From the Archives, 1973: Votes-at-18 Bill ‘historic’

First published in on March 1, 1973

Votes-at-18 Bill ‘historic’

The Federal Government introduced yesterday a Bill to allow 18-year-olds to vote in Federal Elections.

“Their status as full citizens of Australia will now be properly and legally recognised.” Students at a demonstration in Macquarie Place Sydney, on March 26, 1973.

Mervyn George Bishop

It is the first substantive bill brought before Parliament by the Labor Government.

The Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, described the bill as a “historic occasion – an occasion too long delayed.”

The bill would extend the franchise to about 700,000 young men and women, and allow them to stand as parliamentary candidates.

Mr Daly continued: “This bill symbolises the commitment of the Labor Government to the youth of this country – to a new Australia of equal political, social and economic opportunity for all.”

He said Australians, at 18, could or would soon be able to enter into contracts, dispose of property, take legal action, drink, drive cars and marry without parental consent.

“Their status as full citizens of Australia will now be properly and legally recognised,” he said.

“Annette Finkel, 19, of Elwood, in her second year of Art at Monash, fills in the enrolment form, aided by Mark Plummer, one of five students who staffed the table set up in the Union building.”

The Age Archives

Saying there had been a world-wide trend towards lowering the age of majority, Mr Daly claimed it was regrettable that the previous Government had deprived young Australians of this right.

The Labor Party, when in Opposition had introduced private members’ bills in 1968 and 1970 to reduce the voting age but the Liberal-Country Party Government had declined to bring the bills to a vote.

With the lowering of the voting age, 18-year-olds would also have the right to stand for Parliament.

As the minimum ages for voting and candidature had been the same since Federation, the Government saw no logical reason to depart from this practice.

Mr Daly described the bill as one of the most far-reaching reforms in the Australian political community for generations.

The bill was passed through the first reading stage and debate on the second reading was adjourned.

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