New laws passed that restrict electoral choice

February 28, 2013
Liberal and Labor have teamed up to pass new laws that restrict electoral choice.

Standing for public office in an already rigged electoral system just became even harder.

On February 25, the Senate approved Labor’s new election rules that will discriminate against minor parties and independents.

The new law doubles the nomination fee for all candidates in the federal elections among other changes.

It was the ironically named federal ALP minister for public service and integrity Gary Gray who introduced the new rules. With an election on the horizon, and without any opposition from the Coalition this was an easy bill to push through the Senate.

The Greens opposed the doubling of nomination fees. To nominate for this federal election for the House of Representatives a candidate will have to pay $1000, and for the Senate $2000.

The new law also increases the number of electors required to nominate an unendorsed candidate from 50 to 100 electors.

Introducing the bill, Gray spoke about “concerns arising from the increasingly large number of Senate groups contesting elections”. He did not specify who had these concerns, however.

He then added: “The amendments … are proposed as a means of discouraging candidates who are not seriously in contention for election.”

Gray resorted to the anti-democratic and bureaucratic argument that “too many” parties and independents on the ballot paper makes it “too big” — even for the printers to print.

Gray argued that voters would have a difficult time numbering every square. His solution, it appears, is to cut the number of serious contenders down.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon told Green Left Weekly that the Greens are concerned that the changes “will entrench established parties who will be able to continue to run their group of candidates in every seat because they are able to afford it and can quickly get the number of nominators required”.

She also said the government had not made the case to justify raising the bar for smaller parties and independents.

“The risk to democracy of increasing the nomination fee and number of nominators outweighs the inconvenience of accommodating more players on the ballot box”, Rhiannon said.

The Greens’ amendments to keep the same nomination costs were lost.

The truth is, of course, that the big parties can and do help some independents and small parties — the ones with conservative policies that the big parties support.

This is why these new rules are a direct attack on small progressive parties and independents — the ones with little financial backing.

Peter Boyle, co-convener of Socialist Alliance, told Green Left Weekly that democracy requires electors to be allowed more, not less, political choice and this means breaking down the entrenchment of the big parties.

“People are increasingly fed up with poor choice between the major parties," he said. "The Electoral Commission should be required to inform voters of all parties’ and candidates’ policies.

“This will weaken the present system of big-money politics funding the wholesale lying through multi-million-dollar political advertising campaigns."

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