Efforts to lower voting age in ACT defeated

By Melissa Coade

August 6, 2021

electoral role being marked off
A record number of Australians will vote in the federal election on May 21. (Laura Primo/Adobe)

The ACT Greens have vowed to continue ‘the fight for young Canberrans’ after a decision by the standing committee on justice and community safety not to recommend that the territory’s government consider lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.

Jonathan Davis, the ACT Greens spokesperson for young people, said his party wanted to empower the next generation to participate in the decisions that will impact the future of Canberra.

“We believe that in a healthy democracy, young people should be supported to engage with government and politics,” a statement from Davis read.

“The views of young people must be elevated when it comes to decisions that affect their future. We will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of young people.”

The standing committee tabled its report recommending a series of reforms to the ACT government, including a ban on roadside electoral campaign corflutes, banning political donations from the gambling industry, and imposing a $10,000 cap on political donations. 

But, the decision to not to investigate the possibility of lowering the ACT voting age to include 16- and 17-year-olds prompted Jo Clay, an ACT Greens committee member, to table a dissenting report. Her point was to underscore the different stance of her party on the issue. 

The Greens argue that for too long government policy has excluded young people from decisions that will affect their lives. They want children and young people’s views to be given the same weight on matters that will impact them.

With respect to the current and future challenges of climate change, the party says that nobody under the age of 40 has lived in a year with global average temperatures below that of the last century. 

“Students are learning about climate change- learning about the science and about the solutions and demanding that Governments act. Yet when children and young people take action to speak out in politics, their voices are minimised, and their judgement questioned,” a Greens submission to the inquiry read.

“If young people wish to take part in our democracy, they should have that option. We should give them a chance to have their say where it counts most – at the ballot box.”

Davis added that lowering the voting age was a long-time ACT Greens policy.

“We will continue to fight for young Canberrans to have a say about their future,” he said. 

The ACT Greens commended the committee for backing other recommendations to the inquiry into the ACT Election and Electoral Act.

“We are delighted the committee has made these recommendations, which match what the ACT Green’s submission to the inquiry called for to clean up our democracy,” Andrew Braddock said. 

“Canberrans have told us they want a political system that puts them first, that they can engage with and can trust.

“Integrity, accountability and transparency in politics are vital to a healthy democracy and we believe the committee recommendations will support a voter-first approach, ensuring democracy is not bought, but is instead genuine and equitable.”


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