The Labor govt of NSW have implemented "reforms" to the electoral process,
which basically exclude smaller parties and entrenching the two party
system even further.  This has been done supposedly in the name of
democracy and because the average punter, can't handle filling in a huge
ballot sheet with over 40 parties on it (The last NSW election ballot
sheet was reported with "horror" to be as big as a small table cloth -
however will the voters cope!!!).  The following is the latest article
from GLW on the changes which have now passed through parliament.  You can
access GLW on the net at :
Kim B
Carr Labor excludes small parties from    elections
     By Peter Boyle 

     SYDNEY -- The Carr Labor government of NSW has passed legislation
     making it almost impossible for political smaller parties without a
lot of money to run in state elections.

     All parties will have to pay $2000 to register and submit signed
membership  forms from 750 members in the state (who cannot be members of
any other registered party). Parties will have to prove they fulfil these
requirements every  year to keep their electoral registration and have to
be registered for 12 months  before contesting an election. 

     Before these amendments to the electoral laws, parties in NSW only
had to
     prove that they had 200 members, and there was no registration fee.
No other state demands a fee for registering a political party, and
neither does the federal government. 

     The Carr government intended to set the barriers to participation
even higher -- 1000 minimum membership and $3500 registration fee -- but
an amendment  proposed by the NSW Greens cutting this down to 750 members and $2000
     was accepted by Labor. An earlier amendment by Chris Breen, MLC of
the Reform the Legal System Party, to set the barriers at 500 members and
$500  registration fee, failed. 

     The new legislation also gets rid of the power of registered parties
to direct  preferences to other parties for above-the-line voting in the
ballot for the  Legislative Council (upper house). However, above-the-line
voting (which  attracts many people because of its simplicity) will be
available only to parties  which field a ticket of at least 15 upper house
candidates. Under the old laws,  above-the-line voting was available to
all registered parties and groups with  more than two candidates. 

     The new law also caps the $500 per candidate deposit at $5000 for
tickets with  up 22 candidates. So it places another financial barrier to
smaller parties, while giving a 55% discount to the largest parties! 

     While the NSW Greens MLCs, Ian Cohen and Lee Rhiannon, still
supported  the changes to the upper house ballot system, Greens
spokesperson Geoff Ash
     said in a November 11 press release that the registration fee and the
$5000 in  deposits required to access above-the-line voting will be
serious barriers to  small parties who are genuinely contesting elections. 

     The Greens maintain that financial disincentives don't make the
electoral process  more democratic, Ash said. They just skew the system in
favour of people with the financial means to run. 

     As a result, voters may not have the opportunity to choose from a
diversity of political viewpoints and policies at the next election. 

     Ash added that the Greens had met with a number of small parties that
have   expressed concern and anger over the changes. 

     Chris Breen says that the legislation could be challenged in the High
Court on constitutional grounds because it breaches the International Covenant
on Civil   and Political Rights (ratified by Australia in 1980) which says
that every citizen should have the right and opportunity to be elected at
periodic elections with  universal and equal suffrage. It may also breach
the right to freedom of  association under the covenant and an implied
right to political communication under the commonwealth constitution,
recognised by the High Court since 1992.

     While one anti-democratic law has been passed by the NSW parliament,
     another is on the way. The Carr government is about to pass laws that
will  empower local councils to fine people who put up street posters,
organise the  distribution of such posters or pay for their printing, $300
per poster. The  minister driving this attack on democratic rights is the
"left-wing"minister for   planning, Andrew Refshauge. 

     [For more details about the campaign against the new poster laws,
contact Rose
     Pearse, Music NSW (02 9247 7540) or Kate Walsh, in the NSW Greens
     parliamentary office (02 9230 3551).] 

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