File reference: Reg5167, 13/413
The delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission determined that the Palmer United Party should be registered under Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
Each application to enter a political party in the Register of Political Parties is assessed against the requirements in Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).
On 13 May 2013, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) received an application from the ‘Palmer United Party’ (the Party) to be registered as a political party under the Electoral Act. The Party did not seek to register an abbreviation.
The AEC conducted a series of tests usually undertaken as part of the initial consideration of an application. On 24 May 2013, a delegate of the AEC found that the Party's application complied with the eligibility requirements of the Electoral Act and approved the advertisement of the Party's application for public input. On 29 May 2013, the application was advertised on the AEC website and in 10 newspapers achieving coverage throughout Australia as required by s.132 of the Electoral Act.
One person lodged an objection against the proposed registration of the Party and the Party responded to that objection on 2 July 2013.
Section 132 of the Electoral Act provides one month from the date of advertisement for any person (or organisation) to submit written particulars of grounds for their belief that the application:
Eligibility of a political party is determined by the definition of 'political party' in s.4 of the Electoral Act and the definition of 'eligible political party' in s.123 of the Electoral Act.
Mr Hiles objects under s.129(1)(d) and (da) of the Electoral Act on the grounds that there is already confusion between the previously registered name of his party, the United Party, and the proposed Palmer United Party.
Mr Hiles advises that the United Party was registered under the Electoral Act 1985 (SA) in 2010 to contest the 2010 election for the South Australian Parliament. The party was not successful and has since been deregistered (the AEC understands at Mr Hiles’ request). Mr Hiles advises that no other party can register the same name under the Electoral Act (SA) until after the next SA State election in 2014. Mr Hiles advises that there have been emails to his party website that are confused about the relationship between the Palmer United Party and his party.
Mr Hiles further asserts that voters might consider the word ‘Palmer’ as an adjective in the proposed Party name and generally refer to the proposed Party as the United Party, which would create the chance for further confusion or mistake between his party and the proposed Party. He says there would be a problem if he stands for the federal election as an independent candidate and voters confuse his profile at www.unitedparty.net.au and consider him to be associated with the Palmer United Party.
The Party reply states that the objection does not come within the grounds for refusal of an application set out in s.129 of the Electoral Act. While the objection claims to prohibit the proposed Party name on the basis ss.129(1)(d) or (da), the objecting party is neither a recognised political party under s.129(1)(d) or a registered party under s.129(1)(da) and therefore the particulars of the objection should be rejected by the AEC.
The Party reply further provides evidence that the United Party, no longer registered in South Australia, was actually registered to contest the 2010 State election as the United Party-Water, Housing Health Care (sic).
The Party further argues that based on the principles set out in the Woollard case (Woollard and the AEC and the Liberal Party  AATA 166), there is no likelihood of voters being confused at the ballot box as no candidates endorsed by the unregistered United Australia-Water, Housing Health Care party are eligible to have ‘United Australia’ printed on the ballot papers for a federal election.
Section 129 of the Electoral Act contains provisions under which certain names (including abbreviations) are not to be registered:
It is clear from s.129 (above) that the AEC is to consider only names of recognised or registered parties when assessing the proposed Party name and abbreviation under the section. The 2011-12 Annual Report of the Electoral Commission of South Australia shows that the registration of a party called the ‘United Party-Water, Housing Health Care’, with a registered abbreviation of ‘United’. Mr Hiles’ party is no longer registered in South Australia and not otherwise registered at federal, state or territory level.
Section 129(2) leaves open the question that a party might be ‘recognised for the purposes of the law of a State or Territory relating to elections’ in some other way than being registered. There is no current system of such recognition as far as the AEC is aware, however, other than by parties being registered under the relevant legislation.
Therefore, the name or abbreviation of Mr Hiles’ party need not be considered in assessing the application from the Palmer United Party.
The AEC does, however, need to consider whether the recent registration of the ‘Uniting Australia Party’ raises a possible prohibition for the proposed ‘Palmer United Party’ under s.129 of the Electoral Act.
In questions of party names needing to be considered under s.129(1)(d) or (da), the AEC is guided by:
The 2009 AAT judgment on The Fishing Party’s application for review of the decision to register the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party stated that:
Following the AAT’s decision in that matter, the delegate of the AEC determined that the names ‘Uniting Australia Party’ and ‘Palmer United Party’ are quite aurally and visually distinct, so that the name proposed is not required to be refused under s.129 of the Electoral Act.
Were Mr Hiles’ party still to be registered in South Australia with a registered abbreviation of ‘United’, the AEC would need to apply the same principles to considering ‘United’ under s.129 of the Electoral Act. It would be open to the AEC to determine that ‘United’ and ‘Palmer United Party’ are clearly aurally and visually distinct and the name ‘Palmer United Party’ is not prohibited under s.129.
The delegate of the AEC registered the Party as set out below.
Notice under section 133(1A)(a)
On 5 July 2013, as delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission for the purposes of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, I entered the following party in the Register of Political Parties.
Delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission