Party registration decision: Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)

Updated: 4 January 2011

Party re-entered in the Register of Political Parties

File reference: Reg2511, 07/740

The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the application by the Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) to be registered as a political party under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 should be accepted and the Party re-entered in the Register of Political Parties.

Background

On 7 May 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application from the Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) (the Party) for re-registration as a political party under the provisions of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).

The AEC advertised the Party's application on Tuesday 14 August 2007 in a Special Notices Gazette and on Thursday 16 August 2007 in ten major newspapers throughout Australia.

Two written submission were received objecting to the re-registration of the Party.

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 Electoral Act requires the AEC to maintain a publicly available 'Register of Political Parties'.

The provisions specifically relevant for the 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 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

The Party meets the definition under section 4(1) of the Electoral Act as it is an organisation based on a constitution, including an objective to promote the election of candidates to the 'Federal Senate and the Federal House of Representatives'.

The Party was registered with the AEC from 1984 until its de-registration in December 2006, and is currently registered as a political party in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

The Party passes this test.

Application

The application conforms with the technical requirements in the Electoral Act.

Secretary

The role of secretary is well described in the Party's constitution in section 4(d). The secretary 'will be responsible for all National correspondence and the convening of the National Council and the National Administration Committee'.

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, are set out in the Party's constitution and 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.

If, in contacting a random sample of 20 people from the membership list, there is no more than one instance where the membership could not be confirmed, then the AEC accepts that the party has passed the required membership test. The test is designed to detect fraudulent membership in the 500 members on the basis that an application that contains fraudulent memberships is unlikely to have 500 members.

A random sample check of 20 members was completed in July 2007. All 20 members confirmed their membership. A check against all available membership lists was conducted, and of the 750 members provided by the Party, no duplicates and no members under the age of 17 were found. None of the 750 members had been relied on for registration purposes by another political party.

The AEC is of the view that the Party has demonstrated that there is no fraud in its membership list and that it has the 500 members to be eligible for registration.

Constitution

The Party has a constitution that was provided with its application. The constitution contains the following matters relevant to registration:

  • a clear aim of promoting candidates for election to the Senate or the House of Representatives;
  • identification of the role of secretary; and
  • detailed membership criteria.

The Party passes this test.

Party name

Section 129 prohibits the registration of parties with certain names. A party cannot be registered if its name or abbreviation is:

  • longer than six words;
  • perceived to be obscene;
  • 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 resembling 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;
  • one that a reasonable person would think, suggests a connection or relationship with another registered political party, if that relationship does not exist;
  • comprised of the words 'Independent Party';
  • comprised of, or contains, the word 'Independent', and the name, abbreviation or acronym of a recognised political party; or
  • 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 delegate's view is that the Party passes the names test in section 129 of the Electoral Act.

Two objections were received to the name and abbreviation of the Party. These are discussed in detail below.

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 Electoral 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 Electoral Act (the names test).

The AEC received two written submissions from:

  • the Australian Democrats National President; and
  • Arthur Chesterfield-Evans.

The submissions argue that the application from the Party should be refused as it contravenes section 129 of the Electoral Act. The objections are based on the fact that it is often referred to as the 'Australian Democratic Party' and the 'Democratic Party', and that the applicant Party's use of the word 'Democratic' in the Party name implies an association with the Australian Democrats, where no such association exists.

The submissions also object to the abbreviation the applicant Party wishes to register – 'Christian Democratic Party'. The abbreviation of the Australian Democrats is 'Democrats'. The objectors argue that in the past, Christian Democratic Party supporters have also referred to their Party as 'Democrats' or Christian Democrats' resulting in voters mistakenly believing the Australian Democrats and Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) are related in some way.

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.

A copy of the first objection was provided to the Party on 13 September 2007 and the second objection on 17 September 2007. At the time of the delegate's decision on this matter, no response had been received from the Party.

Analysis of objections

Objections to use of 'Democratic' and 'Democrat' in Party name and abbreviation:
Paragraph 129(1)(d) states that the Commission shall refuse an application where the name or 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 name or abbreviation suggests a connection or relationship with a registered political party that does not exist.

The following parties have similar names or abbreviations:

  • Australian Democrats (Democrats); and
  • Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of Australia (D.L.P. – Democratic Labor Party).

The delegate rejected the objection on the basis of the precedent set in the Woollard Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision (Woollard and the AEC and the Liberal Party [2001] AATA 166), 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 AEC is of the view that there are no grounds to uphold this objection.

Conclusion

The Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) has now been re-registered.

Tim Pickering
A/g Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission

17 September 2007

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