The Australian Democrats are attempting to make a comeback ahead of the federal election, but interstate division could thwart their plan.
- The Australian Democrats were deregistered as a party in 2015
- Members are attempting to have the party registered again ahead of the federal election
- A group of Queenslanders claims the party’s new constitution is invalid
Party members based in South Australia have applied to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) for the Australian Democrats to be re-registered as a party.
However, a group of Queenslanders has claimed it is the continuation of the party which was deregistered because of a lack of members in 2015.
Parties must be registered by the time writs are issued.
The Australian Democrats’ application to the AEC includes a list of more than 500 members supporting the registration — the minimum number required to register a party.
The objection by the Australian Democrats (Queensland Division) Inc — also known as the Queensland Democrats — claims that the new party constitution included in the AEC application is “at best an invalid document and at worse a fraudulent document”.
It stated a 2018 merger with the CountryMinded party was never voted on by members.
The constitution also allows for state divisions of the Australian Democrats to be formed, even though the Queensland representatives claim their body is the continuation of the party started by Don Chipp in 1977.
In his response to the objection to registration, Darren Churchill, the Australian Democrats’ registered officer in the AEC application, said a ballot was conducted to approve the new constitution.
Threat to put in objection
Mr Churchill also claimed that the Queensland Democrats’ secretary, James Page, said he would lodge the AEC objection if he could not guarantee Queensland president, psychologist Paul Stevenson, was guaranteed to be named as the Senate candidate for Queensland.
He also wanted the Queensland Democrats to be recognised as that state’s branch, according to an affidavit signed by the Australian Democrats’ secretary, Andrew Castrique.
Dr Page declined to comment to the ABC.
“Unfortunately, it’s probably best not to make any comment right now because it’s with the AEC,” he said.
Australian Democrats president Elisa Resce, who is based in Adelaide, described the objection as “obstruction and distraction”.
“I don’t know who this group is,” she said.
“I believe they have some historical issues before my time and before our current leadership.”
Mr Churchill said “most of them haven’t been part of the party since 2014”.
“There was a bit of a split in the party between 2013 and 2015 and a challenge in the AEC of who was in charge,” he said.
“It never got there because the party was deregistered [in April 2015].”
Plans for the upcoming federal election
Mr Churchill said the new party was hoping to run candidates in this year’s federal election, expected to be held in May.
“We certainly are,” he said.
“It just depends on the Prime Minister’s timing [of calling the election] and the AEC’s timing.”
The new party is registered at an address in Nairne, in the Adelaide Hills.
Nairne is in the seat of Mayo, the Lower House seat the Democrats came closest to claiming from then foreign minister Alexander Downer in 1998 with candidate John Schumann.
The party peaked at nine senators between 1999 and 2002 but had none by 2008.
Its last South Australian state MP quit in 2009.
A spokesman for the AEC said it “does not comment on individual party registration matters under consideration”.
Scott Morrison could call the election as soon as this weekend.
Topics: government-and-politics, political-parties, democrats, federal-parliament, federal-elections, australia, nairne-5252, sa, adelaide-5000, qld, brisbane-4000
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