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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1643


Senator MAGUIRE —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Special Minister of State. I refer to the introduction of provisional electoral enrolment for 17-year-olds following changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Can the Attorney-General confirm that 17-year-olds can still take advantage of provisional electoral enrolment for the 1 December election? How many 17-year- olds are estimated to be eligible for provisional enrolment, and how many so far have taken advantage of the new system?


Senator GARETH EVANS —Senator Maguire's question highlights a very important initiative the Government has undertaken for the youth of Australia under the provisional enrolments scheme. As most honourable senators will be aware, youths who are 17 years old and who otherwise meet the eligibility criteria of residence, citizenship and so on may apply to the divisional returning officer for provisional enrolment. Provisional enrolment does not entitle young people to vote until they actually turn 18, so in that respect the minimum voting age is of course not altered. What it does guarantee is that people who turn 18 after the rolls close but before the polling date of an election and who are provisionally enrolled automatically become enrolled and, therefore, entitled to vote.

If 17-year-olds take up the opportunity to become provisionally enrolled, never again will we have the callous and outrageous situation which occurred when the Fraser Government called the snap election in early 1983 and gave one day between the announcement of the election and the closing of the polls. Because of the, by contrast, statesmanlike and responsible attitude of the present Prime Minister in playing completely straight the announcement of the election and the accompanying referendums, the electoral rolls do not close until 2 November, allowing eligible citizens time to get on the rolls before 1 December. Under the 17-year-olds provisional enrolment provisions, accordingly, anyone who is 17 now and who has a birthday between 3 November and 1 December can enrol provisionally now and become fully enrolled on his or her birthday.

As to the latter part of Senator Maguire's question, I have some figures to the end of August which indicate that as yet not very many 17-year-olds have availed themselves of the provisional enrolment scheme. For the information of honourable senators the figures are: New South Wales, 160; Victoria, 842; Queensland, 39; Western Australia, 207; South Australia, 96; Tasmania-democracy once again triumphs, as it does in Queensland-13; the Northern Territory, 7; and the Australian Capital Territory, 43.


Senator Walters —The kids know you are not interested in them.


Senator GARETH EVANS —I can understand why they would not be interested in voting for a ticket with Senator Walters on it, with respect. The total overall is 1,407 out of approximately 250,000 17-year-olds. That is of course only a very tiny proportion of the 17-year-olds in the country. We hope that many more, inspired by the honourable senator's question and enthusiasm for this important and significant scheme, will contact their local post office or the Australian Electoral Commission office so that their voices can be heard as soon as possible after they turn 18.