Political Parties, Registration and Electoral Reform

The following is  a letter (written by me) published in the Canberra Times on Monday, 18th June, 2012.  The italicised sentence at the end was removed by the editors.  However, I have included it here for accuracy and the information of readers.

Democrats still here

The article, ”Find 100 members and register your party” (June 9, p5) by Ebony Vitucci, ends somewhat disparagingly with the comment: ”The Australian Democrats were deregistered in the ACT in 2007 for this reason.” However, the Australian Democrats are registered federally and have been since May 1977.

It is true that we did suffer a decline in our ACT Division with the loss of senators meaning they no longer had staff living in Canberra, and therefore fewer members in the division, which ultimately led to our loss of registration with Elections ACT in September 2007.

The ACT Electoral Act is problematic and in urgent need of reform as, under Section 99 of the act, the ACT Democrats were prevented from reregistering under their own name, regardless of whether we had signed up 100, 200 or even 500 new members, until after the 2008 ACT election. The problem was compounded by the amendments to Section 115 of the act in 2008 that prevented like-minded candidates from grouping together to secure a column on the ballot paper, as they can federally. This effectively prevents independents from having any chance of being elected in the ACT.

The ACT Democrats did however contest the 2008 ACT election as endorsed ungrouped independents and are again looking to reregister for this year’s ACT election.

(One of our key priorities will be electoral reform, to prevent the system favouring the three big parties, and the ACT Democrats look forward to the challenge.)

Darren Churchill, national president, Australian Democrats, Kaleen

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