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Kate Hawkesby: If we're going to devote time to young people, there are bigger issues to address

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Tue, 22 Nov 2022, 8:40AM
Photo / File
Photo / File

Kate Hawkesby: If we're going to devote time to young people, there are bigger issues to address

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Tue, 22 Nov 2022, 8:40AM

It may have brought Julie Anne Genter to tears and caused Golriz Gharamann to erupt into celebration, but I’m not in the same camp of jumping for joy over the Supreme Court decision to accept an appeal to the Make it 16 campaigners.

Of course, this ruling only means the case has been accepted as valid by the Supreme Court, who agree it’s inconsistent to the Bill of Rights to deny 16 year olds the right to vote.

The only people with the power to actually change the law are the politicians. We know which are in favour – the Greens and Labour, we know who’s against – Act and the Nats.

Luxon said you have to draw a line somewhere and they’re happy to draw it at 18. I just do wonder if the Justices making these decisions, and the politicians supporting them, have ever raised teenagers and actually know how a 16 year old operates?

Yes there are some superbly informed smart and diligent 16 year olds, but there are equally many who are completely out to lunch, totally ill informed, barely turning up to school, or in some cases, just out ram raiding.

Now when they do stuff like that – they’re ‘children’ - cue the heartstrings - who can’t possibly be punished or sent to boot camp or put in ankle bracelets, because they’re ‘children’.

There is also the argument trotted out every time a young person does do something wrong, that cognitively their brains haven’t fully developed yet. But when it comes to getting them to tick a box for a party and a candidate – suddenly they’re now cognitively proficient informed adults?

It’s a mixed message.

What the Supreme Court essentially ruled is that it’s discriminatory to not allow them to vote based on their age. So how far do we take that discrimination argument?

Is it also discriminatory to use age as an excuse not to pay them benefits, or to use their age as a tool to means test them against their parents income for allowances? Do we lower the drinking age too, now that 16 is so responsible? Is 16 the new benchmark?

Anyone who has raised 16 year olds knows that it’s still very young, and I just don’t know why we keep wanting to make childhood shorter and shorter for our young people.

They already have to grow up so fast, now we expect them to know about taxes and laws and politics too? Can they not just enjoy their youth while they still have it?

I know the counter-argument is that many adults who vote don’t have a clue either, but 16 in my view, is just too young to have formed a well-rounded view that doesn’t just mirror what a parent or a teacher or older person has told them.

You can’t know how the world works surely until you’ve actually experienced it? Paid rent or a mortgage, left home, gotten out into the real world, earned your own money, paid your own taxes - lived a little.

It’s not up to us though, or the Supreme Court, it’s up to Parliament, and it won't get the 75 percent support required so it's going nowhere.

But nor should it, if Parliament’s going to devote time and energy to anything to do with young people right now it should be getting the 60 percent of kids not attending back into school and addressing the surge in youth crime.

Surely that’s more pressing right now than whether they can vote or not?

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