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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2615

Mr CADMAN(5.29) —The Committee is discussing the registration of political parties. Proposed new section 58A of the legislation specifies the conditions under which registration may take place and states, in part:

(b) a political party, other than a Parliamentary party, that has at least 500 members;

So, a party must gain 500 members before it can be called a party for the purposes of registration. If it is a parliamentary party it may have at least one member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth-the House of Representatives or the Senate-of the Parliament of a State, of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory of Australia or of the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly. Those are the bases upon which a political party may be registered. What is the purpose of gaining registration under the legislation? The primary reason is to receive funding and, in that process, accountability. The other reason is to register for the Senate vote on a list.

Dr Klugman —That is not true.

Mr CADMAN —The honourable member for Prospect talks about other reasons why registration should take place.

Dr Klugman —You can get money without being registered.

Mr CADMAN —If there is to be a process of funding there must be a process of registration; I accept that. Indeed, if we are to pay funds to political parties there must be a process of registration. That is reasonable and proper. If public funds are to be paid to political parties registration must take place. But what has happened to the right of public association? What has happened to the basic freedoms of Australians? Why should people not be allowed to associate in small political parties or interest groups within the community, taking up causes as they wish and by that process over a period establishing a political party? In my view there is nothing to prevent people from calling themselves a political party without gaining registration. If they call themselves a political party, how are they then seen by the community? Have they a right to register their name under the Acts of the various States and call themselves political parties through that process? I take it that this legislation does not override the provisions of the States in that regard. If that provision does not apply, a group cannot call itself a political party under any Commonwealth legislation unless it is registered through the processes of this legislation. I regard that as an extremely dangerous proposition in that people who may be in the processes of developing a political party are a political party in name but not in fact.

Two categories of political parties are formed by this process. The great parties of this nation were built by people who demanded and claimed the right of association. Let us look at the early development of the Australian Labor Party. For years the Labor Party, under the provisions of this legislation, could not have called itself a political party. It seems to me that the rights of association of individuals have to be prescribed by an Act of parliament if one is in the political field. That is what honourable members opposite are saying. They say: 'If you are going into politics we want to know about it. We want to register you, we demand to see your constitution, we demand to know who your chief officers are and we demand to know the details of the way in which you operate as a political party'. That is a different proposition from the open community, the open freedoms that have been accepted over many years by the Australian community. One just has to look at the great list of provisons that have to be gone through, the complicated administration that must be undertaken by a political party. If one wants to form a party, one has to publish a notice of application, one has to publish one's intention and tell the whole world of one's intention to form a political party. If one does not do that one is ineligible for funding, ineligible for listing.

What about the processes that must be followed to change a name on the register , the processes of voluntary deregistration and the deregistration of parties not endorsing candidates? There is a provision in the legislation that a group which may have operated in the terms of this legislation as a political party for four years but has not fielded a candidate can be automatically deregistered . I think this is crazy. I do not know what Australia is coming to if the people opposite believe that this is advancing the freedoms of our society. The prospect of spending $8.6m in a campaign to encourage political parties to adopt a registration process, to lift the level of funding and to ascertain exactly who the members, supporters and contributors to a party are, seems to indicate a wrong priority in days when expenditure of those funds are spoken about in the House as being needed for employment programs, taxation cuts, abandoning some aspects of the assets test and keeping some of the promises of the Australian Labor Party. Now that is the priority the Government has set-

Mr Beazley —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. This speaker is outrageously out of order on this clause. He is making a mockery of the Committee process.

The CHAIRMAN —There is no point of order.

Mr CADMAN —I refer to previous rulings on this matter and to the fact that the Minister himself in his earlier response cut very deeply into the area of public funding of political parties. I have dealt with the processes of registration. The main reason why registration is required is to ensure that there will be public funding. What are the Government's priorities? Are they to spend funds and to give handouts to political parties? Why should political parties receive handouts? Why should they be registered? Why does the Government want to control the processes of registration, administration, deregistration, inspection, service of documents and review of all the decisions that have already been made ? We even have three pages of legislation to tell us how these processes can be reviewed. Freedom of association is a basic freedom that all Australians have held dear. Our political parties have started through this freedom of association and now we are to see that process changed by government regulation and control purely so that the Government can offer a dollar to political parties. I think it is disgusting and dishonourable. It ought to be voted against and withdrawn.