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Thursday, 12 August 2021
Page: 8109

Mr MORTON (TangneyAssistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters and Assistant Minister to the Minister for the Public Service) (09:49): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Today I introduce the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021.

This bill amends the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to strengthen the integrity of party registration by ensuring there exists a genuine base of community support for political parties and reduce the risk of voter confusion.

This bill responds to reports of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, known as JSCEM.

P olitical party membership requirements

The bill amends the Electoral Act to ensure that registered political parties are built on a genuine foundation of community support.

It does this by increasing the minimum membership requirements for non-parliamentary parties from 500 members to 1,500 members.

This provision will apply from the date of the royal assent for new political parties applying for registration.

Non-parliamentary parties that are already registered will be provided three months from the date of the royal assent to demonstrate they have at least 1,500 members nationally.

This bill also clarifies the existing requirement that an individual who is a member of more than one party can only be counted once for purposes of demonstrating a party's minimum membership requirements. This in no way precludes candidates contesting elections as independents.

Political parties with same words in names or logos

This bill amends the Electoral Act to minimise the risk that a voter may be confused, or potentially mislead, in the exercise of their choice at an election due to political parties being registered with very similar names.

The amendment guards against this risk by requiring the Electoral Commissioner to refuse an application to register a political party if a party name replicates a word in the name of an existing registered party.

This will include commonly accepted variants of a word, and will also apply to the proposed abbreviation of the applicant party's name.

Commonsense exceptions will apply:

The provision will not apply to words that are collective nouns for people, like 'alliance' or 'party'.

It will not apply to country or place names, or their variations, like 'Australia' or 'Australian'.

It will also not apply to function words like 'the', 'for' and 'of'.

Further, where an applicant provides written consent from an existing registered party with a similar name, the Electoral Commission will be able to accept the applicant party's name even if it contains the same words as the existing registered party.

The Electoral Commission may also refuse to register the logo of a political party on the grounds that it contains a word or abbreviation of an existing political party.

Amendments are made to section 134A of the act to ensure consistent application to all existing registered parties.

The Electoral Commission decisions in these matters will be reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Together, these provisions will enhance the integrity of the electoral process by reducing the likelihood of voters inadvertently associating or confusing political parties with similar-sounding names.

This amendment responds to a recommendation of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in its Report on the conduct of the 2019 federal election and matters related thereto.

Debate adjourned.