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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2605


Mr STEELE HALL(4.35) —I find the proposal set out in proposed new section 41A strange in the width of its application. It states:

Any person who is 17 years of age and who, if he were 18 years of age, would be entitled to have his name placed on the Roll for a Subdivision may send or deliver a claim to have his name placed on the Roll-

I am sure that the Committee would want-certainly members of the Opposition would want-anyone who is 18 before or on the day of polling to have the right to exercise his or her electoral entitlement. It would be wrong to take any other view. There is no reason why the mechanics of when an election is called, or a particular view of any stage in the development of voting rights, should make any difference. There is no reason why any person who is 18 right up to the date of the election, should be prohibited from voting but an enormous step seems to have been taken into a vacuum. This proposed new action states that the name of a person who is 17 can be placed on the roll. Is this a move to reduce the voting age to 17? That is the question that must be asked. The Government has not said that it intends to do any such thing but the question 'Why 17?' must be asked.


Mr Young —Because it is before 18.


Mr STEELE HALL —Yes, but why not 16; why 17? It can be argued that they will be enrolling progressively, that they will not be loose and unenrolled around the place, as the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) has said. But there is no particular reason for the age to be 17; it could be 17 1/2. I suppose that would be administratively awkward, but is it not also administratively awkward to clutter the roll with the names of people who cannot vote? I suppose that the Government intends to go out, get the names of hundreds of thousands of people and put them on the roll and then put a special mark against their names which shows that they cannot yet vote. Does it intend to put their date of birth there ? How will they be differentiated? It is going to involve a lot of effort on the part of electoral officers. The Government will have a roll with two standards-a sort of social membership and a full membership-


Dr Klugman —An associate membership-


Mr STEELE HALL —The honourable member has been a very good Chairman of the Committee. It is a good term and the Government should have put it in the legislation-the term associate-


Mr Hunt —Elector.


Mr STEELE HALL —Yes, or first class and second class elector. I do not know how it is to be done, but that is the situation. If the Government were to see some immediate advantage in having an election there would be a scramble to mark up the rolls somehow. I suppose that the computer would be able to do that in a few hours, but surely it is untidy. I see no necessity for it. It seems to me that again one must ask: Is it a move to 17-year-old voting? As honourable members can imagine, representations will certainly be made from people. They will say: 'You let me put my name on the roll two months ago for an election but I cannot vote. Reduce the voting age to 17.' That is another argument, one that I would not approve at this time. It is open to great argument, if the Government wants to do that, but surely it is not the intention that we should build that situation into the legislation until we decide to take that step. Inevitably it is a push for 17-year-old voting; it cannot be anything else, knowing the realities of politics. People who are half way to anything will want to go all the way there. My amendment would, I believe sensibly, confer full voting rights on the prospective elector as long as he or she is 18 on or before election day, and it would take out the make-believe or fiction part of the roll that will be created by having a sort of associate elector.

As honourable members will see if they read my proposed amendment, it ensures that after the cessation of alteration of the rolls, and prior to the date of election, a person who is to be 18 years of age within that time can have his name put on the roll. It is as simple as that. It seems to me that no one is denied anything. However, a much tidier roll will result and an expectation will not be built up in people who are on the roll but cannot vote that they ought to be able to vote. Surely the Government does not want, given all the apathy and dissatisfaction about the electoral system that it has described as existing in the community, to breed another great area of dissatisfaction based on the knowledge that one is a non-voting enroller. That seems not to make any sense at all. Therefore, I move:

(7) Clause 27, page 58, proposed section 41A, omit sub-section (1), substitute the following sub-section:

'(1) Any person who- (a) is 17 years of age;

(b) will attain the age of 18 years after the time specified in sub-section 43 (4) for the cessation of alterations to the Rolls and prior to the date of an election; and

(c) if he were 18 years of age would be entitled to have his name placed on the Roll for a Subdivision,may send or deliver a claim to have his name placed on the Roll for that Subdivision to any Divisional Returning Officer.'.