The Howard government is known for its cynicism but the deregistration of 19 political parties when the nation wasn’t paying attention on December 27 must surely go down as one of its lowest acts.

What sort of democracy allows a government to unilaterally and automatically deregister all political parties that don’t have an MP? Talk about abusing control of both houses.

The AEC press release explaining what happened was sent on 22 December and included the following:

On 22 December 2006, the delegate of the Australian Electoral Commission wrote to the following political parties to advise them they would be deregistered on 27 December 2006, as required by Schedule 3 of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006:

  • Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
  • Citizens Electoral Council of Australia
  • Citizens Electoral Council of Australia (NSW Division)
  • Help End Marijuana Prohibition
  • Hope Party – ethics equality ecology
  • Liberals for forests
  • New Country Party
  • No Goods and Services Tax Party
  • Non-Custodial Parents Party
  • One Nation Queensland Division
  • One Nation Western Australia
  • People Power
  • Progressive Labour Party
  • Queensland Greens
  • Republican Party of Australia
  • Socialist Alliance
  • The Australian Shooters Party
  • The Fishing Party
  • The Great Australians

The only parties which survived this purge were those with a current or previous MP in the Federal Parliament. Check out the full list of remaining parties and you’ll see the only minor players remaining are the Nuclear Disarmament Party, Family First, Greens, Democrats, DLP and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (NSW Division).

If this had happened before the 2004 election there is no way that Family First would have got up in Victoria because it relied on preferences from the likes of liberals for forests.

The strangest part of this debacle is that the media has shown no interest whatsoever in reporting this assault on democracy. Imagine if there was some form of business where the regulator could get away with saying all small competitors were automatically deregistered.

The big have got bigger in John Howard’s Australia and the corner store competing with Woolworths knows exactly how all these minor parties must feel. 

Peter Fray

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