If a parliamentary party ceases to have a member who is a Senator or Member of the House of Representatives, the AEC will review that party’s registration to see if they are eligible to be registered as a non-parliamentary party or whether the party needs to be deregistered.
For example, on 30 June 2011, Senator Fielding’s term expired. The AEC wrote to the Family First Party and commenced a review of its continuing eligibility for registration. The party was able to satisfy the AEC that it continued to be eligible for registration by meeting the 500 member requirement.
The Electoral Act provides that a party is to be deregistered if it does not endorse a candidate at an election for the Senate or House of Representatives (or a by-election) in any 4 year period. Following each Federal Election, the AEC reviews the Register of Political Parties to see if each registered party has endorsed a candidate in the previous 4 years. A parliamentary party cannot be deregistered under this provision.
If media or other public commentary indicates that a currently registered party may have ceased to operate, the AEC may commence a review to determine whether that party continues to be eligible for registration.
Political parties need to meet the requirements for registration at all times to remain on the Register of Political Parties and access the benefits of party registration. Section 138A of the Electoral Act provides the AEC with a power to review the continued eligibility of registered political parties at any time other than during the period when writs in relation to an election are outstanding. The AEC’s current policy to satisfy this requirement is to review each registered political party once between federal elections, that is, in the mid-term of each federal parliament.
For registered parliamentary parties, the AEC determines that there is at least one Senator or Member of the House of Representatives that represents the party.
For registered non-parliamentary parties, the AEC seeks a statutory declaration from the party secretary annexing an up-to-date copy of the party’s constitution and a list of at least 500 party members on the electoral roll. The AEC then contacts a random sample of the members on the list to verify they are willing to confirm they are members of the party.
When the AEC seeks this information from parties, section 138A of the Electoral Act provides a period of two months for the parties to provide the information sought in the AEC’s request. If a party does not comply with the request for information, or a registered political party appears to be no longer eligible for registration, the AEC issues a formal notice under section 137 of the Electoral Act that the AEC is considering deregistering the party. The party then has a further month to respond to that notice.