The Australian Labor party is pushing to lower the voting age to 16

Photo: Stefan Postles/ Getty Images.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten is pushing to lower the national voting age to 16 in a bid to quell the “participation problem” among young people in Australia.

Speaking at the Labor Party conference in Sydney today, Shorten said the move would allow another 500,000 more people — who were all making economic contributions — to vote on progressive policies such as “marriage equality, real action on climate change; the equal treatment of women; youth wages; a better university system; international development; and animal welfare”.

“Consider this: 400,000 Australians turned 18 between 2010 and 2013 – and did not enrol to vote.

“Too many of your peers are falling through the cracks in our democracy. More fines and penalties from the AEC won’t fix this,” he said.

“And if Australia trusts our 16 and 17 year old citizens to pay tax and work; to join the military; to drive on our roads; to fly a plane; to make independent decisions about their medical care.

“Then we – the Parliament of Australia – should extend that trust to include a direct, empowered say in our democracy.”

The Rudd government proposed a similar initiative to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 in 2008 saying that Australia’s youth would be enfranchised if they were given the chance to participate in the democratic process.

However, the minister for finance Mathias Cormann told Sky News the move is unlikely to gain “much public support”.

Nations such as Austria, Argentina and Brazil have already reduced the voting age to 16 years.

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