Party registration decision: Senator On-Line

Updated: 4 January 2011

Party entered in the Register of Political Parties

File reference: 07/615 – Reg2451

The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the application by Senator On-Line 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 13 April 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission (the AEC) received an application from Senator On-Line (the Party) for registration as a political party under the provisions of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).

On 26 June 2007, the delegate of the AEC completed the initial consideration of the application and issued a section 131 notice to the Party requiring:

  • evidence be produced to prove that the Party is an organisation;
  • a statutory declaration signed by a competent witness be provided annexing the Party's membership forms as required by AEC policy; and
  • an improved membership list be provided which would allow the Party to pass a random membership check.

On 10 July 2007, the Party responded formally to the section 131 notice. The Party provided signed minutes to a series of its meetings as evidence of the Party's existence as an organisation. The Party also corrected its statutory declaration to include the qualification of the authorised witness and provided an updated membership list.

The Party's application was advertised on Friday, 20 July 2007 in the Commonwealth Gazette and in newspapers throughout the various states and territories. One written submission was received objecting to the 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 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.

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; 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.

When considering the Party's application, the delegate had no evidence that the Party is an organisation and on 26 June 2007, issued a notice under s.131 to the Party requesting such evidence. The Party responded on 10 July 2007 with copies of signed minutes of a series of executive meetings.

The delegate determined that the Party is an organisation on the basis that it is formed on a constitution and has records of its executive meetings. Paragraph 2.3 of the Party's constitution provides that one of the objectives of the Party is to "run candidates for the Senate. SOL's aim is to be an independent voice of the majority in the upper house of parliament".

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 Party has satisfied the technical requirements in section 126 for an application for party registration.

Secretary

The delegate noted that the Party's constitution does not contain a detailed description of the role of the secretary, but states at least that the secretary is one of three key executives of the Party, along with the Chairman and Treasurer, and the secretary's role includes organising meetings of the executive. In addition, the constitution names the person who is to be the secretary.

The AEC considers that the Party's constitution sufficiently identifies the Party secretary as set out in section 123 of the Electoral Act.

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.

The Party's initial application was accompanied by a declaration in the required form but apparently witnessed by a person who was not an authorised witness. In addition, the first random sample membership check failed in that only 14 people confirmed their membership of the Party, two advised they were not members and four people could not be contacted by phone and did not respond to letters.

On 26 June 2007, the delegate issued a section 131 notice for the Party to remedy these deficiencies. The Party responded on 10 July 2007, providing evidence that the witness to the statutory declaration was an authorised witness and providing an updated list of Party members for checking.

A second random sample check of 20 members was completed in July 2007. Nineteen people confirmed their membership and one denied being a member.

The Party satisfied the delegate that it had the required 500 members.

Constitution

The Party supplied a detailed constitution with its application. The constitution contains the following matters relevant to registration:

  • an aim of promoting candidates for election to the Senate;
  • a secretary with a partially defined role; and
  • detailed membership criteria.

The Party constitution satisfies the requirements of the Electoral Act.

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.

There is no party on the federal Register of Political Parties or on state or territory registers with the words "Senator" or "On-Line" in its title, or using an abbreviation similar to "SOL".

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).

One written submission was received. Mr J Rowe objected that the name of the Party states something that is not reflected in its existence, that the Party is not a Senator and there is a potential to mislead.

The submission does not address any of the three grounds that a written submission must address. Consequently, the submission was not considered.

Conclusion

Senator On-Line has been registered.

Paul Dacey
Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission

28 August 2007

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