Party registration decision: Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch)

Updated: 4 January 2011

Change of abbreviation on the Register of Political Parties

File reference: Reg2630, 98/01282

The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the application by the Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch) to change its abbreviation to 'Labor' under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 should be accepted and the change entered in the Register of Political Parties.

Background

On 14 June 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application from the Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch) to change its registered abbreviation to "Labor" under the provisions of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).

On 21 August 2007, the delegate determined the initial consideration of the Party's application and approved its advertising.

The application was advertised on Wednesday 22 August 2007 in a Special Notices Gazette and on the 27 August 2007 in ten major newspapers throughout Australia.

No objections were received.

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 and to change their entries in the Register. The Act requires the AEC to maintain a publicly available 'Register of Political Parties'.

The provisions specifically relevant for changes to the Register are sections 129, 131, 132, 133 and 134 of the Act.

Changes to the Register of Political Parties are made under section 134, which requires changes to the name or abbreviation of a party be processed in accordance with sections 129, 131, 132 and 133.

The process for dealing with applications to amend a party's name or abbreviation are as follows:

  • in accordance with section 131 of the Act, the application undergoes a process of initial consideration by the delegate;
  • once the delegate has determined that the application need not be refused, the application is published in the Commonwealth Gazette and newspapers circulating generally in each state and territory;
  • a period of at least one month is allowed for the submission of objections to the change;
  • where objections have been lodged the party is given notice and an opportunity to comment; and
  • the delegate then determines the application taking into account any objections and the party's response to those objections.

Where a decision is made to change the register, the change must be published in the Commonwealth Gazette.

The AEC must write to the party and any objectors advising the registration and setting out review rights, s.134(6) and s.141(8).

Application of relevant legal provisions

The application

The Party's application was made and signed by the secretary of the Party, setting out his name, address and the capacity in which he makes the application. The prescribed fee of $500 was enclosed with the application.

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.

There are several registrations both federally and at state level for branches of the Australian Labor Party, including the Country Labor Party. There is also a federal registration and a Victorian state registration of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of Australia (the DLP).

The Australian Labor Party is a network of parties related under section 123 of the Electoral Act. The AEC did not ask the secretary of the Party for formal evidence that the 10 units of the Australian Labor Party registered at federal level and the several of those units also registered at state level are related.

The Party, however, is not related to the DLP and on the 20 June 2007, and could consequently incur the prohibition under: paragraph 129(1)(d) of having an abbreviation that 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; and paragraph 129(1)(da) of having an abbreviation that is one a reasonable person would think suggests a link between the two parties that does not in fact exist.

In determining whether the abbreviation offends paragraphs 129(1)(d) and 129(1)(da), the precedent of Woollard Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision (Woollard and the AEC and the Liberal Party [2001] AATA 166) applies. In particular, the statement by the Tribunal that:

Absent clear language to contrary effect, this disqualifying provision is not to be construed as to lock up generic words as the property of any organisation when it comes to names that can be used on the ballot paper. And it is significant that there is no registration requirement conditioning the wider use of party names outside the polling booth.

The Party passes the names test.

Written submissions

Written submissions objecting to an application from a political party to change its name can only address two matters:

  • 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).

No written submissions were received.

Conclusion

The AEC saw no reason to refuse to register the Party and no objections were lodged following the advertisement of its application.

The registered abbreviation of the Party has been changed to 'Labor'.

Paul Dacey
Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission

27 September 2007

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