Introduction

Updated: 8 September 2016

Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act) deals with the registration of political parties. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) maintains a Register of Political Parties and administers the Commonwealth party registration scheme. The primary function of the scheme is to establish a register of party names, abbreviations and logos that can be printed on ballot papers at elections for the Senate and House of Representatives.

Registration as a federal political party is not compulsory. Parties can promote the election of their candidates to the Commonwealth Parliament without being registered.

The benefits of registration include:

  • the party's registered party name, registered abbreviation or registered logo may be printed adjacent to the names of its endorsed candidates and Senate groups on ballot papers
  • political parties can have additional registrations for their branches, but each branch registered will need to separately prove its eligibility (that is, a member in the Commonwealth Parliament or 500 members on the electoral roll)
  • the registered officer or deputy registered officer of a political party can nominate the party's endorsed candidates without requiring the signatures of 100 electors in the particular electorate. 100 electors are required to nominate an unendorsed (independent) candidate
  • the registered officer or deputy registered officer of a political party can make a bulk nomination of all the party's House of Representatives candidates in respect of the Divisions situated in a particular State or Territory to the Australian Electoral Officer for that State or Territory, without needing to nominate individually with each Divisional Returning Officer
  • election funding for endorsed candidates who receive at least 4% of the formal first preference votes. The election funding entitlements of candidates who were endorsed by a registered political party are paid through the party agent
  • access to information* held by the AEC including:
    • electronic copies of the electoral roll and additional elector information, plus copies of the printed electoral roll – enquiries to rps@aec.gov.au
    • electronic lists of applicants for postal votes – enquiries to info@aec.gov.au and
    • voting information in relation to an election – enquiries to info@aec.gov.au

Please refer to Appendix 1 of this document for an outline of which sections of the Electoral Act are applicable to political party registration.

The Guide

This guide is intended to assist political parties to understand the party registration provisions of Part XI of the Electoral Act. It provides general guidance on the requirements and process for:

  • registering a political party;
  • maintaining party registration; and
  • deregistration of political parties.

This guide is one of a series of publications prepared by the Funding and Disclosure Area of the AEC to help parties, candidates, donors, and other affected persons to better understand the requirements of the party registration, election funding, and financial disclosure provisions of the Electoral Act.

The Party Registration Guide, along with the financial disclosure guides and election funding guide, provides information derived from the Electoral Act as well as from the experience of the AEC in the administration of its provisions.

The guides attempt to simplify and explain what are in some cases complex legislative provisions. While these are intended to act as user-friendly guides to the requirements of the Electoral Act, they cannot fully address every possible issue that may arise.

Importantly, do not use the guides as a substitute for legal advice on specific detailed compliance, disclosure and party registration issues. Users are urged to seek their own independent advice where necessary and to read and familiarise themselves with the relevant parts of the Electoral Act.

The Guide for party registration incorporates text boxes to highlight important information. Each text box is prefaced with a symbol. For example:

A light bulb symbol indicates a useful tip.

A warning symbol indicates information relating to a legal obligation under the Act.

A timing symbol indicates a due date.

Further enquiries

Additional information and advice on party registration is available from the AEC. If you have any questions or require further information, please contact the Disclosure and Party Registration Section of the AEC on 02 6271 4607 or email fad@aec.gov.au.

Written enquiries should be addressed to the:

Disclosure and Party Registration Section
Australian Electoral Commission
Locked Bag 4007
CANBERRA ACT 2601

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 is freely available online.

Eligibility requirements for registration

All federally registered political parties must meet the eligibility requirements for political party registration on an ongoing basis. These requirements include:

  • being an organisation (constitution, structure and membership) with an aim of endorsing candidates for election to the House of Representatives and/or Senate
  • having;
    • at least one Commonwealth Parliamentarian who is a member of the party but not a member of another party; or
    • at least 500 members who are on the Commonwealth electoral roll and who are not also relied upon by another party for registration purposes.

A new party applying for registration must propose a party name, optional abbreviation and/or party logo which meet the requirements of the Electoral Act. There is a detailed description of certain names not to be registered later in this Guide and certain logos not to be registered in the addendum, "How to Register a party logo – advice to political parties".

The AEC maintains the federal Register of Political Parties. The Register contains a list of the registered names of all federally registered political parties, their registered abbreviation (if any), their registered logo (if any), the name and address of the registered officer and whether the party chooses to receive election funding. A registered political party should ensure that the information in the Register of Political Parties is up to date and accurate.

Public Information about political parties

The public accountability of political parties and the Australian federal political process is enhanced by the disclosure of information lodged with the AEC by the parties and others. Information available includes:

Please note that any lists of members of political parties held by the AEC are documents containing 'personal information'. Such documents could be claimed as 'exempt documents' under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

An application for a new party registration will take a minimum of three months to process.

If there are problems with an application the process may take longer than three months.