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ISSUE: Baby voters (franchise) rights & the constitution! Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s election pledge to lower voting age,, ROB HARRIS, Herald Sun, October 31, 2015
Our constitution (Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) was framed upon the basis that any
person who was an “adult” and has state franchise could vote in federal elections. It was made clear that for
Commonwealth purposes a state elector could only vote in federal elections if under Commonwealth was deemed to
be an “adult”. It was up to the Commonwealth to determine what the “age” for an “adult” would be set at. At the
time of the Constitution being drafted the issue was if 16 year olds if granted franchise rights in a State then could
vote in federal elections!
Hansard 3-3-1898 Constitution Convention Debates QUOTE Mr. GLYNN.-None of the states could do that.
They could not go beyond the South Australian suffrage, and have baby voters. END QUOTE
Hansard 17-3-1898 Constitution Convention Debates (Official Record of the Debates of the National
Australasian Convention) Mr. BARTON.- QUOTE This Bill also contains a provision in favour of electors,
which is altogether absent from the Bill of 1891; that is, a provision for the protection of the voting right, when the
right has been granted, so that no adult person who, at the establishment of this Constitution, or [start page
2468] at any time afterwards, acquires the right to vote for the Legislative Assembly in his own colony or state
can be deprived of that right by any law passed by the Federal Parliament. This is a provision which was
introduced at the instance of the Hon. Mr. Holder; and although the matter has been the subject of complaint from
time to time, the instance I have cited may be appealed to as one evidence of the want of foundation of accusations
against this Bill on account of its alleged illiberal character. END QUOTE Hansard 3-3-1898 Constitution
Convention Debates QUOTE Mr. BARTON (New South Wales).-That is an alteration of substance which I will
explain. I agree with the object of the clause as proposed to be limited by the amendment which I am now proposing.
That is to say, I quite agree that any elector who, at the establishment of the Commonwealth or afterwards, has,
under the law in force in any state at the establishment of the Commonwealth, the right to vote at elections should
not be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from exercising that right. END QUOTE
This was aimed at any form of legislation that would seek to deny a person who ordinary would be entitled to vote,
albeit any legislation against any race within ss51(xxvi) would automatically deny all persons of that race their
franchise. It should however be understood that the Commonwealth was entitled to set the age as to what it deemed
to be an adult. It must be clear that the terminology used by the Framers of the Constitution are; “British subject”,
“to make persons subjects of the British Empire.”, “with the consent of the Imperial authority”, “What is
meant is a dual citizenship in Mr. Trenwith and myself. That is to say, I am a citizen of the state and I am also
a citizen of the Commonwealth; that is the dual citizenship.”, “we are all alike subjects of the British Crown.”
We have a High Court of Australia that appears to me being political motivated to try to alter the Constitution by
stealth by endorsing a substitute Constitution!
Hansard 2-3-1898 Constitution Convention Debates QUOTE Mr. SYMON.-I would not put such a power in the
hands of any Parliament. We must rest this Constitution on a foundation that we understand, and we mean that
every citizen of a state shall be a citizen of the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth shall have no
right to withdraw, qualify, or restrict those rights of citizenship, except with regard to one particular set of
people who are subject to disabilities, as aliens, and so on. END QUOTE
Anyone who has State franchise and is an “adult” as to the age set by the Commonwealth is entitled to vote in
federal elections but the Commonwealth cannot dictate the States to lower the age of elector’s eligibility. If one or
more of the States decide to keep the minimum age at 18 then the Commonwealth cannot overrule this, and then
cannot lower the age below the highest age permitted in any state. As such, even if one state leaves it at 18 years of
age then the Commonwealth cannot lower the “adult” age below this. I would suggest that Mr Bill Shorten first
learns the true meaning and application of the constitution before suggesting something that may not work!
This correspondence is not intended and neither must be perceived to state all relevant issues/details.

Awaiting your response,

G. H. Schorel-Hlavka O.W.B. (Gerrit)

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