Make it 16 co-director says young people are paying taxes, facing mental health system that doesn't work so deserve right to vote

An advocate for lowering the voting age says many young people are already paying taxes and facing structural issues so they deserve the right to vote. 

The age-old argument to lower the voting age has been reignited after a bill sponsored by Green MP Golriz Ghahraman was drawn from the ballot on Saturday. 

The Electoral Strengthening Democracy Amendment Bill looks to reform seven electoral areas, and includes the suggestion to lower the voting age to 16 years old.

Speaking with AM's Ryan Bridge on Wednesday co-director of advocacy group Make it 16, Sanat Singh, said young people are affected by Government decisions and deserve to have a say. 

"Throughout the course of maybe the last three years, we've seen inequalities and system breakdowns for us throughout the pandemic.

"Disproportionately young people are going to be dealing with the fallout of that in the future, so I think if we can empower young people to take the lead on these issues, to be able to advocate for the things that are affecting them disproportionally, then I can think we can see stronger democratic decision making in this country," Singh said.

But political commentator Liam Hehir, who joined Singh on AM, said while young people will live with the fallout of the decisions, giving them the right to vote isn't the solution. 

"What I would reject is the idea that giving children, or some children, the right to vote is the response to that," Hehir told Bridge. 

"As a father and any parent will tell you, we act as trustees when we vote - we think about our children more than anything else when we are casting our vote. 

"It is certainly the case that I think what's happened in the last couple of years does have ramifications for young people, but that doesn't mean that we have to give children the vote."

But Singh hit back saying the idea that children shouldn't be able to vote because their parents are acting in their best interest is a "misnomer". 

"This idea that children should just be children is a nice sentiment but it's not what actually exists in the real world. 

"What exists in the real world is 16 and 17-year-olds who have to work because their families are on low incomes and are being taxed fully. 

"What exists in the real world is 16-year-olds having friends and peers who are coming up against a mental health system that isn't helping them. So clearly children are not being children, there are issues that are affecting them in today's world right now and they want to have a voice."

Hehir then hit back pointing out juries are pulled from the electoral roll and 16-year-olds shouldn't be sitting through weeks-long murder trials instead of going to school. 

"If you were to lower the voting age to 16 then you are making 16-year-olds eligible for jury duty because the juries are selected from the electoral roll. 

"Now I put it to you that the idea that 16-year-olds should be sitting through two-week murder trials is something that seems a bit fanciable or ridiculous to most people and if you asked why most people would say, 'First of all they shouldn't be out of school… and second of all…  children probably don't have the life experience to make those decisions well."

But Singh said voting and juries are separate issues and young people can be given the right to vote and also be excluded from jury duty fairly easily.