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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 4076


Senator MURRAY (12:19 PM) —by leave—I move:

(1) Schedule 1, page 15 (after line 18), after item 64, insert:

64A After section 125

Insert:

125A Review of Register

At least once every 3 years after the commencement of this section, the Commission must review the Register of Political Parties and determine whether each political party so registered continues to be an eligible political party.

64B Paragraph 126(1)(c)

Omit "10 members", substitute "25 members".

64C At the end of subsection 126(2)

Add:

; and (g) be accompanied by evidence of the membership of the party.

64D After subsection 126(2)

Insert:

(2A) The constitution of a party, referred to in paragraph (2)(f), must include the name of the party and procedures for the amendment of the constitution.

64E At the end of section 129

; and (f) contains a word in the proposed abbreviation which is not included in the name of the party; and

(g) includes the whole name of another political party (not being a political party that is related to the party to which the application relates) that is a Parliamentary party or a registered political party.

64F At the end of subparagraph 133(1)(a)(ii)

Add ", provided that the abbreviation is either an acronym or a shortened version of the party's name".

64G Paragraph 134(1)(b)

Omit "3 members", substitute "25 members".

64H After subsection 134(3)

Insert:

(3A) Upon receipt of an application under paragraphs (1)(c), (d) or (e), the Commission must determine whether the party on whose behalf the application has been made continues to be an eligible political party.

(2) Schedule 1, page 16 (after line 30), after item 67, insert:

67A At the end of subsection 136(1)

Add:

; or (c) the Commission has conducted a review under section 125A and determined that a party has ceased to be an eligible political party.

(3) Schedule 1, page 17 (after line 2), after item 69, insert:

69A Subsection 137(1)

After "on reasonable grounds", insert ", including as a result of a review conducted under section 125A,".

I would like to begin by apologising to the Senate. These amendments were first circulated two days ago when I realised that the second electoral bill would be unlikely to reach us before the election and I decided to bring these forward and ask for your forbearance. However, most of the issues that I am dealing with under revised sheet 852 are matters which have been dealt with at various other times and in various other forums. In particular, amendments 1 to 3 that I have proposed here relate to remarks I made in my minority report to the 1996 election report.

I had said that it was a pity that this section of the report did not deal with measures to ensure the integrity of official party registration with the AEC. We would like to ensure that the requirements in the act for minimum party membership obligations are re-examined and that appropriate protections are provided through the registration process. I have sought here to ensure that the AEC takes a more proactive role than it has in the past in terms of dealing with the matters of registration and the manner in which political parties on the AEC's register are assessed. There are a number of registrations which, in our opinion, are probably nearly defunct. Certainly, it is an area which we think has to be better improved.

If you run your eyes down through amendments 1, 2 and 3 you will see that what we have attended to is the commission having to review the register at least once every electoral cycle. Secondly, we believe the act should be improved with regard to section 126—and I presume you all have your acts to hand—in relation to the number of members who should be involved in the application for registration for a new political party. We believe that, at section 126(2), an application for the registration of an eligible political party should be accompanied by evidence of the membership of the party.

We have suggested at 64D that the constitution of a party, referred to in paragraph (2)(f), should include the name of the party and procedures for the amendment of the constitution as a bare minimum. At 64E we have suggested that any proposed abbreviation should be attended to where that abbreviation is not included in the name of that party. In that same vein, we have dealt with the question of abbreviations which are an acronym or a shortened version of the party's name.

At 64G, paragraph 134(1)(b), we have lifted the number of members who can amend the constitution from three to 25. We think the idea that any three members of a party could amend a constitution is a bit of a worry, given the importance that constitutions have in political parties' lives. At (3A) we have also recommended that the commission must determine `whether the party on whose behalf the application has been made continues to be an eligible political party'. So it is in that vein that we have attempted to sharpen this area of AEC jurisdiction.

Minister, if you are of a mind to object to or oppose these amendments, I would ask you—if you do think it is an area which is worthy of review—to perhaps consider referring it to the joint committee as an area which is appropriate for them to look into.