Similarity to names, abbreviations or logos of currently registered parties

Updated: 25 October 2021

Each application to enter a political party, or change a political party’s name, abbreviation or logo, in the Register of Political Parties (the Register) is assessed against the requirements in Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).

The AEC considers all applications under Part XI in accordance with the requirements of the Electoral Act, and if applicable, as interpreted by courts and tribunals.

Key concepts

Section 129 of the Electoral Act outlines the requirements for registering party names and abbreviations and section 129A of the Electoral Act outlines the requirements for registering party logos.

The Electoral Act also defines the following terms that are related to the requirements for political party names, abbreviations, and logos:

  • ‘political party’ means an organisation that promotes and endorses (or aims to promote and endorse) a candidate or candidates for election to the Australian Parliament;
  • ‘Parliamentary party’ means a political party that has at least one representative in the Australian Parliament; 
  • ‘registered political party’ means a political party that is on the Register;
  • ‘recognised political party’ means a political party that is:
    • a Parliamentary party;
    • a registered political party; and/or
    • recognised or registered under a state/territory’s electoral law and has endorsed at least one candidate for a state/territory parliamentary election in the previous 5 years under its current party name.

Two political parties are ‘related’ to each other if one is part of the other, or both are part of the same political party — for example, a federal party and its registered state/territory branches are ‘related’.

Party names and abbreviations

Section 129 of the Electoral Act provides that the Electoral Commission must refuse a party’s application for registration if the party’s proposed name or abbreviation:

  • is more than 6 words long;
  • is obscene, frivolous or vexatious;
  • is the name (or an abbreviation or acronym of the name) of an unrelated recognised political party;
  • so nearly resembles the name (or an abbreviation or acronym of the name) of an unrelated recognised political party that the proposed name or abbreviation is likely to be confused with or mistaken for that name, abbreviation, or acronym of the unrelated party;
  • is one that a reasonable person would think suggests that a connection or relationship exists between the applying party and an existing registered political party if that connection or relationship does not in fact exist; or
  • comprises the words “Independent Party” or comprises or contains the word “Independent” and:
    • the name (or an abbreviation or acronym of the name) of a recognised political party; or
    • matter that so nearly resembles the name (or an abbreviation or acronym of the name) of a recognised political party that the matter is likely to be confused with or mistaken for that name, abbreviation, or acronym.

A party’s name and proposed abbreviation will be refused, as detailed in Section 134A of the Electoral Act, if:

  • it contains a word that is in the registered name or abbreviation of a registered political party; and
  • the party’s application for registration is not accompanied by written consent from the registered officer of that previously registered political party to the applicant party.

If there is more than one registered political party with the word in its currently-registered name or abbreviation, the written consent needs only to be from the party who was first to register the relevant name or abbreviation.

Party logos

Section 129A of the Electoral Act provides that the Electoral Commission may refuse to register a party’s proposed logo if the logo:

  • is obscene;
  • is the logo of any other person or organisation;
  • so nearly resembles the logo of any other person that it is likely to be confused with or mistaken for that logo;
  • is one that a reasonable person would think suggests that a connection or relationship exists between the applying party and an existing registered political party if that connection or relationship does not in fact exist; and/or
  • comprises the words “Independent Party” or comprises or contains the word “Independent” and:
    • the name (or an abbreviation or acronym of the name) of a recognised political party; or
    • matter that so nearly resembles the name (or an abbreviation or acronym of the name) of a recognised political party that the matter is likely to be confused with or mistaken for that name, abbreviation, or acronym.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions

The following is a general summary of a decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Tribunal) in which the Tribunal provided guidance on the interpretation of section 129A of the Electoral Act.

This summary is not to be taken or relied upon as legal advice. Prospective applicants to the AEC or Tribunal should obtain their own legal advice before taking steps related to issues raised in this summary.

  • Watson and Australian Electoral Commission [2018] AATA 4914 (20 December 2018) (Watson).

    This case was a review of the Electoral Commission’s decision to register a logo for Australia First Party (NSW) Incorporated (Australia First) that contained an image of the Eureka Flag as one of its elements.

    One of the matters considered by the Tribunal was the similarity of the Australia First logo with other entities’ logos or trademarks that included an image of the Eureka flag, and whether the registration of the Australia First logo should therefore be refused.

    In considering paragraph 129A(b) of the Electoral Act, the Tribunal determined that the Australia First logo was not ‘the logo of any other person’.

    In considering paragraph 129A(c) of the Electoral Act, the Tribunal found that, whilst the Australia First logo (as a whole) resembled the logo of “any other person” (specifically, the logos of other entities that also contained the Eureka Flag), the Australia First logo did not ‘so nearly resemble’ those logos such that it was ‘likely to be confused with or mistaken for’ those logos.

    The Tribunal also found that, when determining the likelihood of mistake or confusion, trademarks that are used in an entirely commercial context are irrelevant.

    Accordingly, the Tribunal affirmed the Electoral Commission’s decision to register the Australia First logo.

Further information

Back to top