Adam Carr asks: "William, could we have a thread dedicated to idle speculation about the federal election, as you have done for the NSW election?" His wish is my command. By way of a conversation starter, I note that the Australian Electoral Commission recently released an extensive list of parties that have been deregistered by virtue of last year’s electoral law "reforms", one of which sought to do away with minor parties taking the name of major parties in vain, principally Liberals for Forests. This was to be achieved by deregistering all parties that had never achieved federal parliamentary representation six months after the passage of the bill, then requiring them to register again under the new rules. I didn’t think this worth mentioning at the time, as I assumed it would be a fairly simple matter for parties other than Liberals for Forests, leaving aside the irritation of some added paperwork. However, those with their noses closer to the grindstone of minor party politics evidently don’t see it that way. Stephen Mayne, until very recently a principal of the People Power party, had this to say in today’s Crikey email:
The Howard government is known for its cynicism but the deregistration of 19 political parties when the nation wasnâ€™t paying attention on December 27 must surely go down as one of its lowest acts. What sort of democracy allows a government to unilaterally and automatically deregister all political parties that donâ€™t have an MP? Talk about abusing control of both houses … If this had happened before the 2004 election there is no way that Family First would have got up in Victoria because it relied on preferences from the likes of liberals for forests. The strangest part of this debacle is that the media has shown no interest whatsoever in reporting this assault on democracy. Imagine if there was some form of business where the regulator could get away with saying all small competitors were automatically deregistered. The big have got bigger in John Howardâ€™s Australia and the corner store competing with Woolworths knows exactly how all these minor parties must feel.
The practical upshot is that most existing minor parties must provide renewed proof that they have at least 500 members. The exceptions are the Greens, other than the Queensland branch; Family First; the Australian Democrats; the Nuclear Disarmament Party; the NSW division of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (curiously, given that One Nation only ever won a seat in Queensland), and the Democratic Labor Party (which evidently persuaded the AEC it was the same party that existed prior to 1978). I personally am unclear as to how often parties are required to do this in the normal course of events; anyone who can enlighten me is invited to do so in comments.