Archive for the ‘Electoral Reform’ Category

Media Release: 7th March 2013: Increased Electoral Deposit Fees To Decimate Minor Parties

11/04/2013

Darren July 2010

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Media Release: 7th March 2013:

Increased Electoral Deposit Fees To Decimate Minor Parties

New laws to double the deposits lodged by candidates contesting federal elections, realistically threaten to take small parties out of the electoral process and have highlighted the fact that the ballot paper is no longer a suitable means to record votes at a federal election, according to a coalition of Australia’s minor parties.

Sex Party president Fiona Patten, Australian Democrats president, Darren Churchill, Hemp Party secretary, Graham Askey and Stable Population Party president, William Bourke said the new fees were a form of economic censorship directed at small parties by the two major parties and the timing of the legislation, only 10 weeks out from the cut-off for lodgement of party registration forms for the next federal election, was a transparent attempt to knock out their competition. “Increasing candidate deposit fees to dissuade smaller parties from registering for an election, just to make a ballot paper more workable, is undemocratic. It represents a monstrous act of electoral fraud and deception”, they said.

The coalition of minor parties claimed that a better way to limit the size of the ballot papers would be to change the method of voting rather than the economic censorship of political parties and their ideas. “Voting on a ballot paper under the same old voting system with lead pencils, is now outdated if the outcome is a financial impost so high that small parties can no longer afford to register. If people can log on and do their tax returns online, why can’t they cast a secure vote online, at the ballot box, these days? Other voting systems like optional preferential voting for below-the-line voters in Senate elections could also achieve the desired effect of making voting easier and simpler rather than ‘taxing’ small parties off the ballot paper”.

The new legislation to increase the fees passed the Senate unamended, even though the Greens, and independents tried to amend it. “Any party who gets through the rigorous registration procedures administered by the AEC and wants to run above the line to maximise the registration of their party name, will now have to stump up an absolute minimum of $32,000 (8 x $4,000) to run a federal senate ticket”, they said. “The increases will not even be noticed by the major parties who spend millions of dollars during an election but for small parties this could now represent most of their election budget and leave them nothing for campaigning. The major parties and even the Greens are not going to be adversely affected by this at all because they all poll above 4% and have their costs paid for by the taxpayer.”

The coalition of minor parties said that the major parties had large funding bases through the union movement, big business and the environmental movement but minor parties were often funded in their early days through office bearers and volunteers mortgaging their homes and donating part of their wages to see a party through its first few elections.

“Small parties are an integral part of Australia’s political landscape and if they disappear it will shrink the gene pool of new political ideas and trends” they said.

While voting is compulsory in Australia, the group said it should be as accessible as possible and allow for the maximum electoral choice – not the minimum.

Fiona Patten: Sex Party, 0413 734 613

Darren Churchill: Australian Democrats, 0412 196 473

Graham Askey: Hemp Party, 02 6621 5058

William Bourke: President, Stable Population Party, 0448 620 525

Australian Democrats Media Contact:

Darren Churchill

National President

darren.churchill@australian-democrats.org.au

0412 196 473

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Media Release: 17th August, 2012: Federal Government’s Electoral Bill anti-competitive, undemocratic and self-seeking

16/08/2012

Media Release: 17th August, 2012

Federal Government’s Electoral Bill anti-competitive, undemocratic and self-seeking

The Federal Government is hell-bent on ensuring that the next election will be nothing more than a battle between the two best-funded political parties, say the Australian Democrats.

The Democrat’s National Campaign Director, Darren Churchill, has labelled the Government’s Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill 2012 as anything but an improvement.

In a submission on the Bill to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, the Democrats have expressed particular concern about the proposal to double campaign deposits for House of Representatives candidates from $500 to $1000 and for Senate candidates from $1000 to $2000.

“This is undemocratic: democracy and elections should be a contest of ideas, not a battle between the most cashed-up political parties. There is no evidence to suggest that the current deposits are not high enough to deter frivolous candidates, so this move is unnecessary.

“If these amendments are passed the deposits alone for a party to run in all seats across the country in both upper and lower houses would total $182,000 and that’s before the candidates take a step out into their electorates.”

Independents and candidates of unregistered political parties will also be targetted by the Bill – each candidate would be required to find 100 people in their electorate to sign their nomination form.

Mr Churchill said that this is almost guaranteed to produce failures in the nomination process and would be a significant deterrent to standing candidates for small or newly-established parties.

“It is designed to give a head-start to those few political parties that are registered or have representation in parliament, and while the Australian Democrats are a registered party, our view is neither we or any other party should be given an inbuilt advantage like this.

“The real effect of these proposals will be to entrench the two-party system and ensure there is no real challenge to the big boys.

“Australia needs a political system that maximises participation and represents a diversity of views – anything less is not good enough for a democratic system worthy of its name,” said Mr Churchill.

 

DARREN CHURCHILL

National Campaign Director,  Australian Democrats

darren.churchill@democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Political Parties, Registration and Electoral Reform

27/06/2012

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

Spot the difference between Greens rhetoric and action

18/08/2010

MEDIA RELEASE: Election 2010: Thursday, 19th August, 2010

Spot the difference between Greens rhetoric and action

The Australian Democrats’ Senate candidate for the ACT, Darren Churchill, is encouraging voters to spot the difference between the rhetoric and action of The Greens when it comes to campaign donations.

Greens campaigning material

“The Greens are not funded by big corporate donors and special interests.”

Fairfax media 18th August

“The Greens have received their largest-ever political donation with a disaffected Victorian blue-collar union giving $325,000 to help the party win the seat of Melbourne and its first Victorian Senate spot.”

Mr Churchill argues that The Greens have obviously got a different understanding of the English language than the rest of the population.

“They have tried to paint themselves as whiter than white, but their own campaigning material shows the truth of the matter: they have accepted a very large donation, and it has come from a very big ‘special interest’ group.

“In their self justification they have shown themselves to be little different to other political parties.

“In accepting money from what is a powerful interest group, The Greens are trying to portray themselves as just a little bit pregnant.

“Hypocrisy just doesn’t wash,” said Mr Churchill

Further comment:

Darren Churchill

Australian Democrats Senate candidate for the ACT

Tel: 0412 196 473

Note: The Australian Democrats have actively sought corporate funding, albeit selectively by avoiding businesses involved in, for example, nuclear and “defence” industries, and have always been very upfront about those donations.

Australian Democrats call on Liberals to end dirty tricks campaign

09/08/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

Australian Democrats Senate candidate

Media Release: 8th August, 2010

Australian Democrats call on Liberals to end dirty tricks campaign

The Australian Democrats call on the Liberal party to end their dirty tricks campaign where they use the names of other candidates to link people to their own website.

Lead Senate candidate for the Australian Democrats, Darren Churchill, was notified by a member of the public that a banner advertisement had been set up in internet search engine Google that tricks people into going to the Liberal Party website, instead of to the candidate of their choice.

“This shows the dishonesty of their campaigning. It is a grubby little dirty tricks campaign and a blatant attempt to deceive the public,” declared Mr Churchill

“Does Gary Humphries support this or is it the so-called “faceless men” of the party machine?” questioned Mr Churchill.

“This clearly shows what the Liberal Party has descended to. Clearly the Liberals cannot be trusted. This sort of tactic is completely unAustralian!”

I have contacted the AEC about this matter and I’ll be asking them to refer it to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

“Clearly the Liberal Party is scared of electoral diversity. They are not a liberal party at all. If people want liberalism and diversity then the Australian Democrats are here to provide it.

“This or any other form of electoral dishonesty is just not on. It’s time to return some honesty and integrity to politics. Canberra voters know this and clearly deserve better. The Australian Democrats denounce this sort of behaviour. Let’s get back to keeping the bastards honest!” Mr Churchill concluded.

CONTACT:

Darren Churchill

Australian Democrats Senate candidate for the ACT

darren.churchill@democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 30th July, 2009: Democrats say the young can make a difference by enrolling to vote

30/07/2009

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DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 30th July, 2009:

Democrats say the young can make a difference by enrolling to vote

ACT Democrats president, Darren Churchill has urged eligible 17 and 18 year old people to respond to the Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) “National Enrol to Vote Week 2009” and take the opportunity to register to vote and put their name on the Electoral Roll.

“It’s great that in Australia we can choose our representatives. We can also vote out those we do not believe represent our interests. This is a right we often take for granted in Australia. In some other countries people fight and die for this right.” Mr Churchill said.

”If young people want politicians to take an interest in the issues that matter, it is necessary to make them accountable at the ballot box.”

“It’s wonderful that the AEC is taking this initiative to get young people interested in the democratic process by going out to the schools. Enrol to Vote week is a great way of raising awareness amongst young people.”

“The Democrats would like to see them go the next step in encouraging voter education. We’d like to see the introduction of voluntary voting for 16 to 18 year olds, so the democratic culture is strengthened and learned from an earlier age.”

Governments make decisions that affect young people. So it’s only right that young people are given the option of having a say in who makes those decisions. “ Mr Churchill concluded.

CONTACT:

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 23 October, 2008: Democrats to fight on. Rebuild, re-register and reorganise!

24/10/2008

DARREN CHURCHILL
ACT Democrats President

Democrats to fight on. Rebuild, re-register and reorganise!

The ACT Democrats are vowing to keep fighting the good fight after last Saturday’s election. Despite a poor showing at the ballot-box the party has committed to continue to work toward 2012.

Democrats president, Darren Churchill said “As of midnight last Saturday, we can re-register as the Australian Democrats.”

“The lack of a party column in this year’s election is what, I think, hurt us badly. We were ungrouped, so our vote reflected a typical ungrouped party’s vote. It’s now time to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Under Section 99 of the ACT Electoral Act which states that:
“(1) If the registration of a registered party (the cancelled party) is
cancelled-
(a) the cancelled party; or
(b) another political party that has a name that so nearly resembles
the name of the cancelled party that it is likely to be confused
with or mistaken for the cancelled party;
is ineligible for registration until after the next general election after
the cancellation.
(2) In this section:
name includes an abbreviation of the name”
the ACT Democrats were prevented from re-registering under their own name after losing registration in September last year.

“Now we are in a new Electoral cycle and it’s time to prepare for re-registration.” Mr Churchill announced.

“We still think there are some serious flaws in the Electoral Act which need to be addressed to make elections fairer for minor parties and independents. We hope that the new Assembly will look address these matters. I am happy to consult with any of the new MLA’s on what needs to be done to make future elections more democratic.”

The counting to determine the final composition of the new assembly is still being finalised.

“We do know that it will be some combination of Labor, Liberal and Green. None of them will have a majority – and to that end we should be glad of the result, even though there will be no Democrats in this Assembly” said Mr Churchill. “As always, the Democrats will be keeping a close eye on the new Assembly to make sure that election promises are not broken and that new, unproven Assembly acts as a true representative of all Canberrans.”

“The ACT Democrats campaigned strongly on issues of sustainable planning, transport, affordable housing, community consultation, and government accountability (keeping the bastards honest). These issues must not be abandoned now that the election is over. We will continue to push for action on the things we have campaigned for.”

“The Democrats will also now focus on continuing to build our membership base, forging strong links with the new Assembly, and networking with community groups. The Democratic process doesn’t stop just because the election is over. We continue our fight to keep the new bastards honest!” Mr Churchill concluded.

Mr Churchill is available for comment (details below):

Darren Churchill
ACT Democrats President
Candidate for Ginninderra
darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au
Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 04 September 2008: Minor parties disadvantaged by Electoral Law!

21/09/2008

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Candidate for Ginninderra

Minor parties disadvantaged by Electoral Law!

“Candidates are being denied access to the Electoral Roll. The ACT Electoral Act is seriously flawed and must be changed!’ insisted ACT Democrats President and candidate for Ginninderra, Darren Churchill

Mr Churchill picked up the Democrats team’s nomination forms from Elections ACT this afternoon. But Mr Churchill was denied a copy of the ACT Electoral Roll, being told it was only available to registered parties.

“The Electoral Act will only allow registered tickets to have a copy of the Electoral Roll. So, the independents who pretend to be a political party, like Mulcahy and Pangallo, can have the Electoral Roll. But the federally registered Australian Democrats and the true independents who’ll share the Ungrouped column with us can’t” Mr Churchill said. “This clearly disadvantages some candidates and disadvantages others. It’s discrimatory! It’s undemocratic!”

Sections 61, 62 and 63 set out who is entitled to be provided with a copy of the Electoral Roll. It includes MLA’s and registered officers of registered political parties. But there seems to be no provision for candidates for office, unless they fall into one of those two categories.

“The benefits from having party status should be extended to all candidates – grouped or ungrouped.” claimed Mr Churchill “access should not be denied to a candidate for office to have a copy of the Electoral Roll”

“The Hare-Clark system with Robson Rotation has some extremely democratic aspects to it. But there are aspects of democracy being turned on its head because of the Electoral Act doesn’t allow for equal access to information.”

“The ACT Democrats will continue to fight for fair and democratic electoral laws!” We have long advocated fair and democratic electoral laws. If I am elected, I will introduce legislation to make ACT elections fair” Mr Churchill.concluded.

Darren Churchill
ACT Democrats President

Candidate for Ginninderra

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

KEEP THE BASTARDS HONEST!

Media Release: ACT Democrats – ACT Electoral Act: 16 July 2008

17/07/2008

Darren Churchill – ACT Democrats

Democrats Highlight Flaws in ACT Electoral Act 16 July 2008

ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill has questioned flaws in the ACT Electoral Act.

The Democrats are expected to make an announcement on how they will participate in the October ACT election during the forthcoming week. But the federally registered party faces some unusual obstacles.

“We were deregistered when our membership declined last year” said Mr Churchill. “But now, even if we had 500 members, we can’t reregister until after the election unless we are prepared to change our name”

Section 99 of the ACT Electoral Act states that:
“(1) If the registration of a registered party (the cancelled party) is
cancelled-
(a) the cancelled party; or
(b) another political party that has a name that so nearly resembles
the name of the cancelled party that it is likely to be confused
with or mistaken for the cancelled party;
is ineligible for registration until after the next general election after
the cancellation.
(2) In this section:
name includes an abbreviation of the name”

“It’s a very strange law that prevents us from using our own name!” declared Mr Churchill

“There is also the interesting situation where Section 115 of the Electoral Act was amended in May this year to prevent like minded candidates grouping together in a column. So, independents have to form themselves into a party to get a column. And a hotchpotch of conflicting vested interest groups can call themselves a party and get a column. But the federally registered Australian Democrats can’t re-register without making our name different from our national organisation. The Electoral Act is seriously flawed!” Mr Churchill pointed out. “It’s farcical!”

“The benefits from having party status should be extended to all candidates – grouped or ungrouped.” claimed Mr Churchill

“The Democrats believe that a party which is registered nationally should automatically be registered for ACT elections.” Mr Churchill stated. “And the prohibition of like-minded candidates being able to be grouped together to achieve their democratic objectives is nothing short of an electoral gerrymander weighting the entire electoral system in favour of Liberal and Labor.”

“The Hare-Clark system with Robson Rotation has some extremely democratic aspects to it. But the ACT version turns this democracy on its head because of the other aspects of the Electoral Act I’ve just mentioned”. “The ACT Democrats will continue to fight for fair and democratic electoral laws!” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill
ACT Democrats President
0412 196 473
darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

MEDIA RELEASE 9 May 2008: ACT Democrats denounce undemocratic Electoral Act Amendments

27/05/2008

MEDIA RELEASE 9 May 2008

ACT Democrats denounce undemocratic Electoral Act Amendments

ACT Democrats acting President, Darren Churchill has denounced the ACT Government’s alteration of the Electoral Act.

The Electoral Act was last night changed to prevent non-party candidates from grouping together to contest the election.

“This is totally undemocratic and an attempt to create a two-party dictatorship!” Mr Churchill declared. “Where is the equal footing when like-minded candidates can’t be grouped together to try to gain election? It makes it extremely hard for ungrouped candidates to promote their policies, ideas and objectives.”

“When added to the inability of a party which has been deregistered being able to re-register in the same electoral cycle, the laws make a farce of the democratic process.”

The ACT Democrats were deregistered for the 2008 ACT election last years. The party does however remain registered nationally.

“A party which is registered nationally should automatically be registered for ACT elections.” Mr Churchill stated. “And the prohibition of like-minded candidates being able to be grouped together to achieve their democratic objectives is nothing short of an electoral gerrymander weighting the entire electoral system in favour of the old parties.”

All non-government members of the assembly voted against the changes. But the Stanhope government used its majority to force them through.

“The Hare-Clark system is potentially the most democratic system in the country. But when it becomes altered to prohibit democratic groupings, the ACT version turns democracy on its head.”

“The ACT Democrats have long advocated fair and democratic electoral laws. Given the opportunity we would make ACT elections fair” said Mr Churchill.

“I suppose it is hard to expect democratic behaviour from Labor, when they won’t even allow their members a conscience vote!” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President (acting)

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473