Party registration decision: Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party

Updated: 4 January 2011

Party entered in the Register of Political Parties

File reference: Reg2416a, 07/176

The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the application by the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party to be registered as a political party under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 should be accepted and the party entered in the Register of Political Parties.

Background

On 2 January 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application from The Fishing Party (the Party) (Queensland based) for registration as a political party under the provisions of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).

On 11 May 2007, the delegate of the AEC determined the initial consideration of the Party's application and wrote to the Party advising it that the delegate may be required to refuse the application on the basis that the name 'The Fishing Party' was the same name as an already recognised party.

On 28 May 2007, the Party formally responded amending its application so that the name of the Party is the 'Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party' and the abbreviation is 'AFLP'.

The Party's application was advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette and in 10 newspapers circulating in the various states and territories on Wednesday 4 July 2007. Four written submissions objecting to the registration of the Party were received.

Application of the 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 notice on the AEC's website.

The relevant provisions require this Party to:

  • be an organisation with an aim of promoting candidates it endorses for election to the House of Representatives and/or the Senate;
  • have at least 500 members eligible to be on the electoral roll;
  • make application for registration in the manner prescribed in section 126; and
  • propose a name and optional abbreviation for registration that is not prohibited by section 129.

Political Party

Subsection 4(1) of the Electoral Act defines a political party as an organisation that has the object or activity of, or has as one of its objects or activities, the promotion of the election to the Senate or to the House of Representatives, of a candidate or candidates endorsed by it.

The delegate determined that the Party is an organisation on the basis of the Party being registered for state purposes in Queensland. The Party's constitution records a purpose to 'seek election to the Commonwealth House of Representatives and Senate, the State and Territory Upper and Lower Houses, and local governments'.

The Party is accepted as a political party as defined in section 4 of the Electoral Act.

Application

The application conforms to the technical requirements set out in section 126 of the Electoral Act.

The Membership

Section 123 of the Electoral Act requires a non-Parliamentary party to have at least 500 members (who are entitled to enrolment).

The criterion for membership including the payment of a membership fee is set out in the Party's constitution. 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.

To test that a party has 500 members who are entitled to enrolment, the AEC:

  • removes from the list members under 17 years of age;
  • removes any duplicate memberships on the list;
  • removes people who have already been used by another party to establish its eligibility for registration; and
  • conducts a random test for fraudulent membership.

The test for fraudulent membership involves contacting a random sample of 20 people from the membership list by phone and by mail if necessary. Where more than one of the randomly selected people from the membership list cannot be confirmed as a member, then the membership test has been failed.

A random sample check of 20 members was completed in April 2007. Nineteen members confirmed their membership and one person did not respond to phone and written contact by the AEC.

The Party satisfied the delegate that it had the necessary 500 members to be eligible for registration.

Constitution

The Party has an up-to-date constitution that was provided with its application. The constitution contains the following matters relevant to registration:

  • an aim of promoting candidates for election to the Federal Parliament;
  • a secretary with a well defined role; and
  • membership criteria.

The Party's constitution satisfies the requirements of the Electoral Act.

Party name

Section 129 of the Electoral Act prohibits the registration of parties with certain names. This is called the names test. The names test requires that a political party cannot be registered if its name or abbreviation:

  • 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 applicant party initially attempted to register as 'The Fishing Party'.

On 11 May 2007, the AEC issued the applicant Party a notice to vary its name as the name was the name of an already recognised political party, the NSW State-registered The Fishing Party.

On 28 May 2007, the AEC received a response from the applicant Party varying the name of the Party to the 'Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party' and the abbreviation of the Party to 'AFLP'.

The new name of the party, 'Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party' and the abbreviation 'AFLP' do not offend any of the section 129 prohibitions.

The Party passes the names test in section 129 of the Electoral Act.

Objections

Before a decision can be made on an application to register a political party, the AEC is required to advertise the application seeking written submissions objecting to the registration of the party.

Written submissions objecting to an application to register a political party can only address three matters:

  • that the application does not relate to an eligible political party;
  • that the application has not been made in accordance with section 126 of the Act (the section setting out the requirements to be met by an applicant political party); and
  • that the application should be refused under section 129 of the Act (the names test).

The Party's application was advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette and in 10 newspapers circulating in the various states and territories on Wednesday 4 July 2007.

Four written submissions were received:

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) National Secretariat
The Australian Labor Party National Secretariat made this submission on 5 July2007. It argued that the application from the Party should be refused under section 129 of the Act. The Australian Labor Party objects to the abbreviation 'AFLP' on the grounds that it may be confused or mistaken for the abbreviation 'ALP'.

The Fishing Party
The Fishing Party made two submissions on 12 July and 18 July 2007. The Fishing Party is registered in New South Wales and has applied for federal registration.

The two submissions raise three matters:

  • the use of the word 'Fishing' in the name of the applicant Party would cause people to mistake the applicant Party as the federally registered Fishing Party;
  • the list of members used by the applicant Party to seek registration contained the names of people who were members of The Fishing Party; and
  • the abbreviation of the applicant Party could be confused or mistaken for the abbreviation 'ALP'.

The Cleveland Branch of the Australian Labor Party
The Cleveland Branch of the Australian Labor Party made this submission on 31 July2007. It argues that the abbreviation 'AFLP' could be confused or mistaken for the abbreviation 'ALP'.

Process for dealing with objections

Subsection 132(5) of the Electoral Act requires that the AEC provide the proposed registered officer of the applicant Party with a copy of all submissions received and provide them with the opportunity to comment on the submissions.

On 31 July 2007, the AEC notified the Party that objections had been received and forwarded a copy of the submissions to the Party for comment.

On 3 August 2007, the AEC received a response from the Party that outlined their reasons for rejecting the objections raised against them.

Analysis of objections

Objection to similarity of 'AFLP' with 'ALP'
All of those who made submissions objecting to the registration of the applicant Party argue that the abbreviation 'AFLP' could be confused or mistaken for the abbreviation 'ALP'. The arguments are invoking subparagraph 132(2)(b)(iv) of the Electoral Act – that the application should be refused under section 129 of the Act (the names test).

Paragraph 129(1)(d) states that the Commission shall refuse an application where the abbreviation so nearly resembles the abbreviation of a recognised political party that it is likely to be confused or mistaken for that party.

Paragraph 129(1)(da) states that the Commission shall refuse an application where a reasonable person would think the abbreviation suggests a connection or relationship with a registered political party that does not exist.

The following political parties have similar abbreviations:

  • Australian Labor Party (Northern Territory Branch) – ALP
  • Australian Labor Party (ALP) – ALP

In its response to the submissions, the applicant Party advises:

'We understand that this issue was addressed by the AEC before the name was gazetted, and that legal opinion suggested that the name 'Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party' would not breach the regulations. The same reasoning if applied to the abbreviation 'AFLP' would suggest that this would also fall within the requirements of the regulations.'

The delegate rejected the objections to the abbreviation AFLP on the following grounds:

  • there is some material doubt that the delegate would be required to refuse the application based on the abbreviation;
  • the objections did not provide evidence, such as surveys or other research, to overcome the material doubt; and
  • the delegate's view, based on the decision in Woollard and the AEC and the Liberal Party [2001] AATA 166, is that they would not be required to refuse registration based on the abbreviation AFLP.

Use of 'Fishing' in the Party name
The Fishing Party objected to the applicant Party's use of 'Fishing' in the Party name.

Consideration of this issue is similar to the consideration of the abbreviation 'AFLP' above.

As The Fishing Party is a party registered in NSW, only paragraph 129(1)(d) applies to this objection.

Paragraph 129(1)(d) states that the Commission shall refuse an application where the name so nearly resembles the name of a recognised political party that it is likely to be confused or mistaken for that party.

In its response to the submission, the applicant Party advises:

'We understand that this issue was addressed by the AEC before the name was gazetted, and that legal opinion suggested that the name 'Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party' would not breach the regulations. The same reasoning if applied to the abbreviation 'AFLP' would suggest that this would also fall within the requirements of the regulations.'

The Delegate of the AEC rejected the objections to the name Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party on the following grounds:

  • there is some material doubt that the delegate would be required to refuse the application based on the name;
  • the objection did not provide evidence, such as surveys or other research, to overcome the material doubt; and
  • the delegate's view, based on the decision in Woollard and the AEC and the Liberal Party [2001] AATA 166, is that they would not be required to refuse registration based on the name Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party.

Membership of the applicant Party
The Fishing Party argues that the list of members used by the applicant Party to seek registration contained the names of people who are members of the Fishing Party.

In its response to this submission, the applicant Party advises:

'Membership of the Fishing Party (QLD) was confirmed by the ECQ prior to our recent state registration. Ms Libby Gladwin of the ECQ confirmed that over 500 signed declarations of membership were received from the membership documentation provided by us. We would also confirm that the Fishing Party (QLD) operates under its own ABN and has its own bank accounts. Receipts for membership are provided by the Fishing Party (QLD)'.

Historically, the Fishing Party and the applicant Party were two parts of the same Party that had Federal registration until December 2006.

There is no prohibition in the legislation on people being members of more than one registered party.

An objection in relation to party membership is based on the requirements of paragraph 126(2)(ca) and subsection 126(2A) of the Act.

Paragraph 126(2)(ca) requires that a non-parliamentary party provide a list of 500 members to be relied on for the purposes of registration. Subsection 126(2A) of the Act states that two or more parties cannot rely on the same member for the purposes of qualifying to be a registered political party.

The party membership requirement is therefore only that the 500 members an applicant party is relying on for registration have not been used to support an application to register another party.

At the initial consideration, the AEC tested the list of members supplied by the applicant Party and determined that three members had been relied on by other parties.

In light of the objection, the AEC has conducted this test again and found no further members who had been relied on by other parties.

Consequently, there are no grounds to support this objection.

Conclusion

The delegate did not uphold the objections it received to the registration of the Party. The Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party has now been registered.

Paul Dacey
Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission

21 August 2007

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