Party registration decision: Cheaper Petrol Party

Updated: 4 January 2011

Party not entered in the Register of Political Parties

File reference: 07/1034 – Reg2573

The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the application by the Cheaper Petrol Party to be registered as a political party under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 should not be accepted and the Party not entered in the Register of Political Parties.

Background

On 28 June 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application from the Cheaper Petrol Party (the Party) for registration as a political party under the provisions of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).

On 19 July 2007, the delegate of the AEC approved the advertising of the Party's application to invite objections. The Party's application was advertised in the Commonwealth Gazette on Friday 20 July 2007 and in major newspapers circulating in the various states and territories on Monday 23 July 2007.

No objections were received.

The AEC undertook the series of tests usually conducted as part of the initial consideration, and found that the Party could be refused registration on the following grounds:

  • the Party had failed the random sample membership check with only 18 confirmed members; and
  • the Party had not identified the person who performed the function of secretary within the Party, that is, the person who carries out of the administration and conducts the correspondence of the Party.

The Party was written to in these terms on 28 August 2007 and was invited to vary its application accordingly.

The Party did not formally respond to this letter, but did supply a new membership list by email on 31 August 2007.

A random membership check on the second membership list was carried out in early September 2007. The Party failed this membership check.

The Party did not clarify the identity the person performing the function of party secretary.

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 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 this website.

In relation to this Party, the relevant provisions require it to:

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

Application of relevant legal provisions

Political party

The Party meets the definition of a political party firstly in being an organisation, as it is based on a constitution that establishes the organisational structure (e.g. executive committee, office bearers, membership, meetings). Secondly, its constitution includes in its objectives 'to nominate and promote candidates to contest any elections for Local Councils, State, Territory, the Commonwealth House of Representatives and the Commonwealth Senate'.

The Party passes this test.

Application

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

Secretary

Section 123 of the Electoral Act defines a party secretary as the person, however described, who carries out of the administration and conducts the correspondence of the Party.

The AEC found that the role of secretary is not described in the Party's constitution, but this position is one of the three positions making up the Executive Committee.

The office that fits the definition of secretary in the Electoral Act is not obvious in the Party's constitution.

The Party was sent a letter providing them with the opportunity to clarify this office on 28 August 2007, however, the AEC has not received a response from the Party.

The Party fails this test as its constitution does not provide a description of the role of the secretary and the Party hasn't responded to the AEC's request for clarification.

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 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.

The Party's first random membership check was completed in July 2007. Eighteen out of 20 people confirmed their membership of the Party and two people did not respond to phone or written contact.

On 31 August 2007 the Party supplied the AEC with an updated membership list by email.

A random membership check using the second membership list was completed in early September 2007.

A check against all available membership lists was conducted, and of the 520 members provided by the Party, 5 members under the age of 17 were found and removed from the membership list. Of those contacted, two people denied they were members.

The Party has not demonstrated that it has the necessary 500 members to be eligible for registration and therefore, does not satisfy the membership eligibility criterion.

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; and
  • detailed membership criteria.

However, the constitution does not identify a position that performs the function of a secretary.

The Party does not pass 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 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 Party name and abbreviation do not contravene any of the restrictions set out by section 129 of the Electoral Act.

The Party passes the names test.

Objections

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).

No written submissions were received by the AEC in relation to the Party.

Conclusion

The Party failed to satisfy the delegate of the AEC that it was an eligible political party under section 123 of the Electoral Act in that the AEC's random membership check could not confirm the authenticity of its membership list, and the Party has also failed to clarify who performs the function of the secretary in accordance with section 123 of the Electoral Act.

The application for registration by the Cheaper Petrol Party is refused.

Tim Pickering
Acting Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission

17 September 2007

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