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MPs asked to drop voting age to 16

AAP logoAAP 27/10/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Voting should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds in line with a number of European countries, says a leading academic.

University of NSW law academic George Williams has made the call in a submission to the parliament's electoral matters committee inquiry into the 2016 federal election.

Voting from age 16 is allowed in Scotland, Austria, Germany, Norway, the Philippines and Brazil among other countries.

Professor Williams says a voluntary system should be brought in for 16 and 17 year olds, coupled with a national civics education program.

It was notoriously difficult to get 18 year olds to enrol and vote, as it was often a time of great upheaval in their lives - going to university, leaving home or entering the workforce, he said.

"People under 18 can leave school, get a job, drive a car and pay taxes," he wrote.

"They can also enlist in the Australian defence forces, become a parent and, in exceptional circumstances, get permission to marry. If the law permits them to undertake these activities, it is hard to see why they cannot also vote."

However Prof Williams said there should be no rush to introduce compulsory voting for under-18s.

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