Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 2 December 2021) . . Page.. 4096 ..
Young people make up over half the world’s population. They deserve a say in how the world will look in 20 years. The policies that will impact the world in 20 years time are being crafted and legislated for right here, right now, by all of us. Young people should be a part of this.
Imagine the benefit it could have for the development of public policy more broadly if there was a new growing constituency that politicians had to make a conscious effort to appeal to—a constituency basing their vote on what the policy implications would be not just within this electoral cycle but 30, 40 or 50 years into the future. Perhaps we would see a cultural shift in political conversations. Perhaps we would encourage politicians and political parties of all stripes to stop being so transactional and immediate in their policy responses, instead framing a more deliberative, long term vision for this country.
Young people deserve this reality. After all, young people powered our society through this pandemic. While we were comfortable at home, occasionally ducking out for a drive-through meal, it was a young person that served us. On the rare trip we would take out of our house during lockdown to go to Coles and Woolies to do our grocery shop, it was a young person packing our bags. When we headed down to grab our COVID-19 shot at the local pharmacy, we would have been greeted by a number of young people. They propped up our community while we were staying home.
Young people did their part to protect our community. They faced both the best and worst realities of our society every day. Young people are smart and they are more than capable of deciding who should represent us in this place.
In fact, I will make a controversial point. I would bet that every single member in this Assembly owes their seat to the unpaid labour of somebody under the age of 18 who wore shirts branded with our names, handed out how-to-vote cards with our faces on them, and maybe even voted for us in preselection in our respective political parties. Young people are engaged in our society, and they should be engaged in our democracy. They clearly are. So why do they not yet have the right to vote?
I joined the ACT Greens in 2008. I was 16 years old. Within our party I saw many other young people around me and thought that the ACT Greens must hold a youth membership unparalleled by any other political party in Australia. But if the 2020 election showed us anything, it was that young people have a diverse range of political views. Young people are progressive. Young people are conservative. Young people are anarchists or Christian fundamentalists. Heck, some young people are even Marxist Communists. Young people have agency. That goes for the many young people that I saw in polling booths during the 2012, 2016 and 2020 elections in their respective green, red and blue shirts.
At the time the idea of empowering 16- and 17-year-olds to vote was first proposed in this Assembly, it was former Chief Minister Gary Humphries who asserted that the motion was purely a ploy to gain Greens votes. I heard a bit of conjecture today, Madam Speaker. However, young people are not a homogeneous group but a cohort that represents the diversity of our society as a whole. Just imagine how inappropriate