Party registration decision: Socialist Equality Party

Updated: 4 January 2011

Party entered in the Register of Political Parties

File reference: Reg2445, 07/1187

The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the application by the Socialist Equality Party 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 2 August 2007, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) received an application from the Socialist Equality Party (the Party) for registration as a political party under the provisions of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).

The Party was advertised on Tuesday 14 August in a Special Notices Gazette and in ten major newspapers throughout Australia on Thursday 16 August. No written submissions objecting to the registration of the Party were received.

On 28 August 2007, the delegate determined the Party's application did not pass the registration tests usually undertaken as part of the initial consideration and issued a letter to the Party seeking clarification of the application to ensure that the Party office matching the definition of 'secretary' was identified.

On 11 September 2007 the Party lodged a written request, signed by the Registered Officer to clarify the role of the 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 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.

The relevant 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 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
  • lodge the $500 application fee.

Application of the relevant legal provisions

Political party

The Party meets the definition as it is an organisation based on a constitution, including an objective to promote the election to any Parliament in Australia of a candidate or candidates endorsed by it. The Party has also previously been registered with the AEC as a political party.

Application

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

Secretary

Section 123 of the Electoral Act identifies that a party secretary is a person, however described, who performs the functions of conducting the correspondence and administration of the party.

It was not clear on the initial examination of the Party's application which person performed that function.

On 29 August 2007, the AEC wrote to the Party advising that, unless it could identify the person who performed the functions of conducting the correspondence and administration of the Party, its application might be refused.

On 11 September 2007 the Party lodged a written request, signed by the Registered Officer to vary the application in order to clarify the role of the Party secretary.

The Party provided a copy of a resolution passed by the Party's Central Committee at its meeting on Sunday, 2 September 2007 which reaffirmed Nick Beams was the national secretary of the Party and that his duties included responsibility for the carrying out of the administration and for the conduct of the correspondence of the Party.

The Party passes this test.

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.

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 random sample check of 20 members was completed in August 2007. Nineteen out of 20 members confirmed their membership. A check against all available membership lists was conducted, and of the 511 members provided by the Party, 2 duplicates and 2 members under 17 were found and removed from the Party's list of members eligible to support the application.

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 an up-to-date constitution that was provided with its application. The constitution contains the following matters relevant to registration:

  • an aim of promoting candidates for election to the Federal Parliament;
  • a secretary with a well-defined role; and
  • 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.
There are several parties registered at state level that have names that contain the word 'socialist'. These are set out in the following table.
REGISTER REGISTERED NAME REGISTERED ABBREVIATION
NSW Socialist Alliance No abbreviation
Vic Socialist Alliance (Victoria) Not shown on VEC website
Tas Socialist Alliance Not shown on TEC website

The Party could consequently incur the prohibition under paragraph 129(1)(d) of having a name 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.

In determining whether the name offends paragraph 129(1)(d), 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.

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).

No objections were received in relation to this Party's application for registration.

Conclusion

The Socialist Equality Party has been registered.

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

17 September 2007

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