Party registration decision: Human Rights Party

Updated: 4 January 2011

Refusal of Application for Party Registration

File reference: Reg2328a, 2007/387

The delegate of the Electoral Commission determined that the application by the Human Rights Party to be registered under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 should be refused.

Background

On 27 February 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application from The Human Rights 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 18 June 2007, the Delegate of the AEC determined the initial consideration of the Party's application and issued a notice under section 131 of the Electoral Act inviting the Party to lodge an improved membership list as the Party's list had failed the AEC's random sample membership test. The Party responded on 13 July 2007 asking that its application be determined 'as is'.

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 document 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 (s.4);
  • be eligible for registration (s.123), that is have either at least 500 members eligible to be on the electoral roll, or a member who is a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, that have not been relied upon for registration by another political party;
  • make application for registration in the manner prescribed in s.126; and
  • propose a name and optional abbreviation for registration that is not prohibited by s.129.

Application of relevant legal provisions

Political party

Subsection 4(1) of the Electoral Act defines a political party as an organisation that has the object or activity, 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 Party is accepted as an organisation on the basis of its known registration under NSW state law, its history of contesting elections in NSW, the fact that it has had a member in the NSW Parliament and the organisational structure set out in its constitution. The Party's constitution records one objective to be "to promote election to the House of Representatives and/or the Senate of a candidate or candidates endorsed by the Party".

The Party meets the definition of political party in section 4 of the Electoral Act.

The application

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

The membership

Section 123 of the 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 membership check of a random sample of 20 members was undertaken in May 2007. Fifteen members confirmed their membership, two people denied they were members of the Party and three people did not respond either to phone messages left by the AEC or letters written to them asking for confirmation of their membership.

The Party did not satisfy the AEC that it had the necessary 500 members to be eligible for registration.

Constitution

The Party's constitution contains the following matters relevant to registration:

  • an aim of promoting candidates for election to the Senate and House of Representatives;
  • a secretary with a partly 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. Two parts of the names test are relevant to this application. They are that a name is prohibited if:

  • it so nearly resembles that it is likely to be confused with or mistaken for, the name of an unrelated political party already registered at the federal level, or with an unrelated political party already registered at the state or territory level which has endorsed a candidate in a state or territory election in the previous five years; or
  • a reasonable person would think it suggests a connection or relationship between the party and a party registered at the federal level if that connection or relationship does not exist.

While there is party named "Peter Breen – Human Rights Party" registered in New South Wales to contest elections for the NSW Parliament, the AEC accepts that this party is related to the Human Rights Party applying for federal registration and does not prohibit the use of the Party's name for registration. There are no other parties registered federally or in the states/territories which would prohibit the use of the Party's name.

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

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 did not confirm the authenticity of its membership list.

The application for registration by the Human Rights Party is refused.

Paul Dacey
Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission

25 July 2007

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