File reference: 07/1034-2 – Reg 2573
The delegate of the Electoral Commission determined that the application by the Cheaper Petrol Party to be registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 should be refused.
The Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) is established as a statutory authority of the Commonwealth of Australia under s.6 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act). The functions and powers of the AEC are set out in s.7 of the Electoral Act and include to perform functions that are permitted or required to be performed by or under this Act. The delegation powers of the AEC are set out in s.16 of the Electoral Act.
Section 125 of the Electoral Act requires the AEC to establish and maintain the "Register of Political Parties" containing a list of the political parties that are registered under Part XI of the Electoral Act. Section 126 of the Electoral Act sets out requirements for the making of an application for registration as a political party and the AEC is required to deal with those applications as set out in s.132 of the Electoral Act.
An application was first received by the AEC on 28 June 2007, for the registration of the Cheaper Petrol Party (the Party) as a non-parliamentary party under Part XI of the Electoral Act. The application was refused on 17 September 2007 on the basis that:
Further details pertaining to the above application are available.
On 25 September 2007, Mr John Vellenga, the proposed registered officer of the Party, lodged a fresh application with the AEC for registration of the Party as a non-parliamentary party under Part XI of the Electoral Act. The Party indicated that it wished to receive election funding.
In addressing the reasons for refusal of the Party's previous application, the Party provided:
On 25 September 2007, the Delegate approved the advertisement of the application for registration of the Party before initial tests were conducted in case there would be time for the Party to be registered before the expected 2007 election. Notice of the Party's application was advertised in a Special Notices Gazette on 27 September 2007 and in 10 major newspapers around Australia on Friday, 28 September 2007. No objections were received to the Party's application.
The AEC then commenced evaluating the Party's application, however, these tests were delayed initially due to the Writs for the 2007 federal election being issued on 17 October 2007 and further delayed by the issue of later Writs for by-elections in Gippsland, Lyne and Mayo in 2008. Under s.127 of the Electoral Act, no action may be taken on applications for party registration between the issue and the return of Writs for federal elections.
When the AEC advised the Party, in May 2008, about the issue of the Gippsland by-election Writ and the consequent further delay in processing its application, the Party responded requesting the AEC to advise the Party when it was about to recommence action on the Party's application. The Party stated that it wanted to contact its members just before membership testing, to impress on them the importance of responding to any enquiries made by the AEC.
Late in July 2008, the AEC advised the Party that it was about to recommence action on the Party's application. The Party responded on 28 and 29 July 2008 advising that it was experiencing difficulty in contacting its members and requested a hold on the testing of its membership until it advised the AEC to go ahead.
Having not heard from the Party again during 2008, the AEC wrote to the proposed registered officer of the Party on 22 January 2009 requesting the Party to:
The letter requested a response from the Party by 16 February 2009; advising that otherwise, the Party's application would be submitted to a delegate for determination in its current form.
Not having received a response from the Party to its letter of 22 January 2009, the AEC contacted Mr Vellenga by email on 11 March 2009 to enquire if the Party wished to withdraw its application. On 1 April 2009, Mr Vellenga replied by email advising that a final list should be available in 2–3 weeks and enquired as to the process of membership checking for registration purposes. On 16 April 2009, the AEC responded to Mr Vellenga by email, setting out the criteria for membership checking and enclosing a copy of the AEC's letter of 22 January 2009, which Mr Velllenga advised that he had not received. The AEC followed up by phone and email on 27 and 28 May 2009, attempting to obtain a response from the Party, without success.
With no further communication having been received from the Party, and as no revised membership list was provided by the Party (despite the opportunity given to do so), the AEC conducted a fresh membership check on 3 June 2009 based on the most recent membership list submitted by email by the Party on 5 October 2007.
Political parties may apply for registration for the purposes of federal elections in accordance with the requirements of Part XI of the Electoral Act.
The provisions specifically relevant for the current application under consideration are sections 4, 123, 124, 125, 126, 129, 131, 132, 132A and 133 of the Electoral Act. An extract of the relevant provisions is available.
The reader should consult this extract [PDF 63KB] for a copy of the legislative provisions applied in the tests below.
The AEC accepted in September 2007 that the Party is a political party as defined in s.4 of the Electoral Act.
The application satisfies the technical requirements set out in s.126 of the Electoral Act.
The Party has a secretary as defined at clause 1.1 in the Party's constitution and this position matches the position of secretary defined in s.123 of the Electoral Act.
Subsection 123(1) of the Electoral Act defines an "eligible political party" as a political party that is either a Parliamentary party or has at least 500 members.
Subsection 123(3) of the Electoral Act indicates that a member of a political party means a person who is both a member of a political party and is entitled to enrolment under the Electoral Act (see Part VII for the enrolment requirements).
Subsection 126(2) of the Electoral Act requires that an application, to register a political party that is not a Parliamentary party, be accompanied by a list of the names of 500 members to be relied on for the purposes of registration.
The AEC had previously conducted two membership tests on the Party's membership in response to its original application for registration. That application was refused on 17 September 2007 because the AEC could not be satisfied the Party had 500 members.
In considering an application, staff of the AEC conduct a series of tests to assist the AEC or its Delegate, to determine whether the AEC may be satisfied that an applicant party has at least 500 members, including:
The test of membership involves contacting a random sample of 20 people from the membership list by phone and by mail if necessary. Where more than one of the selected people from the random sample denies being a member, then the membership test has been failed. The membership tests are intended to allow the Delegate of the AEC to be satisfied that an applicant Party has the required 500 members.
Of the 20 members of the Party that were contacted in the membership test conducted by staff of the AEC on 3 June 2009, 6 people confirmed their membership of the Party and 13 people denied they were members of the Party, while 1 person remained undecided.
The AEC cannot be satisfied that the Party has the necessary 500 members to be eligible for registration and, therefore, it does not satisfy the eligibility criterion in s.123(1)(a)(ii) of the Electoral Act. The Party fails the membership test.
The Party lodged its constitution with its application. The constitution contains the following matters relevant to registration:
The Party's constitution satisfies the requirements of the Electoral Act.
The Party name and abbreviation do not contravene any of the restrictions set out in s.129 of the Electoral Act. The Party passes the names test.
Written submissions objecting to an application to register a political party can only address three matters:
No written submissions were received by the AEC in relation to the Party's application.
The Cheaper Petrol Party was refused registration in September 2007 because it failed the membership test. The results of the test of 20 random members conducted in respect to the Party's current application did not satisfy the AEC that the Party has the 500 members to be eligible for registration.
Accordingly, as Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission, and pursuant to s.133(3) of the Electoral Act, I have determined that the application by the Cheaper Petrol Party for registration as a political party should be refused.
Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission
26 June 2009