Liberal Democrats challenge name ban laws

·2-min read

The Liberal Democrats political party is seeking to overturn new laws which could force it to change its name ahead of a federal election due by May 2022.

The High Court is yet to set a date for directions in the minor party's challenge against the constitutional validity of laws which passed federal parliament in August.

The laws, which had the support of the Morrison government and Labor, tighten rules around the registration of party names which replicate a word in the name of an existing registered party.

The Liberal Party has held concerns for many years that the Liberal Democrats benefit from voters casting a ballot for the minor party's candidates by mistake.

Many believe the Liberal Democrats' David Leyonhjelm was elected on the basis of the "donkey vote" and confusion over his party's title when his name appeared in the first position on a record-size NSW Senate ballot paper in 2013.

But the Australian Electoral Commission has consistently rejected complaints that the two party names are too similar.

Liberal Democrats national president Dr John Humphreys said in an email to supporters the party was seeking to protect its 21-year-old brand and freedom of speech.

"A political party's name and its values should align and if there is one party that can truly claim to be both liberal and democratic it is the Liberal Democrats," he wrote.

The party applied last Friday to have the legal provision declared invalid by the High Court.

"This provision of the legislation is entirely political in nature and we are hopeful the High Court will review the constitutionality of this law," Dr Humphreys said.

"This is an important moment for our party and for the freedom of political communication in Australia."

Constitutional expert Professor George Williams from the UNSW said the strongest ground would be that the law breaches the implied freedom of political communication.

"The law burdens that freedom by limiting the ability of parties to communicate using certain words in their party name," he told AAP.

"The key question for the High Court will be whether the burden meets the test of proportionality.

"This will require the High Court to weigh up the desirability of a party using their preferred name against the policy considerations said to justify the law, including the need to remove confusion in the minds of voters."

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