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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3148


Senator MACKLIN(4.54) —by leave-I move:

(17) Page 81, clause 42, lines 37 and 38, leave out proposed paragraph 58Z (4) (c), insert the following paragraph:

'(c) the Commission is satisfied, after making such enquiries as it thinks appropriate of the registered officer of that party or otherwise, that the candidate is so endorsed.'.

(18) Page 81, clause 42, at the end of proposed section 58Z add the following sub-section:

'(6) A reference in sub-section (4) to the registered officer of a political party shall be read as including a reference to any person nominated by the registered officer of that party to be a deputy registered officer of that party for the purposes of that sub-section by notice in writing, specifying the name and address of the person and signed by the registered officer, lodged with the Commission, not being a nomination that has been cancelled by notice in writing, signed by the registered officer, lodged with the Commission.'.

Amendment No. (17) relates to the problem concerning the registered officer. If one looks at the Act, one sees that a registered party has a registered officer. Under the Act this person becomes a very previous commodity. From what I can understand, there seems to be only one registered officer in the whole of the country. I think that person should not be allowed out of doors, because if anything happens to that person in the run-up to an election there will be an enormous problem. The reason is that if the registered officer changes and one cannot get the signature of the person who is currently registered one has to go through a series of technical details and one has to do so within a period of seven days and in writing. I believe those technicalities need to remain in the Act. The reason for that is fairly obvious. If there is a problem within a political party we do not want somebody waltzing in off the street and suggesting that he is now the registered officer of that political party. There has to be a mechanism for due process in the changeover from one registered officer to another.

The crucial problem that I see arising, and it is one which could afflict any political party at any time, could occur during the period when an election has been called and we are getting our candidates. This registered officer has to sign the candidates' forms or the electoral commissioner has to satisfy himself by way of discussions with the registered officer that the candidate who is purporting to be a Liberal, Labor or Democratic candidate is indeed such a candidate. My worry really concerns emergency situations such as death, illness or where, for example, the officer has gone on an overseas trip and is unobtainable or not able to be contacted if a sudden election is called. In essence, this could really destroy a political party's chance of winning an election, because it could not have any candidates registered as candidates of that political party. It seems to me that to put so much of our democratic process into the hands of one person is slightly frightening.

My amendment No. (18), I think, will avoid the problem by the part which reads:

A reference . . . to the registered officer of a political party shall be read as including a reference to any person nominated by the registered officer of that party to be a deputy registered officer of that party for the purposes of that sub-section by notice in writing . . .

What I would imagine would occur in this context would be that the registered officer of the Australian Democrats in Australia would nominate in writing a deputy registered officer of the Party in each State. I think that would probably bring this part of the Act in line with a later section of the Act where the registration, for the purposes of funding, is at a State level. I looked, first of all, at going down that track with this amendment, of making there be registration in each State, but I think that would disadvantage new parties which had just got off the ground and which could not generate 500 members in more than one State; it would not be able to get over that magic number. I believe this may be the optimum way out of the problem.