Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1446..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
That this Assembly:
(1) notes with concern estimates that as many as one in four people aged 18-24 are not on the electoral roll;
(2) calls on the A.C.T. Electoral Commission to examine ways to encourage young people to enrol to vote such as sending out enrolment information with Year 12 school results, provisional drivers license applications and proof of age cards;
(3) recognises that existing educational programs of civics education play an important role in including young people in processes of electoral education and participation; and
(4) calls on the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services to refer current civics programs used in schools to the curriculum review team for investigation into the adequacy of these programs.
I take the opportunity in National Youth Week to raise the issue of youth participation in our democracy, expressing the concern of many in our community that a large number of our younger citizens are not yet registered to vote and as such are not participating fully in our society. This concern is shared by electoral authorities, who have been working in recent years to address the problem, with some success. I commend their efforts and hope that by raising these issues today, we can bring more ideas and resources to solve this problem.
Australians aged over 18 are required by law to enrol to vote. The ACT has a joint roll agreement with the Australian Electoral Commission. Under these arrangements electors need to complete only one form to enrol for federal and territory government elections. Enrolment peaks around elections. The increased activity of political parties and electoral authorities, combined with the increased media focus on politics, undoubtedly results in more enrolments. It is widely accepted that a considerable number of young people delay their enrolment until an election is announced and the rolls are about to close.
According to Australian Electoral Commission figures, the seven-day cut-off period following the calling of an election is the busiest time for enrolment activity. In the 1998 federal election, approximately 350,000 people enrolled or updated their enrolment in that seven-day period. In the 1999 republic referendum, 315,000 enrolments were processed, half of them-155,000-from first-time voters.
However, data from the 2001 federal and ACT elections show that, even after this peak in enrolments, around 13 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the ACT were not on the roll. In the period between elections, this figure can rise up to 25 per cent. The ACT Electoral Commissioner, Phillip Green, estimates that 22 per cent of eligible Australian citizens in the 18 to 24 age group are currently not on the roll. This is slightly higher than the national average.
Mr Green anticipates that in the lead-up to the ACT and federal elections this year this number will drop to around 10 per cent. Whilst this is an improvement on 25 per cent