Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 2 December 2021) . . Page.. 4098 ..
Edward Krutsch, the national director of Run For It, a youth organisation working to get more young people engaged in politics, told us this adamantly:
So many 16-18 year olds are already actively engaged in our democracy, they are attending rallies, agitating on social media or organising for better conditions in their workplaces. It’s only fair that we allow these young people to have a say on who best represents them in parliament.
Extending the legal voting age in the ACT to allow 16 year olds to vote would be an instrumental step in assuring that more young people become politically engaged, and our democracy becomes more accessible for all of us.
This does not discount the responsibility of government, and elected members for that matter, to ensure that young people are woven into conversations within our democracy. Politicians need to do better at speaking to the hopes and aspirations of young people. As elected members, we need to adapt to the ways young people are politically engaging. We have a responsibility to represent people within our respective electorates. It is not enough to expect young people to adapt to the same institutional structures that they are criticising, no matter what side of this chamber you sit on. If young people are using social media to engage, if they are using schools to discuss big issues and if they are protesting on the streets of our city, we need to adapt, and we need to listen.
The politics of lowering the voting age were first introduced to this Assembly by the ACT Greens in 1996. We have been talking about young people voting in the ACT for 25 years now. Enough blah, blah, blah. We need to change. In 1996, when this idea was first proposed, my ACT Greens predecessor and former member for Molonglo, Kerrie Tucker, spoke to the likeness of empowering young people to vote with the history of the suffragettes and First Nations activists. She said:
We would all see it as unjust to deny women or indigenous people the right to vote now; yet the response of our colleagues is similar to the response of the establishment when votes for indigenous people or women were flagged in the past.
Ms Tucker spoke to the substance of why the ACT Greens support this policy. We believe that politicians have a responsibility to empower not just the next generation but every member of our society to be an active part of their democracy. In a healthy democracy, young people should be supported to be engaged public citizens. It is not a joke or a pipe dream; it is the reality of the implementation of public policy in this place. We as elected parliamentarians owe it to young people to take their concerns seriously. I think it is time we started listening to young people and stopped talking over them. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (4.01): I seek leave to give Mr Braddock’s tabling speech on his behalf.