Pirate Party Australia has signed an open letter  with other parties, opposing the Coalition’s Party Registration Integrity Bill. The bill introduces new restrictions around party names and triples the registration threshold to 1500 members.
“This Bill is a blatantly anti-competitive attempt to wipe smaller parties off the ballot paper,” said Alex Jago, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia. “Firstly, there’s the name-squatting. The Liberals are full of conservatives, and the Nationals only try to represent about a quarter of the population. If they can’t live up to their own names, then they shouldn’t complain and change the rules shortly before the election.”
The registration threshold change also has other implications than just ballot access.
“The membership threshold increase is directly aimed at cutting down the ballot, but it does so indirectly and with unfortunate side effects,” Mr Jago continued. “Party registration is about more things than ballot access; there’s financial disclosure implications too. A high threshold harms transparency.”
There are other possible electoral reforms than those put forward by the Government. The Pirate Party proposes  a comprehensive suite, adopted in mid-2018.
“Our proposed reforms separate concerns and therefore can actually address the issues at hand,” Mr Jago continued. “It’s important to keep in mind that there are two structural reasons why the Senate ballot paper can get as large as it does: satisfaction with the major parties is low, but it’s very difficult for anyone else to win election in the House of Representatives. Every system has to let the steam out somewhere.”
One of the Pirate Party’s proposed reforms is that party-endorsed candidates should submit a list of local nomination signatures, like independents do today. (Presently, party registration grants the ability to stand candidates in any House or Senate election regardless of whether or not the party actually has any support in that part of the country.) To ease the volume of election-time paperwork, this list could be submitted by prospective candidates up to a year before the election, and AEC membership audits would also count for this purpose. Finally, the number of signatures required could vary in proportion with each state’s population.
“I want to be clear: this is lazy, last-minute work from the Coalition,” Mr Jago concluded. “Better alternatives were proposed long ago.”
 The text of the letter is reproduced below. For continuing updates and the full list of signatories, visit yourvotematters.org.au
To the Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned, publicly condemn the proposed amendments in the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021 as an attack on the one in six Australians who exercise their democratic right and vote for emerging parties.
This Bill is an attack on the rights of Australians to organise for electoral representation. It is an attack on the freedom of association enjoyed by Australians. Under the shadow of a global pandemic this attack on our rights and freedoms cannot go unanswered.
We call on all Parliamentary representatives to oppose this Bill. Silencing voices of the electorate is an act of cowardice by leaders who are unwilling to listen to what people have to say.
This bill seeks to silence emerging parties with barriers to their ability to form and campaign. It actively shuts down the voices of millions of Australians who seek to improve the governance and policies debated in Australian Parliament. Passing this Bill will leave all Australians disempowered.
The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) Bill 2021 will increase the membership requirements of emerging parties by 200%, and seek to limit the name choices of a party even further. These proposed laws attack legitimate voices in Australian politics. Emerging parties in less populous states and regional Australia will find these changes near impossible to overcome, entrenching the dominance of Sydney-Melbourne urban considerations in national policy discourse.
We call on all Australian Parliamentarians who respect the integrity of our democracy to reject this Bill.
Yours in Democracy,