JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Voting age debate hits Australia

Austria has lowered its voting age to 16, and Scotland may follow for its upcoming independence referendum.

But Australia should not follow suit, according to an ANU academic.

Professor Ian McAllister said allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote would not make young people more politically engaged or create a fairer democratic system.

In his study "The Politics of Lowering the Voting Age in Australia: Evaluating the Evidence," Mr McAllister used data from the Australian Election Study survey to evaluate some of the most commonly used arguments for giving younger people the vote.

Mr McAllister said 18, or sometimes 17, was the age when young people gained the right to do many things, including marry and drive a car, so a similar rule on voting age was not inequitable.

He said there was no evidence young people would become more engaged with the political process if the voting age was lowered, and young people had no more politic al knowledge now than they did two decades ago.

"In terms of political interest there's been very little change over the past 25 to 30 years, which surprised me a bit because if you look at the expansion of tertiary education... to 30 per cent of the population, you'd expect young people to be more interested in politics, but in fact they're not," he said.

ANU Politics and International Relations undergraduate student Amy MacKinnon, 23, disagreed.

Ms McKinnon recently debated Professor McAllister on the subject of lowing the voting age, and she said allowing 16-year-olds to vote would fight voter apathy.

"I think we need to catch people at a really young age and really teach them what the consequences of their vote really is," she said.

Ms McKinnon said older people were more aware of how public policy could change their lives.

"They've owned a house, they've paid rent, they've had a job, they've been tax payers and they've really had to stand up and pay attention because it has effected them, I don't think young people are aware of how significant the debates going on in Australia are," she said.

20 comments

  • If the voting age was lowered, political parties would have to think about and promote themselves to 16 and 17 year olds though, which is not such a bad thing! It'd give this age group more respect, especially since we live in a society where young people are not able to reach the milestones in life at the same ages their parents were able to (leaving home, buying a home, earning an income that can support themselves independantly etc).

    Commenter
    snaddle
    Date and time
    April 04, 2013, 2:09PM
    • "They" always have the answer, raise the drinking age, range the driving age, lower the voting age and on and on. Young people are required to "learn or earn", meaning that the bulk of them will remain in school until at least 17 and more likely 18. They will be vulnerable to teachers’ opinions and political persuasion, given the left leaning school system, I wonder what side of politics ' they' are on?

      Commenter
      Irene
      Date and time
      April 04, 2013, 2:17PM
      • No worse than the feral leftist APS staff.

        Commenter
        Evanism
        Date and time
        April 04, 2013, 5:10PM
    • 17 year olds vote I don't think so they are still enjoying their youth we keep lowing the age on a lot of things and not allow them to be kids that they still are. Amy MacKinnon at 23 is still a kid hasn't really lived life and still has a long way to go yet. Think about it people they are kids not adults.

      Commenter
      Wayne
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      April 04, 2013, 2:18PM
      • Shouldn't young people have a chance to learn some life skills before they reach voting age, so that they truly understand the policies they are voting on and how they will affect peoples lives. At the moment it is bad enough that a lot of people vote on personality rather than policy. People need to learn the overall picture and understand the outcome of a policy and how people may or not be affected by it. 16 is rather young even by today's standards to understand the struggles of parents the disadvantaged and aged pensioners.

        Commenter
        tara
        Date and time
        April 04, 2013, 2:37PM
        • Tara, you point out that people should be politically astute before being able to vote?

          My 68 year old mother in law is half insane, shut in, politically rusted on and completely delusional. My 17 year old daughter is more worldly. 17 and she can identify and debate the issues, old mum can barely tell you who the PM is.

          Fair?

          If we force people to a test before they vote, poor labor will loose in a landslide (may they do so, anyway).

          Commenter
          Evanism
          Date and time
          April 04, 2013, 5:15PM
      • Yeah, I'd really hate to see politicians start pandering to the 16 years old voters. The last thing any of us need is to have Christopher Pyne dressed up as Brintney Spears in political attack commercials.

        Commenter
        Hospes
        Date and time
        April 04, 2013, 2:42PM
        • Christopher Pyne wouldn't need to do anything: he already looks about only 12 years old - even though he has 4 children.

          Commenter
          Eudaimonia
          Location
          Kingston
          Date and time
          April 05, 2013, 4:11PM
      • Such a proposal should not be considered. The right to vote is a contract between a person and the Electoral Office. If you fail to vote, then you are fined.

        16 year olds are not adults, so two issues spring to mind - firstly, who is responsible for the debt if the 'child' does not vote, I would think that would fall to the parent (who theoretically would have to give permission first but as voting would now be a legal right then they could hardly say no, to do so would be against the law) and secondly, a child (under 18) cannot enter into a contract, so he/she would be breaking the law by voting AND by not voting - interesting.

        Commenter
        fawkesp
        Date and time
        April 04, 2013, 4:00PM
        • I can't think of many 16-17 year olds that would taking voting on politics seriously.

          Commenter
          BB
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          April 04, 2013, 4:03PM

          More comments

          Comments are now closed

          Follow Us

          Featured advertisers

          Special offers

          Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo