Submission to the NSW draft Electoral Bill 2017

Download this submission:
Submission to the NSW draft Electoral Bill 2017 (PDF, 253 KB, 17 September 2017)

This submission was prepared jointly with Flux, who share some of our frustration with the current NSW state political party registration system.

This submission focussed on Part 6 of the bill, Registration of Political Parties.

Streamlining party registration will improve efficiency in our public service. Making political participation more accessible will better serve democracy through allowing a greater range of views to be represented in parliament.

Our recommendations

  • Allow for digital declaration of membership (i.e. online signup, which is allowed for federal registration. Currently, the NSW Electoral Commission requires a handwritten signature as evidence of party membership).
  • Political party membership details should be managed by the Australian Electoral Commission, as it already holds details of every eligible elector in the country. State and territory electoral commissions should be able to access the details of electors in their jurisdiction, when needed to confirm details of voters and party members.
  • Minimum membership requirements for state registration are abnormally high and should be brought into line with the requirements for federal registration.
  • Donation caps for "unregistered political parties" are somewhat farcical, but if they are stated, the caps should be the same as for registered parties.
  • The registered street address for a political party's registered address should not be made public. In the case of small parties that do not have a dedicated office space, the address is often the home address of a party member, and this address should remain privately held by the electoral commission, to protect the privacy and safety of that person.

The process was an opportunity to remove some current barriers to participation in NSW politics, and to remove unnecessary doubling-up of work between the NSW Electoral Commission and the Australian Electoral Commission.

Review outcomes

The final bill as it was passed gave some needed attention to technology-assisted voting. Apart from that, it was pretty dry.

Perhaps these amendments were the prompt for the NSW Electoral Commission to update some of its forms in July 2018. The previous version of its Declaration of Membership Form stated that the details must be written by hand. The new version didn't include that direction, so we sent an email to check whether the details could be electronically pre-filled.

The reply:

"The signature must be handwritten, as the legislation under which parties are registered is excluded from the provisions of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000. There does not appear to be anything preventing the other fields being completed electronically."

One small step forward for democracy. Probably.


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