File reference: Reg5308, 13/295
The Australian Electoral Commission affirmed a decision by its delegate to register the Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop The Greens) under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
On 9 April 2013, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application to register the Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop The Greens) (the Party) as a political party under Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Act). On 23 May 2013, a delegate of the AEC assessed the application as meeting the requirements of the Act and approved its advertisement for public input.
The application was advertised on 29 May 2013 and three objections to the registration of the Party were received in response to the advertisement. The substantive matter raised in the objections was that the inclusion of ‘Stop The Greens’ as the proposed Party abbreviation would confuse or mislead voters or lead them to think that the proposed Party was connected to the Australian Greens.On 5 July 2013, a delegate of the AEC approved the Party’s application for registration on the basis that the Party name and abbreviation including ‘Stop The Greens’ was sufficiently different from the registered name ‘Australian Greens’, registered abbreviation ‘The Greens’ or any of its State/Territory registered branches, so that it was not prohibited by s.129 of the Act.
On 11 July 2013, the AEC received an application under s.141(2) of the Act for review of that decision by a meeting of the Commissioners of the AEC. In its application for review, the appellant (one of the objectors to the application for registration) claimed that the delegate had erred in permitting the registration of a new party which contained the registered abbreviation of the Australian Greens, ‘The Greens’, in both its party name and abbreviation. The applicant asserted that the two parts of the proposed party name, Outdoor Recreation Party and Stop The Greens, are incongruous when included together. The applicant also claimed that there was a possibility of the new Party advertising as ‘Stop The Greens’ to deceive voters.
On the question of similarity of party names that might lead to confusion or mistake by electors, the AEC is guided by two decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the AAT).
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:
the words “and Lifestyle” are sufficient to aurally and visually distinguish the two parties as separate entities without risk of confusion or mistake, and would prevent a reasonable person from thinking there was any connection or relationship between the two parties.
Following the AAT’s decision in that matter, the delegate of the AEC considered that the abbreviation ‘Stop The Greens’ is aurally and visually distinguishable from ‘The Greens’ such that the proposed name and abbreviation are not required to be refused by the AEC under s.129 of the Act. Whilst ‘Stop The Greens’ does incorporate the abbreviation of the Australian Greens, the delegate assessed that the two abbreviations were sufficiently distinguishable such that electors would not become confused between the two.
A meeting of the Commissioners of the AEC was scheduled for 7 August 2013 to consider this application. When the Governor-General issued writs for the 2013 federal elections on 5 August 2013, the operation of s.127 of the Act prevented further progress with this review until the return of the final 2013 federal election writ. That writ was returned on 6 November 2013 and a meeting of the Commissioners of the AEC was rescheduled for 14 November 2013.
The Commissioners considered the decision of the delegate and the relevant AAT precedents. The Commissioners followed the 2009 AAT judgment in affirming the delegate’s decision to register the Outdoor Recreation Party (Stop The Greens).
Where the Commissioners of the AEC make a decision affirming a prior decision of an AEC delegate concerning party registration, interested persons are advised that they can make an application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for further review of the decision.
The Hon Peter Heerey QC
Mr Ed Killesteyn
Mr Brian Pink