Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 2 December 2021) . . Page.. 4099 ..
MS CLAY: My colleague Andrew Braddock is co-sponsoring this bill. Unfortunately, he is not able to be here today, so he has asked me to make some comments on his behalf. I am really happy to do so. We are both passionate about this subject. Mr Braddock is the ACT Greens spokesperson for democracy, and he wants to expand voting rights to create a more vibrant and democratic future. I would like to see young people get a say in whether or not we save their future and their planet.
I will start, as I so often do, with the school strikers. My colleague Mr Davis has already outlined this extremely well. The school strikers are amazing. They are led by a legion of articulate, passionate 16-year-old girls, and they are political. They are already political; it is obvious. One of our staffers often speaks about walking out of school at 16 to protest the Iraq War. Other staff of ours talk about attending rallies on racism, sexual harassment, First Nations justice, climate change—all while they were at school. Young people are already political.
With pandemics, climate change, housing affordability and intergenerational inequality, young people do not actually have a choice about whether to be political or not. They live in this world and they live with the political decisions that we are taking, and these decisions have never been more important. This world is inherently political and they are stuck with those decisions.
We make key decisions about issues affecting young people every day. We ask them to comply with our rules and we ask them to take on so many responsibilities; yet we are not formally accountable to those 16- and 17-year-olds. This is despite them already being capable and engaged, and already being political participants in our society. Many of them have finished school and joined the workforce. Some of them are paying taxes. Some of them are supporting themselves. We have heard what some of them were doing before the age of 16; yet they cannot vote.
This bill to expand voting rights will empower young people to have more say over their future. It will concentrate the minds of all of us in here on considering what issues are important to young people, and to represent young people better than we have been.
We looked at this issue recently on one of the committees on which I sit, the justice and community safety committee. I am speaking here in my capacity as an MLA; I am not speaking for that committee. That committee decided that the current voting age of 18 should remain the same. I was pretty disappointed, actually. I lodged a dissenting report. We received three submissions in favour of looking at changing the age and three submissions against.
The submissions in favour of investigating this all engaged directly with the heart of the matter. They all looked at what young people are capable of doing, they looked at the future that we are making for them, and they looked at the ethics and the politics of the issue. The three submissions against were disappointing. They merely looked at operational and legislative barriers to making a change. That is literally our job here—to decide what we should do and work our way through the operational and legislative