Australian Electoral Commission

Registration of the Secular Party of Australia

Updated: 4 January 2011

File reference: Reg3741

The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the Secular Party of Australia should be registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Background

On 2 July 2009, the AEC received an application from the Secular Party of Australia for registration as a federal political party under the provisions of the Electoral Act.

On 5 May 2010 the delegate determined that the party had passed its initial consideration for party registration.

Relevant legal provisions

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 Act requires the AEC to maintain a publicly available 'Register of Political Parties'.

The provisions specifically relevant for the current application under consideration are sections 4, 123, 124, 126, 129, 132, 132A and 133 of the Electoral Act. An extract of the relevant provisions is available adjacent to this document on the AEC website.

In relation to this Party, the relevant provisions require it to:

  • be an organisation with an aim of promoting candidates it endorses for election to the House of Representatives and/or the Senate (s4);
  • be eligible for registration (s123), that is have at least 500 members eligible to be on the electoral roll, that have not been relied upon for registration by another political party;
  • make application for registration in the manner prescribed in s126; and
  • propose a name and optional abbreviation for registration that are not prohibited by s129.

Application of relevant legal provisions

Political party

The Party was formed in 2006 and has a constitution, which sets up an organisation with established principles. The constitution enunciates its objectives by endorsing candidates to contest federal elections.

The party has its own phone number, as well as a physical address, a postal address and an active website. FAD was unable to assess its ongoing financial activity because the Party has not been required to lodge financial disclosure returns, although records on some membership forms show evidence of donations made to the Party.

FAD assessed the Party as meeting the test of being a political party under s4 of Electoral Act.

Application

FAD assessed the application against the technical requirements in s126(1)(b) and s126(2) of the Act, as listed above. The application by the Secular Party of Australia was submitted on the standard form made publicly available on the AEC website. The application set out the name and abbreviation of the party, includes the details of the registered officer and included a list of 500 member names. It was also signed by 10 members of the party, including the secretary.

Secretary

The role of Party Secretary was not previously described in the Party's constitution. Although the position of 'National Secretary' is listed under the title of national executive of the Party, FAD was unable to assess the role of the party secretary as the office meeting the definition of secretary set out in s.123 of the Electoral Act. The Party was asked to provide evidence to identify the officer who fits the definition of secretary in s.123 of the Electoral Act.

On 2 September 2009 the party provided an amended constitution which defined the position of secretary in greater detail. The party constitution stated at clause 6.3(b) that the National Secretary 'shall have responsibility for the carrying out of the administration and for the conduct of the correspondence of the party'. The party constitution now sufficiently meets AEC requirements.

Membership

Section 123 of the Electoral Act requires a non-parliamentary party to have at least 500 members who are entitled to enrolment. The statutory declaration by the secretary states that each of the members on the list has been accepted as a member of the Party in accordance with the rules of the Party.

Secular Party of Australia membership testing results

The sample size of members to be contacted during the membership testing of the Secular Party of Australia was 42 of the 543 members provided by the party. FAD contacted 42 individuals listed on the Secular Party of Australia membership list and all 42 confirmed that they were members of the party.

Enrolment check of membership list

FAD provides the membership list of each political party applying for registration to the Enrolment Section for a check of which members appear or have appeared on the electoral roll at some point.

The membership list submitted by Secular Party of Australia with its application for registration was checked against the electoral roll, the number of people for whom no match could be found reduced the original party membership list to below the minimum of 500 required. The Party was asked to provide updated membership details for some members, after which the AEC was able to compile a valid membership list and run a fresh enrolment check. The results returned showed that 543 of the Secular Party members were eligible to appear on the roll.

Constitution

The Party provided a constitution with its application. The original constitution did not define the role of secretary and the party was asked to amend it to reflect this requirement, which it did. The constitution contains the following matters relevant to registration:

  • an aim to endorse candidates to contest House of Representative and Senate elections; and
  • membership criteria.

The Party's constitution provides for membership and membership input on policies. The constitution also provides for policy formulation. It provides for a national executive with defined powers.

FAD is of the view that the constitution meets the limited requirements for a party constitution required in the Electoral Act, particularly now that it identifies the 'secretary' who is required to sign the application.

Party Name

Section 129 prohibits the registration of parties with certain names. Specifically, the name shall not be approved if any of the following conditions are met. That it:

  • is more than six words;
  • is perceived to be obscene;
  • is the name, abbreviation, or acronym of the name of another political party (not being a political party that is related to the applicant party) that is a recognised political party;
  • so nearly resembles the name, abbreviation, or acronym of the name of another recognised political party (not being a political party that is related to the applicant party) that it is likely to be confused with that other recognised political party;
  • is one that a reasonable person would think suggests a connection or relationship with another registered political party, if that relationship does not exist;
  • is comprised of the words 'Independent Party';
  • is comprised of, or contains, the word 'Independent', and the name, abbreviation or acronym of a recognised political party; or
  • is comprised of, or contains, the word 'Independent' and matter, that so nearly resembles the name, or an abbreviation or acronym of the name of a recognised political party, that the matter is likely to be confused with, or mistaken for, that recognised political party.

The name sought is Secular Party of Australia and no abbreviation has been requested. FAD has checked the Federal Register of Political Parties and that of each State and Territory and there are no similar party names. FAD considers that the proposed name and abbreviation do not invoke any of the prohibitions in s129.

Objections

No objections to the registration of the Secular Party of Australia were received by the closing date.

Conclusion

I am satisfied the Party is an eligible political party under s123 of the Electoral Act.

The Secular Party of Australia is registered.

Sue Sayer
Director, Funding and Disclosure
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission

June 2010