Proposed new electoral barriers to smaller parties are undemocratic

The federal Parliament's joint committee on electoral matters is recommending a number of changes to the federal electoral laws supposedly to address the problem of some small – and mainly right-wing – parties "gaming" preference direction through above-the-line voting for the Senate. However, the joint committee has also proposed raising the number of members required for federal electoral party registration from 500 to 1500. “This is an unjustifiable and undemocratic restriction that will make it harder for genuine smaller parties, like the Socialist Alliance, to participate in elections," said Peter Boyle, national co-convener of the Socialist Alliance. “The major parties are already unfairly advantaged under the current system. They get the lion's share of public funding as well as millions of dollars of corporate donations. Any restrictions on smaller parties will further consolidate their domination.” Boyle added that right-wing "micro-parties" and front parties also often have have rich backers who can help them get around barriers to participating in elections. “So it will be the genuine smaller parties, especially those on the progressive end of the spectrum, which don't have the support of the rich and powerful that are going to be excluded.” The media has reported that the Greens (which had Senator Lee Rhiannon on the committee) supported the major parties in all the proposed changes. There was no dissenting report. However, Senator Rhiannon has said in a statement: "I welcome that the report recognises the importance of not raising the bar on new political parties entering an election campaign. "The report recommends an increase to party membership requirements, which is lower than the figure pushed for by Labor and the Coalition in their submissions. Additionally a party will be able to register to field candidates in a particular state or territory with a lower membership determined on a proportional population basis.” "The committee did not recommend an increase in any costs associated with running in an election. However, existing fee levels could make it difficult for emerging parties so I have introduced the Greens Reducing Barriers for Minor Parties Bill for debate in the Senate." The Socialist Alliance will be meeting with Senator Rhiannon and other Greens leaders to ask for their public support in opposing the increase in members required to register an electoral party. “Socialist Alliance condemned the unprincipled electoral preference deals that have helped get a number of small right-wing parties elected to the Senate and state upper houses,” Boyle said. “We support any changes that make the direction of Senate preferences more transparent and place the direction of preference more effectively in the hands of votes. However, we oppose any restrictions on electoral representation or participation.” (Socialist Alliance statement May 16, 2014)