Minor parties are upset over proposed electoral changes that could restrict the involvement of small or fringe political parties in upcoming federal elections.
Last week, Ben Morton, the assistant minister for electoral matters, introduced four Bills to Parliament aimed at reforming the electoral process.
One of the new Bills would see the requirement for membership numbers raised from 500 to 1,500 for all political parties.
“The bill amends the Electoral Act to ensure that registered political parties are built on a genuine foundation of community support,” Morton said during the second reading speech for the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021,
“It does this by increasing the minimum membership requirements for non-parliamentary parties from 500 members to 1,500 members.”
Parties would have three months to prove that they have 1,500 members nationally.
Another proposed amendment to “minimise the risk that a voter may be confused” or misled would be to require the Electoral Commissioner to refuse an application for a new political party if its name replicates another existing party.
“This will include commonly accepted variants of a word and will also apply to the proposed abbreviation of the applicant party’s name,” Morton said.
The laws come not long after the New Liberals registered as a party. Morton noted however, that the laws would not apply retroactively.
The proposed changes have been met with concern with former Queensland premier Campbell Newman saying the changes sought to advantage the major parties.
However, Victor Kline, leader of the progressive-leaning New Liberals, said its membership jumped when the Bill was introduced.
“In under 48 hours, so many people joined us that we tripled our membership and now have over 2000 members. Sorry to tell you Qld Libs, but democracy works,” Kline wrote on Twitter.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters was also opposed to the increase in membership.
“Whether a party gets representation in the parliament should be based on how many people vote for them, but this government wants to stop smaller parties from being able to even seek votes,” she said in a statement.
“While we have some sympathy for ensuring that parties don’t impersonate rivals for electoral gain, there’s a fine line between preventing deliberate misrepresentation and excluding smaller parties from electoral politics.”