Vote at 16? What they said...

Calls to lower voter age a stunt, says Hinkler MP

HINKLER MP Keith Pitt has labelled Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's call for a lowering of the voting age as a "stunt".

On Saturday, in a speech to the New South Wales Young Labor conference in Sydney, Mr Shorten argued that if people aged 16 and 17 could work and pay taxes then they should be allowed to vote.

Mr Shorten said the move would help remove the apathy and disenchantment many youth felt towards politics.

However, many have pointed to a resurgent Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as the real reason behind the move.

Mr Pitt refused to be drawn into whether he supported lowering the voting age and said this was simply the Labor Party trying to "chase a headline".

"The best thing we can do for youth is create job opportunities," Mr Pitt said.

"That is where I'm investing my time, in projects such as the HMAS Tobruk dive wreck and by delivering free trade agreements which are strengthening our economy and improving future job prospects."

University of Queensland reader in politics Dr Ian Ward said while the motivations of Mr Shorten could be questioned, the idea was not without merit.

"Nobody approaches electoral reform without self interest in mind," he said.

"Shorten says these people are paying taxes and the government's decision has an impact on their lives, so I guess that it is a plausible argument."

Dr Ward said it was likely the decision was spurred on by an inner-party poll which would have shown younger voters were attracted to Mr Turnbull.

"We know from a series of election studies since the 60s that younger voters tend to favour the Labor Party and the Greens," he said.

"I'm not entirely sure that would be the case in rural areas where they are less exposed to the Greens.

"It is unlikely to have the same impact in Bundaberg than in the more conservative seats around Brisbane."

Dr Ward said what was most concerning was recent Ipsos polls showing half of young voters do not care if they live in a democracy or not.

"That is a worrying development," he said.

"Some sort of institutional way of dealing with this is needed and one way is to enrol 16-year-olds and give them the option of voting."

Dr Ward said on its own, giving 16-year-olds the right to vote may not have the desired impact but combined with a series of measures, such as online voting could engage younger voters more.

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