(7:15pm – this post has been updated to clarify some points of law.)
Last year Labor and the Coalition combined to pass legislation that prevented parties from having registered names that were too similar to those of already registered parties.
It was clear the target of the legislation was the Liberal Democratic Party. Last November, after applications by the Liberal and Labor Parties, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) gave notice that the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Labour Party would be de-registered if they did not change their names.
The full 3-person Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the original de-registration notice from November on 9 February.
, so the Liberal Democrats were de-registered under their existing name.
On 9 March the High Court upheld the new law by which the party had been de-registered. It looked like game, set and match for the Liberal Democrats.
But no, the Liberal Democrats are free to contest the 2022 election under the name Liberal Democrats despite the law and despite the High Court.
It all comes down to a clever loophole in the law that someone in the party spotted.
In response to the AEC’s warning to change its name or face de-registration, the Liberal Democrats lodged a name change application on 18 December.
The party applied to revert to the name it had originally been registered under ahead of the 2007 election, the Liberty and Democracy Party, Liberty Democrats as the registered abbreviation.
The process of changing the party name saw the AEC withdraw its decision to de-register given the party had applied to change its name. (Update – the notice wasn’t withdrawn. The lodging of the name change met the requirements of stopping the de-registration process.)
The validity of the de-registration law was confirmed by the High Court on 9 March.
Objections to the party’s new name closed on 15 March with the party having until 22 March to respond to the objections.
The party’s response to the objections was to withdrew its name change application on 22 March.
With no valid de-registration against the party, and having withdrawn its name change application, the party returned to its former name, the Liberal Democratic Party, registered abbreviation Liberal Democrats.
On 1 April, and no this is not an April Fool’s joke, the AEC was forced to lodge another notice to de-register the party for having a name too similar to the Liberal Party of Australia.
There is now
three months one month for the Liberal Democrats to appeal against the notice.
But it is now too close to the election to de-register the party.
Writs will be issued for an election in the next fortnight. Once writs are issued, the party register is frozen, and the Liberal Democrats are registered to contest the election.
With one bound, the Liberal Democrats, a party keen on clearing away useless red tape, has used useless red tape to retain its party name.
There will be some very annoyed people in the Liberal Party over this outcome.