive cars, work, enlist in the Australian Defence Force, and serve their communities, yet they have no say in the composition of their own government.”
Aside from the obvious global issue of climate change, surveys have shown that young Australians are also concerned with affordable housing for those under the age of 35 and education-related debt as well as mental health.
This new bill, which will be put forward when parliament resumes in February 2023, puts the voting-age issue back on the Australian agenda. In 2018, Greens senator Jordon Steele-John introduced a bill that was found to be wanting by a committee inquiry led by LNP senator James McGrath. That bill did not make it compulsory for 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.
Currently, debates over lowering the voting age are on the table in the UK and New Zealand, where recently the NZ Supreme Court ruled that the voting age of 18 was inconsistent with the country’s Bill of Rights.
While 18 is the most common voting age around the world, a handful of countries have already lowered the voting age to 16, including Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Malta, Nicaragua, Scotland and Wales.
Australia lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 under the Whitlam government in 1973.