The Party Registration Integrity Bill increased the number of members a party needs to be registered from 500 to 1500, unless it has a member in the Federal Parliament.
It’s understood the CLP has more than 500 members but fewer than 1500.
Senator Sam McMahon could have the future of the Country Liberal Party in her hands after the passing of a new party registration bill last week. Picture: Getty Images.
If Senator McMahon – who lost preselection to Jacinta Price in June – decided to quit the CLP, the party could lose its registration.
When contacted, Senator McMahon confirmed she had been approached to join other parties – including the Liberal Democrats and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.
“I have no plans to do anything at this point in time, but you never rule anything out,” she told Sky News Australia.
It’s understood senior party members began reaching out to Senator McMahon late last week to shore up her support.
CLP president Jamie Di Brenni did not respond to a request for comment.
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Professor Graeme Orr from the University of Queensland – an expert on electoral and parliamentary law – said the changes could have serious consequences for the CLP.
“If the CLP’s only federal MP (Senator McMahon) jumps, it’s no longer a Commonwealth ‘parliamentary party’ with guaranteed registration,” he said.
“This would only add to incentive to split if she was a dissident.
“Plus, she would not need to register a party spruiking her own name on the Senate ballot.”
If the CLP lost its registration, it would mean Ms Price and lower-house candidates Damien Ryan and Tina McFarlane would effectively have to contest the next federal election as independents.
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While they could have the Country Liberal Party colours and logo on their advertising material and corflutes, they would be listed as independents on the ballot paper.
Professor Orr said time could save the CLP, with a three-month grace period once the bill receives Royal Assent.  The Australian Electoral Commission would then face a logjam trying to assess the status of minor parties who might not have 1500 members – a process that could take months.
Some within the CLP also believe their relationship with the Liberal and National parties would mean they were exempt from deregistration.
But Professor Orr said there was no official association between the parties.
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“If it were ‘part’ of the Liberal or National Parties of Australia, it could surf on their membership,” he said.
“But the CLP Constitution seems designed for independence of each of those parties.  It merely refers to ‘co-operation’.
“A ruse might be for the Liberal Party to ask sufficient surplus interstate members to join the CLP to save its registration, if the CLP adjusted its Constitution to allow out-of-Territory membership.
“But that ruse would (a) soon become public and embarrass a party based on NT parochialism and (b) risk shifting factional balance in the CLP in unpredictable ways.”

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