New minor parties popping up

Yesterday was the deadline for political parties to lodge an application to be registered in time for the federal election. Applications take at least three months, and must be concluded before the writs are issued in mid-August.

A lot of attention has been paid to Clive Palmer’s nascent political party, in part due to his wealth, his previous role as a major donor to and member of the Liberal National Party of Queensland, and the dramas of the last few days as Peter Slipper was first accepted and then rejected as a member.

While most of the attention has focused on Clive Palmer’s attempts, along with those of other prominent figures such as Bob Katter, there has been a surge of party registrations that could well reach the highest number ever.

Registering as a political party gives you a variety of benefits – you have a channel for contact with the Australian Electoral Commission, and you can nominate candidates for election without gaining signatures (although you still need to pay the nomination fees, which can get quite hefty if a small party plans to run in more than a handful of seats).

Party candidates also gain their party’s name next to their own name on the ballot – for most political parties who can only manage to staff a handful of polling booths, this is the only way that voters can have any idea who they are, and make a decision to vote for them.

This is particularly important in the Senate, where parties can direct preferences behind the scenes to other parties, and where a party can win a seat with only a small vote. The right party name could well make the difference and win over voters who have never had any other contact with the party before reaching the polling booth. In contrast, independent tickets do not get any name next to the above-the-line box other than “Group X”.

To register, you need either a member of the Federal Parliament, or 500 party members, and then need to go through a process of application, review and allowing for objections to a party. Apart from a party failing to meet the requirements of registration, a party could also fail due to their name being considered too similar to another party already registered.

In the past the “Liberal Democratic Party” was forced to register as the “Liberty and Democracy Party” due to objections from the Liberal Party and the Australian Democrats.

This issue raised a hurdle for Clive Palmer’s proposed party. His proposed name of ‘United Australia Party’ has been used numerous times in the past. Apart from the original UAP, which was the urban conservative major party throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, a party with a similar name was registered in 1987, and Pauline Hanson registered a party of the same name for the 2007 election.

The AEC is currently considering an application to register the ‘Uniting Australia Party‘. As this party submitted its application first, it would likely come out on top in any conflicts of name. Palmer has resolved this issue by changing the party’s name for the AEC application to “Palmer United Party”, although the two Queensland state MPs who joined Palmer’s party are still using the UAP name, and it’s unclear what name they will use for their campaign.

While the Clive Palmer story is certainly fascinating, his is one of a large number of new parties registering. What is particularly interesting is the number of parties of the centre-left. In recent years most small parties have sat on the centre-right, with the Greens and Democrats dominating the vote for centre-left voters who reject the major parties.

Those who have managed to get registered so far are:

  • Animal Justice Party
  • Australian First Nations Political Party
  • Australian Stable Population Party
  • Bank Reform Party
  • Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party
  • Katter’s Australian Party
  • Pirate Party Australia
  • Rise Up Australia Party

On my count, at least four of these parties could be called “centre-left” or just “left”, and another three could appeal to Greens and Labor voters.

As of yesterday, there are 35 registered political parties, not including the various state branches of the Labor, Liberal, National and Greens parties. The peak was 40 parties at the 1998 election – since then the number has gradually declined until it hit 25 in 2010 – which was the lowest since 1987.

Along with the Uniting Australia Party, a party named “Bullet Train for Australia” is currently undergoing registration.

Clive Palmer’s party submitted its application with over 500 members today. A number of other parties appear to be on the verge of also qualifying, and if they do the number of registered parties will break through the 1998 record.

We won’t know for a couple of days if any other parties successfully submitted a list of 500 names, and it is always possible that errors could see a party excluded.

The left-wing campaign group GetUp sent out an unusual email yesterday morning listing a number of parties seeking registration and encouraging members to consider joining a party, and listed eight parties including Palmer’s:

Here are some new parties you may not have heard of. They are free to join online. We’ve taken these statements from their websites:

Stop Coal Seam Gas – (need more members to reach 500 today) “The Stop CSG Party will work to protect communities and farmland from invasive coal seam gas mining by pressuring government to ban CSG.”

Single Parents’ Party – (need more members to reach 500 today) “Parenting is hard. Especially for the 950,000 single parent families living in Australia. Its becoming even harder as the government continues to cut support for single parents and their children. We will advocate to reverse the cuts that are forcing families like ours below the poverty line.”

The Lamington Party – “For an Australia… where the regional cities are connected to the capitals … our government is a case study for democracy and efficiency… and one where we all have a strong social safety net and equal opportunity to succeed in life.”

Voluntary Euthanasia Party – “Over four in five Australians are in favour of new legislation and we wish to allow that sentiment to be clearly demonstrated at the ballot box. The Voluntary Euthanasia Party aims to ensure dignity in the final years of life, by raising the profile of this issue in order to engender the necessary political will for change.”

Australian Sovereignty Party – Stand for “no carbon tax”, “no personal income tax”, and “no GST”; “no more wide open borders”, and “no treaties without referendums,” among other policies.

The Future Party – “The Future Party is a new movement of people who are dedicated to thinking of long term solutions to advance our society. The Future Party believes quality of life is improved primarily through technological developments, sourced through a scientific approach to knowledge in the context of democracy and peace.”

WikiLeaks Party – “The WikiLeaks Party stands for unswerving commitment to the core principles of civic courage nourished by understanding and truthfulness and the free flow of information.”

Palmer United Party – Clive Palmer’s party with policies including “Abolish carbon tax;” “ensure refugees are given opportunities;” “creating mineral wealth;” and “develop right across Australia where the wealth is.”

If the eight parties listed in the GetUp email, as well as the two currently awaiting a conclusion, are all successfully registered, then there will be 45 parties registered for the election – five more than the record, and twenty more than in 2010.

You can keep track of the latest political party applications here – we should get a sense of how many parties have successfully progressed to the next stage in the next few days.

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About Ben Raue

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room.

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