Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says that people aged 16 and 17 should be allowed to see their views reflected in Parliament and be given the right to vote.
In his speech at the NSW Young Labor conference today in Sydney, Shorten said that research undertaken by the Whitlam Institute supports his claims that people as young as 16 want more of a political voice. According to Shorten, the Institute has shown that young Australians want increased involvement in the political arena, and that they deserve a say come election time.
Giving young people more trust will increase their political engagement, Shorten says.
“There is a democracy deficit between young people who are disengaged in the decisions of the Liberal government, and a sense that nothing can change.”
“I believe that it is important we tackle the apathy and cynicism of young people towards politics.
“My message to the Liberal party is let’s trust our young people because they’re the people who are going to have to deal with the decisions that we’re making right now.”
Citing that in a number of Australian states people aged 16 and 17 are legally allowed to drive, pay taxes and are able to join the military, Shorten believes there is no reason why being below the age of 18 should stifle political agency.
It’s a surprising stance that comes just days after the Opposition Leader’s worst performance in a Newspoll ever, with only 17 per cent of respondents believing he would be a better Prime Minister compared to Malcolm Turnbull’s 67 per cent.
Shorten’s argument is one that the federal government has labelled a headline-grabbing gimmick, hinting that Shorten is looking to win over younger people who typically have left-leaning views. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News this morning that he can’t see the push for a younger voting age getting traction.
“I don’t believe there will be much public support (for it),” later explaining to the ABC, “instinctively my view is that 18 is the white line in the sand.”
“Let’s see how the debate unfolds, if indeed there is a debate.”
Do you think the legal voting age should be lowered to 16?