Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 5 August 2021) . . Page.. 2352 ..
inquiry. The committee looks forward to monitoring the important area of electoral law and policy throughout the term of the Assembly.
I thank the members of the committee, Dr Paterson, and Ms Clay. When you have three members from three different parties looking into electoral matters that is a recipe for an acrimonious and difficult inquiry, but it was not. I really appreciated the efforts of Dr Paterson and Ms Clay. We certainly did not agree on everything, but by virtue of the fact there are 52 recommendations—there is a dissenting report from Ms Clay that she will speak to—the inquiry was conducted in good spirit, with the tripartisan view that we want to make sure we have got the best electoral laws in Australia.
I particularly thank the secretary, Brianna McGill. It was a very complex and difficult area—electoral law is an evolving space and there are lots of differing views. The advice and support provided by Brianna McGill was again of the highest possible quality. I thank her for the work she has done supporting the committee, and I commend the report to the Assembly.
MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (10.50): I note my appreciation for the cooperative and constructive work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety inquiry into the 2020 election. There are some really valuable recommendations in the report about how we should conduct elections. For instance, the committee recommended that we abolish roadside banners, explore options to reinstate the $10,000 cap on political donations, and explore options to ban donations from foreign sources and gambling entities.
I have lodged a dissenting report because there are two areas that need further exploration where my committee colleagues disagreed. The first is about lowering the age of voting. The committee received three submissions in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 or 17 and three submissions against it. Those in favour of lowering the voting age noted that young people already prove themselves capable of making complex decisions with big consequences—like driving, working full time and paying tax.
One submission also referred to climate change. It noted that no-one under 40 years old has even lived in a year with global average temperatures below those of last century. This is a compelling argument given the political activism we see from school strike for climate and from the Youth Climate Justice Movement. It is particularly significant in the ACT because of the Assembly’s 2019 declaration that we are in a climate emergency. That recognition of the climate emergency should inform all of the decisions made by this Assembly and by its committees.
Those opposed to lowering the voting age referred to operational challenges in enforcement, education and resourcing. They also noted legislative barriers and claimed it would not increase political participation. These are all valid implementation issues and they would need to be worked through, but they are not good reasons to avoid considering the fundamental question of whether young people be allowed to vote.