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Tuesday, 13 March 1973
Page: 487


Order! There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr KEOGH - This afternoon the honourable member for Kooyong referred to the High Court decision last year in a case which was forced upon the High Court by the failure of the previous Government to accept its true responsibilities. In the decision of the

High Court the Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick said, in part:

The selection of a minimum age for voting was a legislative matter and clearly not a judicial function.

Of course, we support that opinion of the Chief Justice. That is one of the reasons why it is fitting for me to congratulate the Minister for Services and Property this afternoon for having the foresight to introduce this measure into the House in the early days of the Labor Government. We do not intend to shirk any responsibility. Let me remind the honourable member for Kooyong that the enlightenment of the electorate, as shown in the last election, which returned a Labor government, certainly will be rewarded by measures, of which this measure is typical. The need to lower the voting age was far too progressive a step for the previous Government to take, hesitant and indecisive as we knew it to be. As I have said, it endeavoured to throw the responsibility onto the court, but in the clearest terms the Chief Justice rejected that responsibility and threw it back to this Parliament where it belongs.

It is interesting to note the wide cross-section of opinion which supports action such as that which we are considering today. 1 quote from a statement reported in the 'Australian* of 17th July last by Father Dethlefs who was at that time a full time chaplain of the Young Christian Students Movement in Queensland. Father Dethlefs was- commenting on a statement that had been made in Brisbane the previous week by the then Prime Minister that the voting age would not be reduced for last year's Federal election. Father Dethlefs said:

Ten years ago a case could not be made out for voting at 18. But times have changed.

They give the impression a youth of 18 can handle the responsibility of voting quite well.

From the age of 13 or so students are discussing pollution and a wide range of social issues their counterparts would never have dreamed of.

We realise this fact, and we realise that in these changing times many young people who have reached the age of 18, who have left school and who have accepted the responsibility of assisting in the support of their families and in the payment of taxes from their incomes should be given the opportunity to receive the franchise and to have some say in the election of people from their own age group, if they so desire, to this Parliament to assist in the decision making of the nation.

So we axe pleased to have accepted the responsibility to introduce this legislation which will bring Australia up to date with a great number of countries throughout the world. It is my pleasant duty, in supporting this measure, to say that we were not anxious to take action to introduce a measure such as this without giving due consideration to the need for it. Having given due consideration to the need for it and having expressed clearly our intentions in support of it many times in the past, on the first occasion that we have had an opportunity to bring this measure before the Parliament we have done so. I support wholeheartedly the Bill. I hope that all honourable members, particularly those on the other side, continue to express support of the Bill.

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