Voting age debate hits Australia

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.

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