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Tuesday, 13 March 1973
Page: 494


Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - As I have listened to speakers on the other side of the House I have found myself at a loss to understand the great mystery surrounding the question of lowering of the voting age. It appears to me that these honourable members all support voting for 18-year-olds and over. Yet these same honourable members were in a government which left office only 3 months ago and that government not only failed to lower the voting age but consistently refused to legislate to bring about this reform. If we are to accept the word of those Opposition members that they supported this reform while they were in Government, it appears that they had the numbers in the party room to achieve this reform but were unable to count heads. What a golden opportunity these bright men of the Liberal Party missed. They were so closely knit as members of a government that they were unable to ascertain who their friends were and where support for change would come from. Today, I suggest, these Opposition members have been trying to pull the legs of the people of Australia. They will not succeed in hoodwinking the electorate and fooling the youth of this nation. 1 have great admiration for young people and I respect their good judgment.

I am particularly fond of the young people of the Lilley electorate. I say this because prior to the 1972 Federal election a number of schools in the electorate conducted mock elections and on each occasion the Australian Labor Party was victorious. This indicates the intelligence of the youth in the Lilley electorate, the good judgment that they showed and how they were able to anticipate the final outcome of the election. I suggest that this indicates that these young people are interested in political affairs and keep themselves informed.

Since the election I have visited many schools in the area at the invitation of the principals and have found that students of today are interested in the future of Australia. They are interested in government and they are keen to learn how government operates. No matter what excuses are made by the honourable members opposite for not lowering the voting age, no matter how much they say and to what extent they tell the people of Australia that they have supported this measure, the cold hard facts are that in government they failed the youth of Australia. They failed it in more ways than one.

The performance of the past LiberalCountry Party governments has shown not only that they were out of tune with youth but also that they are out of touch with people generally, out of touch with public opinion and out of touch with current trends. I am very much aware that the young people of the nation have an essential contribution to make which I feel will be to our benefit as well as to theirs. I am proud to support a government which is prepared to provide an opportunity for youth to have a say in the affairs of Australia. I firmly believe that the whole of the community has the right to determine the kind of future it wants.

Looking to the future 1 believe that we should understand the needs, the desires, the ambitions and the hopes of young people. During the last election campaign in my electorate the people in that area who worked on my behalf and on behalf of the Australian Labor Party were predominantly young people who were aware of what was occurring in this great nation of ours and were clamouring for change. We hear suggestions that young people at 18 might not be old enough to vote because they are not aware of what is required, but 1 say that the attitude of the majority of youth today puts the lie to that sort of suggestion. I have sufficient faith in the youth of Australia to believe that it will protect the nation, its people, its environment and its future much more effectively than have conservative governments over the past 23 years.

Youth has shown through its actions that it is concerned about the environment and its protection and is prepared to act against pollution of our waters and the atmosphere, lt is genuinely concerned about peace in the world and it is deeply interested in the survival of this planet and its people. I suggest to the House that in no era has youth done more to bring these matters to the notice of the world generally than it has during the past few years. I suggest that my confidence in youth is not misplaced when I say that youth of the 1970s and beyond will not be party to subjecting the aged, the sick, the invalid, and the widowed to conditions of poverty as 23 years of conservative government has done.

Much lip service has been given to the matter of lowering the voting age to 18 years. However, with the exception of Western Australia, only Labor governments have taken the initiative and acted to introduce the necessary legislation to bring about this reform. We have heard honourable members opposite today say that they support this measure. 1 think that everyone in Australia is aware that they had ample opportunity to do something about it. The disqualification of voters because of age by conservatives was consistent with their attitude to adult franchise and falls into a category similar to their opposition to the principle of one vote one value. I believe and anticipate that that principle will be attacked later during a debate in this House. Change is usually opposed by conservatives, but the sweet winds of change are already wafting over this continent and Australians are happily accepting them.

Perhaps the Opposition is well aware that the young people of today are more politically aware than they were in the past. Looking in retrospect at the opposition to electoral reform - giving the vote to the young people of Australia - and listening to the debate that has taken place today, it appears to me that the defeat of the then Western Australian Government - not a Labor government - after lowering the voting age brought fear of defeat to the Liberal-Country Party governments in other States and in the Federal sphere. They opposed this change and would do nothing about it because they could see that young people supported the Australian Labor Party in Western Australia. That might be the reason that the previous Commonwealth Government was hesitant to move and take action to bring about this just reform.

Since my election I have been inundated with requests from schools and from students seeking information about political activities. Everyone should realise that young Australians are interested in government. They want the correct answers. They will not fall for the fear propaganda with which successive anti-Labor governments held office for so long. No doubt the opponents of Labor trembled upon seeing the result of last Saturday's election in South Australia in which the Dunstan Australian Labor Party Government was overwhelmingly returned to office. I would like to put on record my congratulations to Don Dunstan and his team for the wonderful victory in South Australia, a State in which a Labor government has given youth the opportunity to express a vote, and where the intelligent youth of Australia has been treated in a similar way to that handed out by other progressive countries. I am confident that when the Victorian election is held in the near future Clyde Holding and his team will have a similar success.

Everyone should accept the fact - this is finally being accepted by the other side of the House - that the people of Australia are predominantly young. They outnumber older people, that is, people of the age of the majority of honourable members opposite. They have a role to play in the community and a right to be heard. I congratulate the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) for his swift action in keeping Labor's promise to give Australian youth a fair go. The step being taken by the Government to lower the voting age is commendable.

I was somewhat taken aback by what was said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) today in a debate which is dealing with what we believe to be a social reform. It appears from what has been said by honourable members opposite that the Opposition now accepts the lowering of the voting age. But even in a debate of this nature reference had to be made about Left wing activity. It was implied that because we want to lower the voting age we want to impress or brainwash young people into following a leftist philosophy. About 18 months ago the 'Readers Digest' published an article by John D. Rockefeller III who is the eldest of the 5 Rockefeller brothers. Those of us who have some knowledge of America and its history would not suggest that John D. Rockefeller III is a leftist or a socialist. 1 heard the

Deputy Leader of the Opposition refer to protest by youth. Let rae quote very briefly from what was written by John D. Rockefeller III. He said:

For some time I have been embarked on an adventure of trying to understand the world of the young - and particularly today's student activists. I found that I have a chronological problem, being somewhat past the age of 30, and an image problem, being considerably more square than groovy. But 1 do feel that we communicated. When you show you are really interested in them, young people will not only talk - they will also listen.

He went on to say:

But the concept of law and order is meaningless without justice. We must re-examine our assumptions - and our laws. To do so, we must open channels of communication. If we do not - if we think the only answer is to suppress dissent - then the responsibility for violence will hang as heavily on us as it does on those who protest.

This was not written by a socialist, a leftist or an activist. Finally he said:

In my judgment, the best choice is simply to be responsive - to trust our young people, to listen to them, to understand them, to let them know that we care deeply. Instead of worrying about how to suppress the youth revolution, we of the older generation should be worrying about how to sustain it. The key to sustaining their idealism is more direct and effective action on the problems about which young people are concerned: the problems of the cities, of the environment, of racial injustice, of irrelevant and outmoded teachings, of overpopulation, of poverty, of war. We must take as seriously as do the young the great values we have inherited. We must be as dedicated as they in fighting injustices. We must have a sense of responsibility, individually and collectively, for resolving the massive problems of society.

A unique opportunity is before us to combine our age, experience and affluence with the energy and social consciousness of the young. Working together, almost anything is possible.

I repeat that I was somewhat taken aback to hear in a debate of this nature reference made to the irresponsibility of youth of Australia. I say again that I have every confidence in the youth of this country. I commend this Bill and trust it will receive the support of the House (Quorum formed).







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