Missing voters

By Thomas McLaughlin, produced for online by Jessica Riga

23-year-old Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John will introduce a bill into parliament allowing citizens as young as 16 to vote.

Greens Senator Jordon Steel-John
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John wants to lower the voting age to 16.

Young Australians across the country are demanding democratic power in the form of voting rights, and Senator Steele-John hopes his bill will deliver exactly that.

Fellow Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon believes lowering the legal voting age from 18 to 16 will energise Australian politics.

“It’s a big positive. It’s a positive for the political system, for our society generally in an eclectic way and for the individuals. Having engagement in public life is very enriching and I think that would help enhance that,” she says.

Senator Rhiannon accepts the change would strengthen her party’s political constituency, but says it’s about more than that.

“Kids should be determined in turns of what’s the right thing to do and how we build up and strengthen our democratic system. So yes, the polling often shows large numbers of young people compared with older people vote for the Greens, but that’s not how this should be judged.”

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) chair Katie Acheson says young Australians have been overlooked in the political domain, but deserve recognition as much as any other voters.

“Young people are intelligent, they have really strong, clear ideas about what should happen in the world and they deserve the right to be able to use their democratic process to have politicians listen to them and enact what they think is right as well,” AYAC chair Katie Acheson says.

She says Australia’s youth are just as politically articulate as any other age group, and focus on real issues over party alignment.

Bill Shorten’s Labor party called for the voting age to be lowered to 16 back in 2015, but they are yet to announce whether they back the Greens’ new policy.

Young Labor representative Luke Richmond agrees with the bill, believing Australia’s youth already hold adult status within many parts of our society.

“At present we have a state of affairs where 16 and 17-year-olds are able to work full time, they’re able to pay taxes, they’re functionally treated as adults within society but are deprived the right of democratic enfranchisement,” Mr Richmond says.

He says many issues in society directly impact our youth.

“So when you talk about things like wage theft that is happening on a systemic basis through society, that is particularly targeted towards young people who are working in a casualised work force with very little understanding of the rights that have been given to them through the fair rights commission.”