Has the Turnbull government unwittingly sealed its own fate at the next election by encouraging young people to register on the electoral roll to participate in the postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage?
Former Liberal leader John Hewson believes it could prove counterproductive at the next federal election.
The Australian Electoral Commission said last week there had been a surge in “electoral transactions”, recording 68,000 on one day alone when a daily average would average 4000.
Dr Hewson described it as the “Theresa May affect”, the British prime minister who was expected to win the recent UK election by a landslide but ended up with a minority government because of an unusual amount of young people voting and backing Labour.
“The young vote in this country is so readily discounted,” Dr Hewson told Sky News.
“It is potentially, I think, so significant and now will be mobilised.”
Former Labor minister Craig Emerson agreed, saying for many years there had been a real problem with disillusioned young people not enrolling to vote.
Now they are enrolling and having done so, regardless of how the issue of same-sex marriage is resolved, they will stay on the roll and get notifications on future elections.
“It will enliven a substantial proportion of the voting population which … overwhelmingly will vote Labor first or second preference,” he told Sky News.
It comes at a time when the government is already behind Labor in major opinion polls.
But senior Liberal frontbencher Josh Frydenberg says the government has nothing to fear when it comes to people voting in elections.
“The more people who participate and exercise their natural right to participate in our wonderful, healthy, robust Australian democracy the better, and I look forward to more people registering in the weeks ahead,” he told Sky News.
“The more people who enrol the better, I don’t think you would find a politician who would disagree with that.”