How to set up a political party in Australia?
May 14, 2010 3:19 AM   Subscribe

What are the requirements to set up a political party in Australia to run in the next election? I'm presuming we would need to get 10^n signatures, and pay a fee, but does anyone know the specifics?

Our party is going to be based on the idea that you should be able to vote for "no-one" and if "no-one" gets enough votes, then that seat is empty, and for each piece of legislation, that seat automatically abstains.

So, we plan to run candidates in each electorate and if any of our candidates are elected, they will abstain on each piece of legislation.

Basically we need to know:

(a) How to register a political party
(b) Make sure that our "always abstain" policy doesn't violate any electoral laws.
(c) How to go about recruiting candidates
(d) A name for our political party
posted by tomargue to Law & Government (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This seems to be the site you want (the first link on that page seems the most helpful in terms of a basic overview).

The text below this box says I should "limit comments to answers or help in finding answers" so I will refrain from mentioning what I think of your idea.
posted by AndrewStephens at 3:31 AM on May 14, 2010

Response by poster: Hey, thanks for that AndrewStephens, that's exactly what I need.

Actually, since this is a nascent idea (albiet unoriginal: Brewster's Millions), of ours, we would like to know what people think...but, yeah, not sure if ask.mefi is the best forum for it...
posted by tomargue at 4:00 AM on May 14, 2010

(d) A name for our political party

Well there was a guy in the UK general election who changed his name to:
First name: None Of The
Second name: Above

Although he didn't quite think that through as he was listed as "Above, None of the" on the ballot and hence was at the top (candidates are listed alphabetically) with no-one above him. But my point is maybe name your party "None Of The Above" and only choose candidates whose surnames start with a Z...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:13 AM on May 14, 2010

Response by poster: Interesting tactic. Although, in Aust, I think they randomize the listings (I think).
posted by tomargue at 4:18 AM on May 14, 2010

Although, in Aust, I think they randomize the listings (I think).

Hmm, looks like you're right:

The challenge of numbering the ballot paper leads a certain number of voters to simply number the candidates sequentially from 1 to the number of candidates down the ballot paper. This practice is commonly referred to as donkey voting. It gives some advantage to the candidate at the top of the ballot paper. Before 1984, candidates appeared in alphabetical order, which led to a profusion of Aaronses and Abbotts contesting elections. (The most famous example of this was the 1937 election, in which the Labor Senate ticket in New South Wales consisted of candidates named Amour, Ashley, Armstrong and Arthur: all were elected.) Since 1984 ballot paper order has been decided at random by drawing lots prior to printing of the ballot papers.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:26 AM on May 14, 2010

By the way, each candidate for a house of reps seat has to pay a $500 deposit, which is returned if you get a certain percentage of the vote (maybe 4%). It's $1000 for a senate candidate.

Actually, since this is a nascent idea (albiet unoriginal: Brewster's Millions), of ours, we would like to know what people think...

Well, for one thing I doubt you'll get very many of the deposits back.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:32 AM on May 14, 2010

I would normally say that if you're using AskMe to find out requirements for running for office, you shouldn't. But if your officers are planning on doing nothing, I guess you're fully prepared!
posted by CharlesV42 at 4:39 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's not entirely dissimilar to Sinn Féin's abstentionist policy in Westminster. They run on a platform of not taking their seats, so you could probably do something similar.
posted by knapah at 5:15 AM on May 14, 2010

The candidate's name must be his legal name, as represented on the electoral roll.

Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Sect 93a)

2) A Divisional Returning Officer or Australian Electoral Officer may refuse to include a person's name in a Roll if the Divisional Returning Officer or Australian Electoral Officer considers that the name:

(a) is fictitious, frivolous, offensive or obscene.

I think even having a person legally change his name to 'Nobody' would count as being frivolous.

If you want to register as a political party, you will need to have at least 500 members before you can register (Section 126).

Seems like a lot of effort for something that will struggle to be any more than a human interest story in the local paper.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 5:15 AM on May 14, 2010

Personally I'm confused at the whole point of the idea. What's the goal, tomargue?
posted by planetthoughtful at 5:32 AM on May 14, 2010

Oh yeah... and as Australia has preferential voting, unless you secure more than half of the primary vote in a seat your preferences will flow to another candidate anyway.

Which sort of defeats the purpose don't you think?
posted by TheOtherGuy at 5:35 AM on May 14, 2010

Response by poster: FYI for those who have asked why we are doing this....

Australia currently has a compulsory voting system. Almost every citizen above the age of 18 must vote. Currently there is no clean way to express dissatisfaction with *all* parties. A vote for the No-One party is a statement that the other parties are unsatisfactory.

For example, a person who is right-wing economically, but left-wing socially, has no-one really to vote for. Perhaps some of these people will vote for the Liberal Party, perhaps some for The Greens. Our party offers a 'cleaner' way of protest voting: you are expressing your dissatisfaction, but without giving any particular party a mandate. It is not ideal, but some people may find the idea of voting for "no-one" more amenable than choosing between the lesser of two or more evils.

There are two types of people whom are disadvantaged by this law and may find a "Vote No-One" option useful:

(a) those who can't find a party that they agree with, and,
(b) those who don't care who gets elected

We don't plan to campaign. Since we have no real agenda apart from giving people an option to "vote for no-one", we don't plan on encouraging people to vote for us.

@TheOtherGuy. Good point. It's almost impossible for us to win a House seat. Yet, ideally we run in each electorate: the percentage of primary vote is sometimes used in debates about mandates. We also plan to run for the Senate, where it is not nearly as impossible to win a seat, especially in the larger states.

Also, @TheOtherGuy, as things stand, we are planning to set up a party, and not resort to people changing their names.
posted by tomargue at 8:00 AM on May 14, 2010

Or you could just go and get your name marked off, take the ballot paper and stick it straight in the box. Just sayin'.
posted by ryanbryan at 9:13 AM on May 14, 2010

Currently there is no clean way to express dissatisfaction with *all* parties.

What's wrong with simply telling everybody that you don't approve of any candidates and then submitting a blank ballot?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:15 PM on May 14, 2010

No offence, Tomargue, but I don't think you've really thought through what you're proposing.
(warning, aus-specific boring political detail to follow)

You might recall at the last NSW election that they changed the way preferences could be delivered for upper house votes so that - unlike the federal senate for example - you could "exhaust" your vote, by not preferencing anybody, after you voted for one party (as opposed to the fed senate, for example, where even if you vote "over the line", you have to preference the 6 or 7 parties that typically end up there (I believe this is the case in a couple of other states, too, but can't confirm).

If you're in NSW, you would remember from the last state election both Labor and Liberal volunteers outside booths loudly proclaiming "Just put 1 above the line for [our party] - that's all you need to do!".

Now, you might think they were doing that simple to secure their vote in the easiest way, and you would be partly correct. However, there is another reason they were doing this - a reason that relates your idea.

In short, exhausting preferences is _great_ for the major parties, because it effectively turns our preferential system into something akin to the First Past The Post system that they have in the UK for example, where one vote goes to one party, party with the most votes wins. If you think the options available now are bad, democratically speaking, take a look at what happens/happened in the UK general election to see how badly an FPTP system serves the populace and the principle of democracy.

Furthermore - and more potently for your idea - the idea that non-voting, either by not showing up, or putting a donkey vote in (invalidating your vote somehow) is oppositional to voting, is really, really erroneous, because someone has to be elected to a seat, and thus a vote for no one is in actuality a vote for the incumbent, and any attempt to characterise it as otherwise is specious.

So, by voting for no one, you are not supporting a particular party, but you are supporting whichever party happens to be in power in your seat, and supporting them by the exact equivalent to one vote, in that, they will be ahead of their opposition by one vote more than they would have been, if you had voted for their opposition. So you are effectively voting for the incumbent. You cannot opt out of a democracy; your actions may not make much a difference, but rest assured, they will always make a small difference either through participating, or through not participating.

This is why the majors would love to encourage people to vote less preference less, etc etc. You may be surprised, if you put out feelers, where you are able to get some funding from (i.e. other parties), thus, you can't be involved in the political system, without being involved in it.

Getting into more opinion-orientated territory. I am a huge champion of compulsory voting for a couple of reasons. One of them is that as citizens, you and I (and everybody) benefit tremendously from what the state provides, tremendously - regardless of how much we may disagree with individual policies. And all that democracy asks from us - aside from tax - is that once every three or four years you take a few minutes to weigh up the pros and cons of who you want representing you. That's a good fucking deal, in my opinion.

Will you get a party whose policy and interests neatly coincide with yours? Not likely, at all. But you know what? Most MPs don't even have a party whose policy and interests coincide completely with theirs, either. What we experience as voters is a sliver - a watered down example - of the broader political process at work, and the fact we experience it once every now and then should hopefully foster a better understanding of what democracy is and how it ultimately works. You don't get what you want - because everybody wants something different - but you get something closer to what you want then you did yesterday. Or not, when you lose, but at least you gave it a crack.

I take my responsibility as a citizen and a voter very seriously, and I don't think anybody who believes in democracy, accountability or change would argue that people should be encouraged to be less engaged with the political system, or less knowledgeable about how it works, or the notion that you can somehow choose not to play.

I feel that - if you have a problem with the political system and its representatives, then it is goddamn incumbent upon you to work to change it, if you believe in democracy, really believe in it - not just for you, but for all the people you believe are suffering from this injustice as well. The idea that you can somehow choose not to play is not only naive and ignorant, but also literally wrong. Every action you take in our political system affects its outcomes.

So you have a choice; do you want to have some degree of control - however small and frustrating - or do you want to give your control to someone who may or may not have your best interests at heart? Opt-out of what democracy means - an opportunity millions across the world have died trying to achieve or defend - whilst still benefiting from all it has provided to you?

Yes, the decisions are hard at times, frustrating, banal, can feel meaningless, largely symbolic, contradictory, inane. And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. Being an adult means making hard decisions that you don't like and may not be very good. You don't get the choice not to play in this game, you only get the choice of how you want to do it.

And that's my two cents.
posted by smoke at 7:37 PM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @ryanbryan, @obiwanwasabi, the problem with submitting a blank ballot (or just getting your name marked off) is that it doesn't really achieve much (you're literally throwing away your vote). However, voting for a candidate who has pledged to abstain (effectively a "no" vote), is a possible vote against whomever wins the election, and could cause quite an effect (see below).

@smoke, I'm gonna think about a few of those points you made, and get back to you.

Apologies if I have got this wrong, but you may have our idea backwards! Instead of encouraging people to be less engaged (eg not voting, or screwing up their ballot paper), we are allowing those very people to register a protest vote that could have a significant effect on policy.

Consider the unlikely (but not impossible) situation where the Vote No-One party holds the balance of power. Since, a "No-One Party" candidate (if elected) will abstain on each piece of legislation, this would have a huge effect on governance, perhaps resulting in a double dissolution! The apathetic and/or disenfranchised voter is now empowered!

That's the aim, at least.
posted by tomargue at 2:56 AM on May 15, 2010

If you abstain on everything then you can't hold the balance of power. You will have merely reduced the number of votes needed to hold a majority.

The only way you could hold the balance of power and do anything would be if you were to break your only policy and vote one way or the other.
posted by knapah at 3:08 AM on May 15, 2010

Response by poster: @knapah...interesting, I thought that in Australia, for a piece of legislation to be passed, it needs to be passed by an absolute, rather than simple majority. But is only a simple majority sufficient?

(I think we need to brush up on our constitutional knowledge before we run! :P)
posted by tomargue at 3:17 AM on May 15, 2010

I should keep my mouth shut too, you may be right.
posted by knapah at 3:30 AM on May 15, 2010

Response by poster: (My friends seem to think you are right)...we may have to make a fundamental change to our one and only policy!

Actually, after a two minute search, can't find a definition for "majority" in the Aust. Constitution...
posted by tomargue at 3:38 AM on May 15, 2010

Tomargue is right in this regard, Knapah, at least in the federal senate. I do not feel confident in speaking other other states upper houses in this regard, and QLD, of course, has no upper house, so requires absolute majority also. In the federal house of reps, an absolute majority is required.

Tomargue, respect to your aim, but my first point, rather than my subsequent opinion, is what's really important there. A vote for nobody is a vote for the incumbent. There's no getting around that.

If you feel that no party represents your opinion, start a party that does, or join a current one and work to change it.
posted by smoke at 3:44 AM on May 15, 2010

Response by poster: Ah, okay, the Australian Constitution refers to "majority", and "absolute majority"...thus I assume then that "majority" means a "simple majority".

Okay, we'll look into changing our policy to "vote no".
posted by tomargue at 3:45 AM on May 15, 2010

Response by poster: Here is a very poignant example of the inability to cleanly protest vote. Kevin Rudd warns voters not to protest vote for Abbott lest he win power.
posted by tomargue at 8:29 PM on May 15, 2010

« Older Fixing fonts in Opera and Chrome   |   Twin Dommes Seek Advice Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.