File reference: Reg5094, 13/253
The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the Uniting Australia Party party should be registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
On 25 March 2013, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application from the Uniting Australia Party (the Party) to be registered as a political party under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).
The AEC conducted a series of tests by reason of s.131 of the Electoral Act, usually undertaken as part of the initial consideration of an application. On 15 April 2013, a delegate of the AEC found no reason to refuse the Party's application and approved the advertisement of the Party's application for public input. On 24 April 2013, the application was advertised on the AEC website and in 10 newspapers achieving coverage throughout Australia as required by s.132 of the Electoral Act.
Section 132 of the Electoral Act provides one month from the date of advertisement for any person (or organisation) to submit written particulars of grounds for their belief that the application:
Eligibility of a political party is determined by the definition of 'political party' in s.4 of the Electoral Act and the definition of 'eligible political party' in s.123 of the Electoral Act.
Three objections were received prior to the deadline on 24 May 2013. One of these objections was not considered to be valid.
On 24 April 2013, the United Australia Party lodged an objection ('the first objection'). This objection was on the grounds that the proposed party name is substantially identical with and deceptively similar to that of the United Australia Party.
The objection asserted that the United Australia Party had used its name since late 2012, previously registered its name as a business name, applied to register its name as a trademark, had members who are members of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, and had lodged an application with the Electoral Commission Queensland to be registered for Queensland State elections as a Parliamentary party.
The United Australia Party advised that it intended to apply to the AEC to register as a non-Parliamentary party to contest federal elections. It applied for federal registration as the Palmer United Party on 13 May 2013 and that application has now been advertised with the period for submissions against the application closing on 1 July 2013.
On 23 May 2013, Mr Clive Palmer lodged an objection ('the second objection'). This objection repeated the grounds set out in the United Australia Party objection including emphasising that the United Australia Party had widely publicised its use of its name and intentions since October 2012. The objector further advised that 'we' had also registered 'Uniting Australia Party' as a business name and applied for a priority trademark application for the name 'Uniting Australia Party'.
Mr Palmer also asserted that members of the United Australia Party had family connections to a previous United Australia Party active in the federal parliament in the 1930s and early 40s and forming the government for much of that time.
Mr Palmer asserted that the registration of the Uniting Australia Party would be a breach of Australia's treaty obligations and ultra vires the Australian Constitution, but did not supply detail of arguments to support these contentions.
On 29 April 2013, the AEC received an additional objection. This objection was raised on the basis that the proposed name 'Uniting Australia Party' is substantially identical and could easily be confused with the United Australia Party that had been registered in the 1930s and 40s. This argument had previously been implied in the first objection from the United Australia Party.
This objection was not signed by the objector and therefore failed to fulfil the requirements of an objection as defined by s.132(3) of the Electoral Act. The objection was not considered as a valid objection by the AEC.
Section 132 of the Electoral Act provides that a person can lodge a submission in response to the advertisement of an application for registration on the grounds that the application:
Neither of the objections raised any concerns regarding grounds 1 or 2. Both objections were made on the grounds that the Party's application should be refused under section 129 of the Electoral Act.
Section 129 of the Electoral Act contains provisions under which certain names (including abbreviations) are not to be registered:
(1) The Commission shall refuse an application for the registration of a political party if, in its opinion, the name of the party or the abbreviation of its name that it wishes to be able to use for the purposes of this Act (if any):
(a) comprises more than 6 words;
(b) is obscene;
(c) is the name, or is an abbreviation or acronym of the name, of another political party (not being a political party that is related to the party to which the application relates) that is a recognised political party;
(d) so nearly resembles the name, or an abbreviation or acronym of the name, of another political party (not being a political party that is related to the party to which the application relates) that is a recognised political party that it is likely to be confused with or mistaken for that name or that abbreviation or acronym, as the case may be; or
(da) is one that a reasonable person would think suggests that a connection or relationship exists between the party and a registered party if that connection or relationship does not in fact exist; or
(e) comprises the words "Independent Party" or comprises or contains the word "Independent" and:
(i) the name, or an abbreviation or acronym of the name, of a recognised political party; or
(ii) 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 name or that abbreviation or acronym, as the case may be.
(2) In this section:
recognised political party means a political party that is:
(a) a Parliamentary party; or
(b) a registered party; or
(c) registered or recognised for the purposes of the law of a State or a Territory relating to elections and that has endorsed a candidate, under the party's current name, in an election for the Parliament of the State or Assembly of the Territory in the previous 5 years.
The first objection challenged the application on the basis that the name 'Uniting Australia Party' is substantially identical with and deceptively similar to that of the objector, the United Australia Party. Section 129, however, prohibits only names which are identical to, or likely to be confused with or mistaken for the name of, a recognised party. The United Australia Party does not meet the definition of a recognised party in that it is not:
The United Australia Party was registered as a political party in the State of Queensland on 5 June 2013. Even though it is registered, it will not become a recognised political party in the terms of s.129(c) of the Electoral Act until it has endorsed a candidate for a Queensland State election. Section 129(c) gives no support to the challenge to the registration of the Uniting Australia Party.
The second objection raised the same matters as the first and added to the business name and trade mark challenges put forward. It also referred to family connections with the United Australia Party which formed government in the Parliament of the Commonwealth in the 1930s and early 1940s. The second objection also referred to the registration of the United Australia Party as being in breach of Australia's treaty obligations and ultra vires the Australian constitution.
The second objection did not raise any concerns about whether the application fulfilled the party name requirements outlined in s.129(d) of the Electoral Act. An objection on this ground would need to show that the application put forward a name that was likely to be confused with or mistaken for a recognised party as set out above. The United Australia Party, whether in its newly established form or considering the party that existed in the 1930s and 40s, does not fulfil the definition of 'recognised political party' as outlined in s.129(2) of the Electoral Act.
The AEC had already assessed the Party's application against provisions of s.129 of the Electoral Act before advertising the application and has been given no reason to reconsider it.
Neither of the submissions objecting to the registration of the Party directly addressed ss.4, 123, 126 or 129 of the Electoral Act. While they did address the question of whether the name 'Uniting Australia Party' is appropriate for the applicant party, they did not do so under the terms of s.129 of the Electoral Act.
The objections lodged were emailed to the Uniting Australia Party on 24 May 2013 for its comments and published on the AEC website. The Party responded on 27 May 2013.
The Party asserted that it formed early in 2012 and provided letters from two party members to support that assertion. It claimed that its party was properly formed and formally set up by an inaugural meeting in March 2012, and that its application followed the requirements of the Electoral Act as set out in the AEC's Party Registration Guide.
The Party advised that it intended to contest the various business names and trademark applications sought by Mr Palmer and Mineralogy, and the application to register the United Australian Party with the Electoral Commission of Queensland.
FAD received an objection from the Order of Australia to an application by the One Australia Movement (with an abbreviation OAM) in the 1980s on the grounds that OAM was already provided in legislation as the abbreviation and post-nominal initials for holders of the Order of Australia Medal. The objection was not upheld because it was not based on one of the grounds provided for objections in s.132 of the Electoral Act.
The application by the Party was assessed by a delegate of the AEC on 15 April 2013 under s.131 of the Electoral Act and no reason was found to refuse it. The application was advertised as required by s.132 of the Electoral Act. While two objections were lodged arguing that the Party should not be registered, they did not address the grounds provided in s.132 of the Electoral Act under which such objections can be made.
A delegate of the AEC registered the Party.
5 June 2013