Australian Electoral Commission

Party registration process

Updated: 8 September 2016
Flowchart of the party registration process

Text version of the party registration process

  1. Read the Party Registration Guide and Current Register of Political Parties on the AEC website.
  2. Develop the unique name and the aims of the political party.
  3. Form a committee, develop a draft constitution and hold an inaugural meeting.
  4. Seek party members to join your party. Check their enrolment status.
  5. Have you reached 500–550 members checked on the electoral roll? (No = return to previous step. Yes = continue to next step.)
  6. Complete application for party registration and attach all documents plus $500 application fee. Lodge with the AEC.
  7. The AEC will assess documents against the Electoral Act and independently check membership. AEC will advertise the application if it passes initial assessment.
  8. AEC approves advertisement? (No = AEC issues a notice to remedy application, return to previous step. Yes = continue to next step.)
  9. After at least one month the AEC can make a final decision in light of any public objections and the party's response to them.
  10. Has the party's registration been approved by the AEC? (No = Remedy problems and try again, or consider appeal if there are grounds. Yes = continue to next step.)
  11. Maintain the party and service the members.

Party name selection

Limitations in choice

Section 129 of the Electoral Act provides that an application will be refused if the party name or its abbreviation:

  • is more than six words long
  • is obscene
  • is the same as, or is likely to be confused with, or mistaken for, the name of a 'recognised political party'1, unless that other party is a 'related party'2
  • suggests a relationship or connection with a registered political party if that connection or relationship does not in fact exist
  • uses the words 'Independent Party', or the word 'Independent' along with the name, or abbreviation or acronym of a recognised political party, or in a way that is likely to be confused with the name, abbreviation or acronym of a recognised political party.

The naming rules also apply to any abbreviation of the name put forward for registration.

Registered abbreviation

A party may register an abbreviation of its name, which is a shortened version or an acronym of its full party name. The abbreviation or acronym cannot be a separate or alternate name for the party. The abbreviation is simply a shorter version of the party name which can be printed on the ballot papers instead of the full party name if the party wants a shorter version for the ballot papers.

When choosing the name and abbreviation in the initial application for party registration, the party should consider the ways in which it might want its party name to appear on ballot papers. The registered officer can decide whether the party name or abbreviation will appear near endorsed candidates' names on the ballot paper for the House of Representatives and above-the-line on the Senate ballot paper.

Similarity to names of currently registered parties

The most contentious party names are those that may be too similar to the name of an already registered or recognised party. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has considered this matter in the following decisions:

  • Woollard and Australian Electoral Commission and Liberal Party of Australia (WA Division) Inc [2001] AATA 166 (6 March 2001). This case considered an appeal against an AEC refusal to register the party "liberals for forests" because the name was too similar to that of the Liberal Party of Australia and its abbreviation "Liberal". The Tribunal, comprising three federal court judges, directed the AEC to register "liberals for forests" and held that the names were not so similar as to prohibit the registration of "liberals for forests". The Tribunal stated that political parties use in their names generic words such as "Australia", "liberal", "labour", "democrat", "national", "christian", "progressive", "socialist" and the like.
  • The Fishing Party and Australian Electoral Commission and Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party [2009] AATA 170 (17 March 2009). This case considered an appeal against an AEC decision to register the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party. One of the matters raised and considered was the similarity of the names and whether the new party's name should therefore be prohibited. The Tribunal stated that the AEC "has previously formed the opinion that the two names of the Fishing Party and the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party are not sufficiently similar as to be misleading or confusing. No argument was advanced by [the applicant] in support of this contention. We agree with this determination because 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."

In light of the relevant decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and legal advice provided to the AEC (published on the AEC website), the AEC considers the sorts of similar names that would be prohibited are those that might indicate that the new party is likely to be regarded as being related to an existing party.

For example, the AEC has refused a party called the "Country Liberals" (unrelated to the Liberal Party) as it could be seen to be the branch of the Liberal Party of Australia which addresses the needs of country Australia. Note: the party was eventually registered using the name Country Liberals (Northern Territory). Equally, new parties such as the "Western Districts Labor Party" or the "Nationals for Northern Australia" would be likely to be refused unless related to the already registered parties with similar names.

The following are examples of parties with similar names to already registered parties that were registered in recent years on the basis that their names were not likely to be confused with the names of the major parties:

  • Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
  • Curtin Labor Alliance
  • Country Liberals (Northern Territory)
  • Democratic Labour Party (DLP)
  • Democratic Socialist Party
  • Liberal Democratic Party
  • Progressive Labour Party

Party logo selection

Limitations in choice

Section 129A of the Electoral Act provides that registration of a logo will be refused if it:

  • is obscene
  • is the same as, or is likely to be confused with, or mistaken for, the logo of another person 3
  • suggests a relationship or connection with a registered political party if that connection or relationship does not in fact exist
  • uses the words 'Independent Party', or the word 'Independent' and the name of a recognised political party, or abbreviation or acronym of that name, or in a way that is likely to be confused with the name, abbreviation or acronym of a recognised political party.

The refusal of a logo does not fail the registration of a political party.

Format and submission of logo

A party's logo must meet the following requirements as set out in the Commonwealth Electoral (Logo Requirements) Determination 2016:

  • be a vector graphic in electronic format
  • be 100% black in a CMYK (Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) colour space
  • be contained within a frame of 10 mm by 10 mm
  • be able to be reproduced correctly within a frame of 7 mm by 7 mm
  • not include these features:
    • live text
    • transparency or overprinting
    • custom halftone, transfer curve or colour profile settings
  • be a PDF file, of less than 5 megabytes, that complies with International Standard ISO 32000‑1:2008 as was in force on 22 March 2016.

The logo must be emailed to the AEC at: fad@aec.gov.au (the email cannot exceed 10 megabytes).

Develop a party constitution

Sections 4 and 123 of the Electoral Act define an eligible political party as an organisation with an object or activity of promoting the election of its endorsed candidates to the Senate and/or House of Representatives. An eligible political party must be established on the basis of a written constitution which sets out the aims of the party, and the party must meet the membership criterion. The membership criterion is at least one member who is a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, or at least 500 members who are on the electoral roll.

To qualify for registration under the Electoral Act, a political party must have a written constitution that establishes it as an organisation. While the Electoral Act is not specific about all the matters which must be included in the party constitution, it should include:

  • the name of the party
  • the aims of the party
  • the structure and office bearers of the party, including provisions for electing or appointing those office bearers and describing the duties of the office bearers. These provisions should include details about the administration of the party and the handling of the party's assets such as money
    • the constitution must contain a description of the role of the secretary of the party which satisfies the definition of secretary in section 123 of the Electoral Act (Refer to section—Office bearers for more detail)
  • detailed provisions for obtaining and retaining membership of the party
  • the requirements for holding annual general meetings or committee meetings and their conduct
  • the means by which the party constitution can be amended
  • provisions governing State, Territory, local branches if the party is to comprise a branch structure
  • provisions for winding up the party and apportioning its assets.

To assist parties to develop their constitutions detailed guidelines on party constitutions are provided. The guidelines will assist to create a constitution which will satisfy the requirements of the Electoral Act and would support the party's registration.

The guidelines are not intended to create a constitution which best enables the party to achieve political success. The guidelines will assist to create a constitution which will satisfy the requirements of the Electoral Act and would support the party's registration.

The Electoral Act does not require a political party to be incorporated or registered as an unincorporated association. Some new parties have advised the AEC, however, that they have been unable to open party bank accounts to receive membership fees or party post office boxes without evidence that the party is a formal entity.

Office bearers

Parties seeking registration need to appoint the office bearers listed below. Office bearers must be selected in accordance with the terms of the party's constitution.

It is important to outline the responsibilities of the party's office bearers in accordance with the requirements of the Electoral Act.
If office bearers' responsibilities are not properly outlined, the AEC will seek an amendment to the party's constitution, delaying the application.

Secretary

The Electoral Act requires a party to have an office bearer responsible for the day to day management of the party. In section 123 of the Electoral Act, the position is defined as:

  • secretary, in relation to a political party, means the person who holds the office (however described) the duties of which involve responsibility for the carrying out of the administration, and for the conduct of the correspondence, of the party.

In section 126(1) of the Electoral Act, the secretary is required to be one of the signatories to an application for registration by a non-parliamentary party.

A party cannot be registered if it does not have an office bearer equivalent to the Electoral Act definition of secretary identified in its constitution, as it would fail the requirements of the Electoral Act. Party constitutions variously describe this position as (Federal/State/Territory) Secretary, Director, Convenor, or General Secretary.

While many party constitutions place the ultimate responsibility for the management of the party in the hands of an elected Management Committee or Executive Committee, it is essential that the party constitution delegates the day to day management duties to a particular office bearer. The constitution can require the day to day manager to perform those duties as directed by the party's management committee.

As the manager of day to day duties, the AEC expects the secretary to be the office bearer who contacts it on general election and enrolment matters, such as to appoint a party agent or to notify updates in the contact details for the party or its office bearers.

When the AEC is writing to parties about election and enrolment matters in general, it normally writes to the secretary. An Appoint Party Secretary form should be completed and lodged with the party's application for registration.

Registered officer

The registered officer is the party office bearer empowered to nominate the party's endorsed candidates and also select either the party's registered name or the party's registered abbreviation to be printed on ballot papers adjacent to the party's endorsed candidates. Candidates not endorsed by a party's registered officer must be nominated by at least 100 electors entitled to vote in the election for which the candidate is standing (that is the particular electorate for a House of Representatives candidate or the State or Territory for a Senate candidate).

Note: Political parties may not appoint a registered or deputy registered officer who already holds one or more of these positions in any other federally registered political party. As part of the appointment application process, all new appointments of registered and deputy registered officers will include a statement by the nominated officer that they are not a registered or deputy registered officer for another federally registered political party.

Section 140 of the Electoral Act requires the AEC to send any formal notices about party registration to the party's registered officer.

The name of each party's registered officer is recorded in the Register of Political Parties, and therefore the appointment of a registered officer forms part of the application for registration. The registered officer must provide a street address, however, they are not required to give their residential address; the street address of the party's office is sufficient. A post office box is not permitted for this purpose by section 123 of the Electoral Act.

The registered officer of a party may appoint deputy registered officers to assist in the nomination process. To appoint a Deputy Registered Officer the registered officer should complete an Appoint Deputy Registered Officer form. The registered officer can also revoke the appointments of their deputies in writing over their signature.

Section 126(2B) of the Electoral Act provides that a person cannot hold the position of registered officer and/or deputy registered officer for more than one political party. Failure to resolve any instance where a person holds multiple appointments as a registered officer / deputy registered officer constitutes grounds for the party to be deregistered.

Party agent

Section 288 of the Electoral Act provides that registered parties and their State or Territory branches must appoint a party agent. The party agent is responsible for lodging the party's annual financial disclosure return.

Section 290 of the Act provides that to be eligible for appointment as an agent, a person must:

  • be a natural person and not a corporation
  • be at least 18 years of age
  • not have been convicted of an offence under the funding and disclosure provisions of the Electoral Act
  • have signed a consent to the appointment
  • have signed a declaration of eligibility for appointment.

Election funding is paid through the party agent. If no current party agent is appointed, no election funding can be paid even if some of the party's endorsed candidates meet the 4% threshold.

An Appoint Party Agent form should be completed and lodged with the party's application for registration.

Changes to details recorded for party office bearers

Changes to update the address details for the party office bearers can be notified to the AEC by the office bearers themselves. If party office bearers do not keep their contact details up to date with the AEC, they may miss an important reminder or advice.

Registered officer

A change to the person who is the registered officer for a party is a formal change to the Register of Political Parties under section 134 of the Electoral Act. This change can be made by the secretary of a parliamentary party or three members of a non-parliamentary party. Where three members of a non-parliamentary party are making the application to change the registered officer and those members do not include the party secretary and/or other office bearers known to the AEC, further enquiries will be made before the change is recorded. If the current registered officer does not sign the application to change the Register of Political Parties form, the AEC must notify them and provide 7 days for them to advise any reasons why the new appointment should not be made. To change a party's registered officer contact details a Change Registered Officer Details form should be used.

Secretary

The secretary of a registered political party is a powerful position and therefore the AEC will seek evidence that a new party secretary has been appointed in accordance with the party constitution before recording a change in officer bearer. The Change Party Secretary form provides for an independent party official, for example, the President or Treasurer of the party to certify that the secretary has been properly appointed in accordance with the party's constitution to perform the role of secretary defined in the Electoral Act.

Most other changes, such as a new party agent or an update to the party's contact details, would be notified to the AEC by the party secretary. Forms are available to assist in notifying these changes.

Party membership

The Electoral Act provides for two types of political parties which may be registered.

Parliamentary parties

Parliamentary parties are those political parties which have at least one member who is also a Senator or a Member of the House of Representatives. While a parliamentary party must be an organisation, it does not need an extensive membership list. One member who is a parliamentarian qualifies the party against the membership criterion.

If a new political party is seeking registration as a parliamentary party, it needs to lodge a declaration signed by a Senator or Member of the House of Representatives, on their parliamentary letterhead, that they are a member of the party and not a member of any other registered political party.

Non-parliamentary parties

Most new political parties seeking registration are non-parliamentary parties and need to prove that they have at least 500 members who are on the Commonwealth electoral roll.

The party needs to lodge a membership list as part of their application. The membership list needs to contain each member's full name, residential address and date of birth. To allow the processing of a party's application to proceed quickly, please include email and telephone contacts for each member. Otherwise there will be delays in processing the application while the AEC waits for members to respond to letters.

The party can use the details in the membership list to check that each member is enrolled by using the 'Check my electoral enrolment' facility or eRoll which is available in all AEC offices. Party members used to support the application must be listed on the Commonwealth electoral roll.

It can save a party several weeks in delays if the party takes the trouble to do its own check of its members' electoral enrolment online or at an AEC office.

The AEC requires parties to choose a maximum of 550 members for the membership list which they include with their application. A list in excess of 550 members can cause significant delays in the registration process. The AEC may return an application accompanied by a list in excess of 550 members and ask the party to lodge the application again with a smaller list.

The Electoral Act does not require the party to charge its members a membership fee. This decision is left to the discretion of the party constitution.

Completing the application

Application form

To register a party, an Application for registration of a non-Parliamentary party form should be completed. All parts of the respective form should be completed to avoid delays in processing the application. The form contains a checklist to help ensure documentation is complete before submitting the application to the AEC.

The application form must contain:

  • the name of the party
  • an abbreviation of that name if the party wishes to use a shorter name on ballot papers
  • whether the party wishes to register a logo (and the correctly formatted proposed logo must be emailed to the AEC)
  • the details and signature of the secretary of the party
  • contact details for the party office such as website, phone number, street address, postal address, fax number and email address
  • the name, street address and signature of the proposed registered officer of the party
  • whether the party is a branch or part of another registered party
  • whether the party wishes to receive election funding if its endorsed candidates receive at least 4% of the vote
  • the name, street address, party position and signature of 9 other members of the party (not required for a parliamentary party).

Statutory declaration by party secretary

A statutory declaration is to be completed by the party secretary. The AEC confirms membership of a party with a random membership sample under a formula provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The AEC relies on the secretary's statutory declaration as evidence regarding the other members. In the event of evidence of fraud in a party's membership, the AEC would seek advice about prosecuting the secretary for making a false statutory declaration.

The declaration needs to include the following matters:

  • that he or she is the properly appointed secretary (or Director, or Convener, etc.) of the party
  • that a copy of the party's constitution is formally annexed to the declaration (marked A, for example)
  • that a list of the 500+ party members supporting the application, showing each members' full name, residential address, and date of birth and contact details is formally annexed (marked B, for example)
  • that each of the members on the membership list is a member of the party and has been accepted in accordance with the party's constitution
  • that an electronic list of the 500+ party members supporting the application, showing each member's full name, residential address, and date of birth and contact details is enclosed.

Each annexure to a statutory declaration needs to be marked:

  • This is the annexure marked A (or 1,2,3, etc.) referred to in the statutory declaration sworn by me (put full name), on (put full date – day, month, year) before (put name of authorised witness to the statutory declaration). Each annexure must be signed by both the party secretary as the person who made the declaration and the witness as the person who witnessed the declaration.

Party agent appointment

An application to register a political party should be accompanied by an Appoint Party Agent form. That is, a party agent appointment must be in force at all times so the appointment would take effect upon registration.

Application fee

Each application to register a political party or to change a registered party's name or abbreviation must be accompanied by a fee of $500. This fee can be paid by direct deposit to:

BSB: 092-009
Account: 113597
Bank: Reserve Bank of Australia
Branch: Canberra ACT

Please ensure that the funds transfer is clearly described.

If paying be cheque, it should be made payable to The Collector of Public Monies, Australian Electoral Commission.

Lodge the application

The application and its supporting documentation can be lodged with the AEC at its principal office in any State/Territory capital city, however, the AEC suggests that applications be lodged directly, by post or courier, at either of the following addresses. Alternatively, applications can be sent via email to fad@aec.gov.au.

Disclosure and Party Registration Section
Australian Electoral Commission
Locked Bag 4007
CANBERRA ACT 2601

or

Disclosure and Party Registration Section
Australian Electoral Commission
50 Marcus Clarke Street
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Please use the checklist on the application form to ensure you lodge all the required documents.

Processing an application

Acknowledgement

The AEC will write to the applicant within a few days to acknowledge receipt of the application and enclose a receipt for the application fee. The letter will also advise the next steps.

Note: If your application contains a request to register a logo, please call the AEC on 02 6271 4552 to confirm receipt of your application.

Initial assessment

The AEC will examine the application against all the requirements of the Electoral Act. That is, the AEC will test for evidence that:

  • the party is an organisation, established on the basis of a written constitution that sets out the aims of the party, including that the party intends to promote the election to the Senate and/or House of Representatives of candidates endorsed by it. An active party website or regular newsletter to the members may also provide some evidence that the party is operating as an organisation
  • the name of the party and any abbreviation sought are not prohibited
  • any logo sought is not prohibited and has been provided in a format that conforms to technical requirements
  • the constitution comprises the elements either required directly by the Electoral Act or necessary to establish an organisation
  • the application is made by the secretary of the party and another 9 members
  • the application form is complete with all the details and the attachments required under the Electoral Act
  • there is evidence that the 500+ members supporting the party's registration are on the Commonwealth electoral roll
  • the members confirm when approached by the AEC that they are members of the party. The AEC contacts a random sample of 18–50 members and expects a certain percentage of those members to confirm their membership of the party. The exact sample size and permitted number of denials of membership are as recommended by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to provide the AEC with confidence that the party has the members required by the Electoral Act. A table of random sample sizes for different numbers of members is provided at Appendix 3.

If there are apparent problems with the application that might require the AEC to refuse it when the initial assessment is complete, section 131 of the Electoral Act provides for the AEC to issue a formal notice to the party, giving it an opportunity to amend the application.

The party can amend the application so that the AEC is able to proceed with advertising it, or request that the AEC determine the application in its current form. If the application is not amended, it is likely the AEC will refuse to register the party.

If the application passes its initial assessment, the AEC will advertise the party's application as required by section 132 of the Electoral Act.

Publication Australia-wide

When the AEC is satisfied that the party's application is in order, it must advertise the application in accordance with section 132 of the Electoral Act on the AEC website and in newspapers circulating generally in each State and Territory. The advertisement will give any person or organisation an opportunity to object to the registration of the party. Objections are considered only on the following grounds:

  • that the party is not eligible for registration under the provisions of the Electoral Act
  • that the application does not contain all the elements required by the Electoral Act
  • that the name or abbreviation of the party is prohibited under the names provisions in section 129 of the Electoral Act
  • that the logo is prohibited under s.129A of the Electoral Act.

The advertisements provide a period of one month in which any person or organisation can lodge an objection. If an objection under the grounds set out above is lodged, the AEC will forward it to the proposed registered officer of the party so that the party can respond to the objection.

Final decision and statement of reasons

The application, any objections lodged and any comments on those objections from the party are then put to a delegate of the AEC who will make a final determination on the application. The AEC will advise the registered officer of the party of the final decision and provide a copy of a Statement of Reasons for the decision. The Statement of Reasons is also published on the AEC website.

If the party has been registered, the AEC will provide the registered officer with a copy of the party's entry in the Register of Political Parties and relevant information for newly registered political parties. The AEC will also update the copy of the Register on the AEC website to include the new party.

The Electoral Act provides appeal rights in relation to party registration decisions. See Appeals.

How long will the process take?

New party application

The minimum timeframe to process an application for party registration is three months. It may take the AEC one month to complete an initial assessment of the application (including contacting members) and two weeks for the arrangement for the compulsory advertisements to be published. One month is set aside by law to allow the lodgement of objections to the registration and then a further two weeks to finalise the application if no objections are received.

If there are problems with the application which require the AEC to invite the party to amend it, or if objections are lodged in response to the advertisements, the processing time will be extended and include the time taken by the party to respond to both circumstances.

Change to the Register application

For currently registered parties seeking to "Change the Register" either by changing their party name, adding or changing their abbreviation or logo, the minimum timeframe to process an application is six weeks. One month is set aside by law to allow the lodgement of objections to the application to Change the Register.

If there are problems with the application which require the AEC to invite the party to amend it, or if objections are lodged in response to the advertisements, the processing time will be extended and include the time taken by the party to respond to both circumstances.

No action during an election

Section 127 of the Electoral Act provides that "no action shall be taken in relation to any application for the registration of a political party" in the period commencing on the day of the issue of a writ for a federal election and finishing on the day of the return of that writ. That means that the processing of applications must freeze on the issue of a writ for a federal election (including a by-election) and can commence only after that writ is returned. This includes applications to register a logo.

State branches

Section 130 of the Electoral Act provides that the AEC may register an eligible political party notwithstanding that a political party that is related to it has been registered. Often a political party may establish branches or divisions in one or more States or Territories and want to separately register those branches or divisions. Registration of such branches would follow the same process as previously outlined in this guide.

Recognised branches

A State or Territory branch of a registered political party may approach the AEC to request that it recognise the respective State or Territory branch.

In determining whether to recognise a State or Territory branch, the AEC relies on the definition of State branch in Part XX of the Electoral Act. Section 287(1) of the Electoral Act defines:

State branch, in relation to a political party, means a branch or division of the party that is organised on the basis of a particular State or Territory.

For the AEC to recognise a State or Territory branch it must be satisfied that the branch or division is organised on the basis of a particular State or Territory.

A branch or division that wants to be recognised must provide evidence to the AEC to support its case that it is organised on the basis of a particular State or Territory. The type of evidence the AEC would consider when making a determination would include:

  • details of the establishment of the branch including the inaugural meeting minutes
  • details of the current office bearers and their most recent appointment or election
  • a copy of the constitution of the branch
  • details of the activities of the branch, its website, the way it services the members in that State or Territory
  • the level of ongoing financial activity along with copies of statements from the branch's bank accounts; and
  • any further evidence that might show that the branch should be recognised, such as registration with the electoral commission in that State or Territory, or other evidence of the membership of the branch.

If the AEC formally recognises a State or Territory branch of a registered political party, the branch then lodges its own financial disclosure returns. Additionally, any election funding paid in respect of votes won by the party's endorsed candidates in that State or Territory would be paid to the State or Territory branch, not to the main registered body of the party.


1. Recognised political party means a Commonwealth parliamentary party, a federally registered political party, or a party that is recognised or registered in a State or Territory and has endorsed a candidate in its current name in that State of Territory in the previous 5 years.

2. A political party is related to another political party if it is part of the same party, for example, one is a branch or division of the other.

3. 'Person' covers a wider range than just political parties, and so includes the logos of other organisations including companies, unincorporated associations and Government bodies.