A Senate inquiry into a Greens bill to lower the voting age to 16 has rejected the proposal, saying it was “found wanting”.
The bill, introduced in June 2018 by Senator Jordon Steele-John, sought to introduce voluntary voting for 16- and 17-year olds and allow enrolment for 14 and 15-year olds.
The coalition majority Senate committee report released on Friday recommended the bill “not be passed” but proposed safeguards in the event that parliament chose to legislate it.
The safeguards include a special confidential roll for 14 to 16-year-olds, strengthened electoral education for senior high school students, and no voluntary voting.
“As currently proposed, the sections in this bill that relate to voluntary voting would only serve to create two tiers of electors – an outcome that would neither benefit the Australian electoral system, or the young people this bill purports to elevate,” Committee Chair Senator James McGrath wrote in the report.
“Ultimately, in this test of our electoral processes, this bill was found wanting.”
Labor senators supported the government senators’ recommendation to reject the bill, but argued additional consideration be made to extending the vote to younger Australians in the post-election review.
Labor members of the committee also supported a push for additional civics education in the final years of high school.
In a dissenting report Greens Senator Larissa Waters accused the government of cherry-picking and said the report didn’t “pay heed” to the “sheer weight of submissions” by young people and youth advocacy groups in favour of the proposition.
“The single recommendation contained within this report is almost entirely disconnected from the evidence that it heard and serves as yet another example of the failure of our political system to listen to young people, therefore reinforcing the urgency of the franchise to this cohort,” she said.
Senator Waters also noted a lack of detail about the Austrian experience, which had seen a “consistently higher turnout of first time voters” since lowering the voting age to 16 and is currently ranked equal-highest for electoral turnout of voters between 15 and 30 years of age.