File reference: Reg5183, 13/323
The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the Australian Independents should be registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
Each application to enter a political party in the Register of Political Parties is assessed against the requirements in Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act).
On 18 April 2013, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) received an application from the Australian Independents (the Party) to be registered as a political party under the Act. The Party proposed to register the abbreviation ‘Independent’.
The AEC conducted a series of tests usually undertaken as part of the initial consideration of an application. On 3 May 2013, a delegate of the AEC found that the Party's application would need to be refused under the Act and issued a notice under s.131 of the Act. The notice advised the Party that too many members had denied their membership of the Party when contacted by the AEC and that the proposed abbreviation ‘Independent’ is not allowed to be printed on ballot papers as a registered party name or abbreviation under the Act.
The Party provided an amended application which did not seek to register an abbreviation and was accompanied by an amended list of Party members. On 31 May 2013, a delegate found that the Party's application complied with the eligibility requirements of the Act and approved the advertisement of the Party's application for public input. On 5 June 2013, the application was advertised on the AEC website and in 10 newspapers achieving coverage throughout Australia as required by s.132 of the Act.
Four persons lodged objections against the proposed registration of the Party and the Party responded to the contents of the objections on 8 July 2013.
Section 132 of the 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 Act and the definition of ‘eligible political party’ in s.123 of the Act.
An email was received from Jed Muir on 15 June 2013 objecting to the registration of the Party on the grounds of alleged previous actions by Dr Petersen, the proposed registered officer of the Party.
The limited grounds in the Act, for objection to an application for party registration, do not include the previous actions of a member or principal of the proposed Party. This objection was not based on the grounds for objection available under s.132 of the Act and did not include the signature or address of the objector as required by that section. It is therefore not a valid objection.
An objection from Wayne Rowley was received on 1 July 2013 on the grounds that:
On 4 July 2013, David Doe lodged an objection based on his assertion that the proposed name of the Party breaches the intent of s.129(1)(e) even if it doesn’t explicitly breach the Act as worded. He asserts that the Party would be generally known as the ‘Australian Independents party’ and would cause confusion for voters who want to vote for true independent candidates.
On 5 July 2013, Marc Austin-Zande lodged an objection on similar grounds to the objection by Wayne Rowley. He asserts that the intention of s.129(1)(e) is that “you cannot be an ‘Independent’ and be in a ‘Party’” and the proposed Party name is in breach. The objector also refers to the confusion with 10 parties already registered beginning with the word ‘Australian’.
Mr Austin-Zande raises additional possible confusion for voters who might think that business entities whose names contain the words ‘Australian Independent …’, such as The Australian Independent Record Labels Association, Australian Independent News, Australian Independents Schools and Australian Independent Rural Retailers are an extension of or affiliated to the Party.
The Party responded addressing the matters raised in the objections one at a time and asserting that none of them raised matters which would require the AEC to prohibit the Party’s name under s.129 of the Act.
Section 129 of the Act contains provisions under which certain names (including abbreviations) are not to be registered:
It is clear from s.129 (above) that the AEC is to consider only names of recognised or registered parties when assessing the proposed Party name and abbreviation under the section.
In questions of party names needing to be considered under s.129(1)(d) or (da), the AEC is guided by:
The 2009 AAT judgment on The Fishing Party’s application for review of the decision to register the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party stated that:
Objectors argued that the reasons given by the AEC for refusing to register an abbreviation of ‘The Australian Party’ in 2011 (because the name was too generic in itself and therefore not easily distinguishable from other parties with both ‘Australian’ and ‘Party’ in their names) should apply to this application. The delegate of the AEC determined that the name ‘Australian Independents’ is aurally and visually distinct from the names of any registered parties beginning with the word ‘Australian’ and that the word ‘Independents’ is a significant new word, in contrast to ‘The Australian Party’ which had no significant word not already used in other registered party names. The delegate determined that the name ‘Australian Independents’ is not required to be refused under s.129(1)(d) or (da) of the Act.
Section 129(1)(e) of the Act deals with the use of the word ‘Independent’ in the proposed names of parties applying for registration. The delegate determined that the name ‘Australian Independents’ is not prohibited by the provisions set out in s.129(1)(e) because that provision prohibits only specific instances of the word ‘Independent’ which are not invoked by the proposed name ‘Australian Independents’. Objectors also raised the question of a general intent behind s.129(1)(e) implied by common usage of the word ‘Independent’ in elections that would prevent this Party being registered. One objector cited restrictions elsewhere in the Act on the word ‘Independent’ being printed adjacent to candidates’ names on ballot papers. Registration of this Party would not cause the word ‘Independent’ to be printed on ballot papers, but would permit the party name ‘Australian Independents’ to be printed. The delegate determined that the wording of s.129(1)(e) is clear and does not prohibit the proposed Party name.
The delegate of the AEC registered the Party as set out below.
Notice under section 133(1A)(a)
On 16 July 2013, as delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission for the purposes of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, I entered the following party in the Register of Political Parties.
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission