7 December 2021

Probing the polls: COVID-19 tests and voting rights for under-18s

| Genevieve Jacobs
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ACT election

Should 16-year-olds be able to vote? Photo: Region Media.

Readers are not happy about the mixed messaging around COVID-19 testing for those who are not symptomatic, according to this week’s poll.

Region Media was the first to reveal that people who required tests for interstate travel or entry into nursing homes might face charges from ACT Government testing clinics.

There was much to-ing and fro-ing from the government amid accusations that they had been caught flat-footed after spending months urging Canberrans to get tested for optimum surveillance results.

Eventually, it was clarified that individuals who are required under a public health order to return a negative COVID-19 PCR test to travel interstate would not have to pay for it, as long as the other jurisdiction will allow them to enter with just a text message as proof of their COVID-negative status.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said providing a negative COVID-19 certificate has previously attracted a $112 fee, and this has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic last year, although it was unclear if the Commonwealth had jointly funded the cost of the test itself.

We asked Should all COVID-19 tests be free? A total of 1457 people voted and the results were strongly skewed.

Your options to vote were No, we’ve moved on and government funds aren’t limitless. This received just 16 per cent of the total, or 226 votes.

Alternatively, you could vote Yes, it’s an important public safety measure. This received 84 per cent of the total, or 1,231 votes.

READ ALSO Should 16 and 17 year olds be given the vote? They think so

This week, we’re wondering whether the right to vote should be extended to people younger than the current 18 year age limit.

The ACT Greens have introduced a bill into the Legislative Assembly which would give the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds. A recent survey by the Youth Coalition found the majority of young people support extending voting rights and the cause is a long-running one for the Greens, who first introduced similar legislation as far back as 1996.

Greens spokesperson for young people Johnathan Davis and Greens spokesperson for democracy Andrew Braddock will now take the legislation through a public inquiry process before being debated by the Assembly next year.

Opinions on the proposed legislation were mixed, although some supported a voluntary option.

Tim Kerslake said: “I think the issue needs visiting at least. After all, you’re old enough to work and pay taxes at 15. If you’re considered mature enough to be able to work and pay taxes, a discussion should include whether that maturity extends to having a say in how that money is spent.

“You’re also considered mature enough to join the military at 16 years and 6 months. The question should then be asked whether you should have a say on who gets to send you to war if/when the time comes”.

But Linda Stapleton wrote: “16 and 17-year-olds have enough to deal with in life, school, learning to survive teenage years and school, parents and social life, without throwing them into a world where they then have to decide what to do about the world. Yes, learn, have an opinion, but keep the pressure of being an adult off them for just a bit longer. Let them enjoy their teens.”

Our question this week is:

Should we give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote?

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RiotACT have the wrong poll question, it should be “Should we give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote, stand as candidates and sit in the Assembly”.

Greens need to clarify if their push to extend voting for 16-17s also includes standing in elections, and RiotACT should ask Greens to clarify this.

I think it would be appropriate to have registration to vote for the 16/17 year olds voluntary. If they want to vote, they can register and then it becomes compulsory. If they don’t want to, then they don’t register. I don’t think something magic happens between the ages of 17 and 18 to make 18 year olds suddenly adult. It might be worthwhile having that two year period where the proto-adult can think about the process if they haven’t already thought about it before.

The argument that some 16-17 year olds work and pay tax, therefore all 16-17 years should be able to vote, is ridiculous.

The vast majority of 16 & 17 year olds still live at home with their parents. It’s the parents who pay the rent or mortgage, rates, electricity, gas, car rego, insurances etc.
At best, the 16 or 17 might pay some board and pay for their own Maccers.

Most 16 or 17 year olds don’t have a lot of life skills.

The Greens wouldn’t be proposing this change unless they believed there were seats up for grabs.
If the ALP supports this proposal they’d be fools because they could find themselves as the junior partner in the next Greens/ALP Government.

Matthew McGranahan4:23 pm 08 Dec 21

I think the notion about them working, is more about them being independent; they can make their own choices. Worth noting that they use government base services. Why shouldn’t they be able to be part the election process?

Tbh, I think most people who have been against the idea, are more concerned about votes swinging left. Maybe the real way of stopping that is for the right of politics to also be concerned about how young people feel.

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