14 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in support of the electoral reform bill, with some caveats. I understand the Labor Party will be moving some amendments to address one of the issues the Greens have with this bill, and that is the push to close the rolls early. We worry that would disenfranchise young people, particularly first-time voters for this election, many of whom we know may not necessarily be on the roll.
We are very concerned about that change and what that would mean for voters in this election, and we have made it clear to the government that we will not be supporting legislation that will undermine the capacity of young people to get on the roll and participate in this election.
Another issue we want to address—and I will do so through amendment and also speak to that in the third reading speech—is the right of young people aged 16 and 17 to vote on an optional basis. If you are old enough to drive, if you are old enough to work and pay taxes, then surely you should be old enough to vote, surely you should be given the opportunity to participate in the great contest of ideas that is our democracy. After all, the decisions made by the government impact on the conditions of working people, they impact on their rights just as much as they do on other members of our society.
What the Greens are proposing is the inclusion of a clause that would give young people aged 16 and 17 the opportunity to vote, if they so wish. We think this would also have the added benefit of improving understanding of our political system and better engaging young people in our political system at a time when many people are feeling disenfranchised. Looking at the events that have unfolded in the other place over the last 48 hours, one can certainly understand why young people might feel disenfranchised from politics and disconnected from the Game of Thrones theatre that we see playing out in the other place.
One way we can change that is by giving young people the chance to vote, the opportunity to participate in our political system and have their voice heard. They pay their taxes, they work, they drive; surely they have a right to have a say in the direction this state takes, surely they have a right to determine who should be in government come the 19 March election.
To go to the broad elements of the bill, we are supportive of the broad intention of the bill. We understand that many of these changes have been advocated by the Electoral Commission but, should this bill advance to the next stage, we will be seeking to amend it substantially and will not be supporting it in its current form. With that, I conclude my remarks.