One of the Whitlam government’s first legislative acts was to introduce a bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.
The Minister for Services and Property, Fred Daly, introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1973 at 3.30pm on February 28, 1973. It was debated and passed in both houses over the next two weeks, receiving bipartisan support. It received Royal Assent on March 16, 1973.
This is the bill:
Second Reading Speech by Fred Daly on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1973.
Mr DALY (Grayndler) (Minister for Services and Property) – I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to bring forward legislation to lower the franchise age and the age of candidature to 18 years for Federal elections. At present, the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that persons who are not under the age of 21 years are entitled to have their names placed on. the roll and, when enrolled, to vote at elections for sena tors and for members of the House of Representatives. However, under a special provision, a member of the defence forces serving in a war zone outside Australia, who is under 21 years of age, is entitled to vote at a Federal election.
This is an historic occasion – an occasion, Mr Speaker, too long delayed. This Government when in Opposition endeavoured to extend the democratic right of the franchise to the youth of Australia. Private members Bills were introduced into both Houses of the Parliament in 1968 and 1970 and debated at some length. The Liberal-Country Party Government declined to bring these Bills to a vote. It preferred to deny this well recognised democratic right to an important section of the Australian community – the youth of this country – although the franchise for those 18 years and above is well recognised throughout the world. I am delighted that the privilege of introducing these historic measures – of rectifying this denial of natural justice – has fallen to me and that it is one of the first legislative acts of this Parliament. For me it is a proud and significant moment. After many years in Parliament and in Opposition I am indeed honoured to be asked by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to present this, the first legislative proposal of the new Government, in the first session of the 28th Parliament.