Exasperated party secretary Graham Askey.
Exasperated party secretary Graham Askey.

Commission won't pass HEMP party

MEMBERS of the still unregistered Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party are threatening to storm the Australian Electoral Commission lobby in Canberra next month to prove they have the required 500 registered members.

An exasperated party secretary, Graham Askey, is fed up and believes the commission is discriminating against his party.

The issue revolves around the commission’s tightening of the party registration process, including tests to ascertain the membership validity of small parties.

Because a considerable number of HEMP Party members don’t have conventional christain names and surnames, and many do not have telephones, Mr Askey believes the party is being unfairly and undemocratically treated.

“The Electoral Act says that to be registered as a political party in Australia we must have 500 eligible members, which we clearly have – in fact we have over 1500,” he said.

“In 2004, they tested this by contacting 20 members. They said if two denied membership of the party that would constitute a failure.

“They wrote to us and said they had got 12 affirmatives and eight no-replies – which they interpreted as eight negative responses.

“They supplied the names of the people and after three weeks I had located every one, so the party registration was passed and we contested the 2004 election.”

After that election the legislation was changed requiring all small parties to re-register.

“Again they told us they could not contact eight members, which again they interpreted as negative responses, but this time they did not give us the names,” Mr Askey said.

“We appealed, but it was not resolved in time for the 2007 election.

“After we accused them of shifting the goal posts it went to an internal AEC review and this time they said eight people denied ever having been members of the HEMP Party. Again, no names were given so we had to accept it.”

Mr Askey gave up on the appeals process and wrote to all party members asking them to re-apply.

After careful vetting he resubmitted an application which included 630 confirmed party members.

“This time they responded saying they could only verify 480 members due to insufficient details,” Mr Askey said.

“Some of our members have full legal names like ‘Sunshine’ and I suspect they won’t accept those.”

A spokesman for the commission said it was policy not to comment on any application for party status.

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