15 August 2013
Today UnitedFuture will be formally Gazetted once more as a registered political party – just under ten weeks after it was deregistered at its own request by the Electoral Commission.
The entire saga has thrown up a number of absurdities which need to be tidied up to stop our electoral system falling into complete disrepute. And I am preparing a Member’s Bill to do just that.
First, it was UnitedFuture, not the Electoral Commission, that raised the issue of the difficulty we were having verifying the status of some of our members. Had we just signed the annual statutory declaration that we had 500 financial members the Electoral Commission would have been none the wiser because it has no power to check the accuracy of a party’s declaration. So we were deregistered for being honest, which is quite absurd. Therefore, my Bill will require the Electoral Commission to formally audit the membership of all registered parties once every three years to ensure they do in fact have a minimum of 500 financial members, and are not just saying so in the sure knowledge they will not be checked up on.
The next absurdity was the Electoral Commission’s archaic insistence that we produce 500 individually signed declarations and its refusal to accept on-line memberships. That is totally out of step with today’s reality so my amendment will ensure on-line memberships will be treated as valid for registration purposes, and will make the Commission subject to the provisions of the Electronic Transactions Act, something it is currently specifically exempted from.
Third, I am proposing that where a party that has been registered for at least two elections is deregistered it will be able to lodge a re-registration application within 90 days, without being treated as a new party. The Electoral Commission kept telling us that UnitedFuture was clearly not a new party – having been around for nearly 20 years – but under its internal rules (not the Electoral Act incidentally) it claimed it had no option but to treat us a new party. This is clearly a nonsense – a party cannot be both an established party, yet treated as new party, at the same time.
I will be releasing my Bill shortly, and then submitting it to the ballot for Members’ Bills. At the same time, I will be talking with the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister, both of whom have expressed interest in my proposals, to see if my changes can be fitted in to the government’s own forthcoming Electoral Act Amendment Bill.