After failing to get itself registered in time for the last Federal election, cannabis law reform party HEMP has conceded it will again be late to the starting line when MPs and political wannabes line up for the March NSW State election.
After months of effort, HEMP secretary Graham Askey managed to convince the Australian Electoral Commission to recognise the organisation as a political party.
The problem was that confirmation came a couple of days too late – after the issuing of writs for the Federal election – leaving the party unable to field candidates in the August poll.
The other problem, which is now rearing its head, is recognition by the Australian Electoral Commission won’t get you very far with the NSW Electoral Commission, which has had a much tighter set of rules governing minor parties ever since the infamous 1999 ‘tablecloth’ election, when so many minor parties stood candidates the Upper House ballot sheet was the size of a, well, you get the picture.
The short of it is that the HEMP party, whether you agree with its policy (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) or not, can usually be relied on to provide some comic relief in a campaign, but will now spend a second poll in a row on the bench.
Mr Askey wasn’t even sure the party’s hard-won registration will carry thro-ugh to the next Federal election. “I hope this registration applies to the next one,” he said. “I think it will.”
To secure registration with the Australian Electoral Commission the party had to come up with names and contact details of 500 members – something that had proved a challenge among a group that was nervous about authority and included a few people with some unconventional names.
Mr Askey had previously noted some HEMP members had gone to Deed Poll to switch over to single names, such as ‘Sunshine’, with no surname, which had proved a bit of a challenge to the AEC bureaucrats.
However, as far as tough crowds went, the suits in Canberra have nothing on the suits in Sydney.
The NSW Electoral Commission wanted the party to come up with a list of 750 contactable members before it would consider registering the party.
And in case anyone was planning some Herculean effort between now and the election, it all had to be sorted out a year before polling day.
Mr Askey said he hoped to have that list in time for the 2015 election, but there was no way the party would have been able to field candidates next March.
“We probably have 750 State members, but we can’t depend on all of them,” he said.
16th November 2010: Alex Easton: northernstar.com.au
Electoral Commission NSW – Registration:
Political parties applying for registration and intending to participate, in either a state or local government election, must be registered for 12 months prior to the close of nominations for that election. Applications should be submitted 15 months prior to the close of nominations. http://www.elections.nsw.gov.au/political_parties/registration