Why party preselections are still a mess, and the courts haven’t helped

13 Apr 2022

Professor Graeme Orr writes for The Conversation | Follow Graeme Orr on Twitter


You join a political party. Its rules are over 100 pages long. And that’s only for your state division. There’s also an overarching “federal” party constitution.

Good, you think. Parties run parliament, our lawmakers should be be governed by rules about selecting candidates or expelling party members. But are they? Can you ask the courts to ensure your party’s powerbrokers abide by the rules that they, by and large, write?

It’s a simple question, but the answer to it is a mess, thanks to cases about recent high-profile interventions by national party leaders into Victorian Labor and the NSW Liberals.

What is going on? In part this is an historical tangle within common (in other words, judge-made) caselaw. In part, it is because the major parties have decided to upset 30 years of pragmatic acceptance of the obvious answer: serious rules, of registered parties, should be enforceable.