As the days count down (or not) to the election, the bitter, tangled, mess that remains of the Australian Democrats continues to defy even the worst expectations of the many thousands of “former democrats” who never thought an organisation that contributed so much to Australian democracy and society could come to *this*.
A month ago (I didn’t miss it, I just decided at the time not to deal with it, and it came up in a twitter conversation day before yesterday causing me to look at it again) the AEC rejected the Australian Democrats request to change the registered officer and secretary of the party because the current registered officer hadn’t signed the form, and when they contacted the registered officer he said that application was fraudulent, lodged by a break away group trying to take over the party, and he was still the registered officer.
Need to back up a bit? OK.
Some time ago, there was a spat in the National Executive. That in and of itself is not that unusual, and spats involving Darren Churchill are particularly not unusual as he is not particularly stable. (I don’t mean that in a derogatory or flippant way, I mean he suffers from some kind of mental illness that either isn’t well-managed or isn’t being treated at all, resulting in wild mood swings, to the extent of often completely distinct personalities one meeting to another and the like, which makes working with him on even very minor issues extremely difficult.)
The rest of the National Executive “resigned him from the party” on the grounds that he was campaigning as a candidate of the Australian Democrats, without being an endorsed candidate of the Australian Democrats (the penalty for which under the constitution is that you are deemed to have resigned from the party). Shortly thereafter, Sandra Kanck, former SA MP and prominent leader of the Sustainable Population Party, was ejected on the basis that she could not continue to be of both parties without a conflict of interest or something to that effect. Churchill had a rant about it here.
This then led to a situation where the National Executive had control of the social media and bank accounts and some of the infrastructure but not the website or membership lists – Churchill had those, as well as the registered officer with the AEC; and the party effectively split in two. My information is that the party’s financial membership had fallen below 500 at the point when the split happened, and if you joined after the split it’s a bit murky which organisation you joined.
So now, weeks out from an election, in a climate where there are often tweets about how much the Democrats are missed and how much a centrist party like that would be great, and regular musings how progressives are homeless… there are not one Australian Democrats, but two totally useless ones. They have two websites – here (with AEC registration) and here (the other lot). Both are holding events, releasing press statements, apparently fielding candidates, and claiming for all money to be the Australian Democrats. They publicly bicker with each other.
I used to run the party, and I can not tell you which one is the real Australian Democrats.
There is no way of knowing if any candidates who stand will be legitimate or not, or which version of the Australian Democrats they come from, and whether they’ll actually get on to the ballot. (I wouldn’t vote for them regardless, just saying).
I don’t know what the legal issues are here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the AEC’s job to sort out this mess. And I’m absolutely sure the AEC decision that it’s not their job to sort out who the registered officer is will not end or resolve the dispute, as Churchill claims.