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Voting Age Lowered to 18 – First Legislative Action of Whitlam Government

The first legislative act of the Whitlam government was a bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1973 was introduced by the Minister for Services and Property, Fred Daly, in the House of Representatives, around 3.00pm, on February 28, 1973.

The bill was supported by the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the DLP. The Liberal-Country Party government had held office from 1949 until 1972 but made no attempt to lower the voting age.

After a short debate, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives on March 13.

It was subsequently passed by the Senate on March 15 and given Royal Assent on March 16, 1973.

Two referendums were held on December 8, 1973. For the first time, electors aged between 18 and 21 were able to vote.

A copy of the 2-page bill appears below, as does Fred Daly’s Second Reading Speech.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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