Election funding

Updated: 14 November 2011

Part XX of the Act appropriates money for payment of election funding for eligible Senate groups and candidates who contest federal elections.

An additional payment in the amount of $17 713.85 was approved by the Special Minister of State for an ex gratia payment to be made following the investigation into mishandling of ballot papers by polling officials at two polling places in Queensland and one in South Australia. Following scrutiny of first preferences indicated on the mishandled ballot papers, those first preferences were added to the formal first preference votes already counted for each candidate and Senate group. It was concluded that the addition of the mishandled ballot papers did not affect the outcome of who would have been entitled to payment of election funding. Following the outcome of these investigations the AEC paid the additional funding in June 2011.

Eligibility

House of Representatives candidates who receive at least 4% of the formal first preference votes in an election are entitled to election funding.

Senate candidates and Senate groups who receive at least 4% of the formal first preference votes in a Senate election are also entitled to election funding.

Entitlement

The election funding entitlement is calculated by multiplying the number of formal first preference votes received by the funding rate.

For the period July to December 2010, and therefore for the 2010 election, the funding rate was 231.191 cents per eligible vote. This is a 10.08% increase in the rate of 210.027 cents per eligible vote that applied for the 2007 election.

The rate of election funding is reviewed and adjusted each six months on 1 January and 1 July in line with the consumer price index (CPI). Election funding rates are published on the AEC website.

All parties with an entitlement to election funding for the 2010 election were registered to receive the funding.

The Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia ran joint Senate groups in New South Wales and Victoria and therefore shared the funding entitlement of those groups in agreed proportions.

A total of $53 163 385.36 in election funding was paid to registered political parties and independent candidates following the 2010 election.

Payments

Election funding for independent candidates or groups is paid to the agent of the candidate or group. Where no agent is appointed the candidate is deemed to be their own agent. Where no agent is appointed for a Senate group the candidate listed first on the ballot paper is deemed to be the agent. Election funding for candidates and groups endorsed by a registered political party is paid to the party agent. Where no agent is appointed, no payment of election funding can be made.

Under the previous reimbursement scheme it was possible for a political party or candidate not to receive election funding by not submitting a claim for payment. In accordance with ss.126(2)(d) a registered political party may elect not to receive election funding. However, there is no corresponding provision in the Act for the AEC not to pay election funding to an eligible registered political party or candidate.

A summary of the election funding payments is provided at Table 1.

A summary of election funding entitlements for registered parties by state and territory is provided at Table 2.

The Act requires that at least 95% of the funding entitlement, calculated on the basis of votes counted as at the 20th day after polling day, is paid as soon as possible after that day, and the remainder when the count is finalised and verified. The AEC chose to pay 99% of the funding entitlement, on the basis that any overpayment that could possibly be withheld from the second payment would be less than 1% of the amount paid.

The AEC withheld a base sum of $200 from the first round of payments. In some cases this represented more than one per cent of the final funding entitlement.

The first payment, totalling $52 411 291.12, was based on the count as at 10 September 2010. The final payment of $752 094.24 was made following verification of final polling figures.

The last election writ was returned on 17 September 2010.

Table 1 – Summary of total election funding payments by party, including independent candidates
Parties Interim Payment Final Payment Total Payment
Australian Labor Party $20 935 323.18 $290 546.78 $21 225 869.96
Liberal Party of Australia $20 819 820.08 $278 040.16 $21 097 860.24
Australian Greens $7 086 053.13 $126 870.25 $7 212 923.38
National Party of Australia $2 441 843.88 $43 856.28 $2 485 700.16
Family First Party $403 122.45 $4 145.92 $407 268.37
Country Liberals (Northern Territory) $177 617.04 $1 794.11 $179 411.15
Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) $17 407.51 $202.31 $17 609.82
Australian Sex Party $11 197.72 $200.00 $11 397.72
Liberal Democratic Party $11 116.80 $200.00 $11 316.80
Shooters and Fishers Party $10 527.26 $200.00 $10 727.26
Independent candidates      
Tony Windsor (New England, NSW) $129 099.25 $1 327.15 $130 426.40
Robert Oakeshott (Lyne, NSW) $91 691.26 $926.17 $92 617.43
Bob Katter (Kennedy, Qld) $87 383.75 $861.85 $88 245.60
Andrew Wilkie (Denison, Tas) $31 557.85 $318.77 $31 876.62
Louise Burge (Farrer, NSW) $21 400.20 $216.16 $21 616.36
John Clements (Parkes, NSW) $20 933.28 $211.45 $21 144.73
John Arkan (Cowper, NSW) $19 326.39 $200.00 $19 526.39
Michael Johnson (Ryan, Qld) $17 284.98 $200.00 $17 484.98
Matthew Hogg (Riverina, NSW) $11 710.96 $190.75 $11 901.71
Alan Lappin (Indi, Vic) $11 239.33 $193.06 $11 432.39
James Purcell (Wannon, Vic) $10 564.25 $190.76 $10 755.01
Charles Nason (Maranoa, Qld) $10 427.85 $200.00 $10 627.85
Paul Blanch (Calare, NSW) $9 364.37 $200.00 $9 564.37
Katrina Rainsford (Wannon, Vic) $9 200.23 $200.00 $9 400.23
Bradley King (Blair, Qld) $7 353.01 $200.00 $7 553.01
Deidre Finter (Lingiari, NT) $4 511.67 $200.00 $4 711.67
Kenneth Lechleitner (Lingiari, NT) $4 213.44 $202.31 $4 415.75
Total $52 411 291.12 $752 094.24 $53 163 385.36
Table 2 – Summary of election funding entitlements for registered political parties by state or territory
  Votes Election funding Total
House Senate House Senate
Australian Labor Party
New South Wales 1 401 529 1 517 382 $3 240 208.91 $3 508 050.62 $6 748 259.53
Victoria 1 361 416 1 215 213 $3 147 471.26 $2 809 463.09 $5 956 934.35
Queensland 800 712 720 182 $1 851 174.08 $1 664 995.97 $3 516 170.05
Western Australia 375 381 366 580 $867 847.09 $847 499.97 $1 715 347.06
South Australia 399 279 386 577 $923 097.11 $893 731.23 $1 816 828.34
Tasmania 143 796 136 908 $332 443.41 $316 518.97 $648 962.38
ACT 100 700 93 639 $232 809.34 $216 484.94 $449 294.28
Northern Territory 35 589 33 253 $82 278.56 $76 877.94 $159 156.50
Country Labor 92 961 N/A $214 917.47 N/A $214 917.47
TOTAL 4 711 363 4 469 734 $10 892 247.23 $10 333 622.73 $21 225 869.96
Liberal Party of Australia
New South Wales 1 470 146 1 617 418 $3 398 845.24 $2 804 493.64 $6 203 338.88
Victoria 1 159 301 1 107 522 $2 680 199.57 $2 073 997.86 $4 754 197.43
Queensland 1 130 525 1 015 062 $2 613 672.05 $2 346 731.99 $4 960 404.04
Western Australia 566 145 530 583 $1 308 876.29 $1 226 660.14 $2 535 536.43
South Australia 394 003 376 532 $910 899.48 $870 508.10 $1 781 407.58
Tasmania 109 908 109 023 $254 097.40 $252 051.36 $506 148.76
ACT 77 880 76 463 $180 051.55 $176 775.57 $356 827.12
TOTAL 4 907 908 4 832 603 $11 346 641.58 $9 751 218.66 $21 097 860.24
Australian Greens
New South Wales 407 153 443 913 $941 301.09 $1 026 286.90 $1 967 587.99
Victoria 402 482 471 317 $930 502.16 $1 089 642.49 $2 020 144.65
Queensland 257 308 312 804 $594 872.94 $723 174.70 $1 318 047.64
Western Australia 158 117 172 327 $365 552.27 $398 404.51 $763 956.78
South Australia 117 364 134 287 $271 335.01 $310 459.46 $581 794.47
Tasmania 55 042 67 016 $127 252.15 $154 934.96 $282 187.11
ACT 42 942 52 546 $99 278.04 $121 481.62 $220 759.66
Northern Territory 12 175 13 105 $28 147.50 $30 297.58 $58 445.08
TOTAL 1 452 583 1 667 315 $3 358 241.16 $3 854 682.22 $7 212 923.38
National Party of Australia
New South Wales 317 867 1 617 418 $734 879.90 $934 831.21 $1 669 711.11
Victoria 101 419 1 107 522 $234 471.60 $486 493.33 $720 964.93
Western Australia 41 102 0 $95 024.12 $0.00 $95 024.12
TOTAL 460 388 2 724 940 $1 064 375.62 $1 421 324.54 $2 485 700.16
Family First Party
Victoria 38 737 0 $89 556.46 $0.00 $89 556.46
Queensland 57 488 0 $132 907.08 $0.00 $132 907.08
South Australia 38 709 41 227 $89 491.72 $95 313.11 $184 804.83
TOTAL 134 934 41 227 $311 955.26 $95 313.11 $407 268.37
Country Liberals (Northern Territory)
Northern Territory 38 335 39 268 $88 627.07 $90 784.08 $179 411.15
Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
New South Wales 7 617 0 $17 609.82 $0.00 $17 609.82
Australian Sex Party
Northern Territory N/A 4 930 N/A $11 397.72 $11 397.72
Liberal Democratic Party
Victoria 4 895 0 $11 316.80 $0.00 $11 316.80
Shooters and Fishers Party
Northern Territory N/A 4 640 N/A $10 727.26 $10 727.26

Distribution of election funding

An analysis of the distribution of election funding following the 2007 and 2010 elections is provided at Table 3.

Table 3 – Distribution of election funding
Party 2007 election 2010 election % change share
$ 000 % share $ 000 % share
Australian Labor Party 22 030 44.96 21 226 39.93 -5.03
Liberal Party of Australia * 18 134 37.01 21 098 39.68 2.68
Australian Greens ** 4 371 8.92 7 213 13.57 4.65
National Party of Australia *** 3 240 6.61 2 486 4.68 -1.94
Family First Party 141 0.29 407 0.77 0.48
Northern Territory Country Liberal Party 169 0.34 179 0.34 0.00
Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) 0 0.00 18 0.03 0.03
Australian Sex Party 0 0.00 11 0.02 0.02
Liberal Democratic Party 0 0.00 11 0.02 0.02
Shooters and Fishers Party 0 0.00 11 0.02 0.02
Pauline's United Australia Party 213 0.43 0 0.00 -0.43
Independent Candidates 705 1.44 503 0.95 -0.49
TOTAL 49 003 100 53 163 100  

* Includes the Liberal National Party of Queensland.

** Includes all related parties.

*** The National Party Queensland was deregistered on 15 May 2009 following the registration of the Liberal National Party of Queensland.

As outlined in Table 3, political parties received 99.05% of the total amount of election funding paid following the 2010 federal election. This is a slight increase from almost 98.56% paid following the 2007 election.

Comparative funding data

Table 4 shows comparative voting, candidate and funding data for the 2004, 2007 and 2010 elections. Analysis of the share change in the total number of formal first preference votes indicates that there was an overall decrease of 1.44 per cent of formal fist preference votes funded for the 2010 election compared to the 2007 election. This could be attributed to an increase in the number of informal votes cast in 2010 compared to 2007.

Table 4 – Comparative funding data
  2004 election 2007 election 2010 election
Votes
Number of formal 1st preference Senate and House of Representatives votes 23.669m 25.077m 25.125m
Number of votes funded (House of Representatives and Senate) 21.567m 23.332m 22.995m
Percentage of votes funded (House of Representatives and Senate) 91.10 93.30 91.50
House of Representatives Candidates
Number of House of Representatives candidates 1 091 1 054 849
House of Representatives candidates with at least 4% of the 1st preference vote 482 580 504
Percentage of House candidates funded 44.20 55.00 59.40
Senate Groups
Number of Senate groups 119 136 136
Senate groups with at least 4% of the 1st preference vote 27 26 26
Percentage of Senate groups funded 22.70 19.10 19.10

Payment arrangements

Election funding of independent candidates and Senate groups is paid to the agent of the candidate or group. Where no agent is appointed the candidate is deemed to be their own agent. Where no agent is appointed for a Senate group the candidate listed first on the ballot paper is deemed to be the agent of the group.

Election funding of endorsed candidates and Senate groups is normally paid to the agent of the state or territory branch of the party that endorsed the candidate or Senate group. However, state and territory branches may re-direct funding entitlements to the national body of the party pursuant to arrangements provided for under the Act (s.299) and lodged with the AEC.

Funding redirections from the Liberal Party of Australia, Australian Labor Party and Family First saw consolidated entitlements paid only to the party federal secretariats following the 2010 election. The funding entitlement of the Liberal National Party of Queensland was also redirected to the Liberal Party of Australia federal secretariat because they are recognised as a state branch of that party.

Arrangements were also put in place for payment for joint Senate tickets to be apportioned on a basis agreed by the parties, and advised to the AEC, for the NSW and Victorian branches of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia.

Twelve registered political parties received their election funding by direct deposit. Seven parties and 17 candidates received their election funding payments by cheque. All payments were made in accordance with s.299A of the Act. Section 299A of the Act sets out that the method of payment for political parties can be made by direct credit if the party has nominated an account otherwise it must be by cheque. No problems with payment or receipt of election funding were reported.

As part of an application for registration a political party may seek not to receive election funding. However, there is no corresponding provision in the Act for the AEC not to pay election funding to an eligible registered political party or a candidate once the entitlement has been established under Part XX of the Act.

RECOMMENDATION 1

The Act be amended to allow the AEC to withhold payment of election funding if a registered political party or candidate specifically indicates that they do not wish to receive election funding.

Election funding payments made to unendorsed candidates and Senate groups must be made by cheque because there is currently no provision in the Act similar to the political party provisions in s.299A for these payments to be made by direct deposit.

RECOMMENDATION 2

The Act be amended to include provision for the payment of election funding to eligible unendorsed candidates and Senate groups into an Australian bank account held in the name of the candidate or, in the case of a Senate group, the candidate whose name is listed first on the ballot paper, by direct deposit.

Election funding provisions

The election funding payment provisions in s.299 of the Act have been amended a number of times since the introduction of the scheme in 1984, and it currently has four separate complex provisions which essentially provide the same outcome.

Since the commencement of election funding the Act has provided that election funding of endorsed candidates and Senate groups is paid to the agent of the state or territory branch of the party that endorsed the candidate or Senate group. In 1995, a provision was introduced to permit such payments, or a proportion of them, to be re-directed (for example, from a state branch of the party to its federal secretariat which would otherwise not receive any payment of election funding directly from the AEC). Provisions were also introduced in 1995 to permit the Australian Democrats to appoint a principal agent to ensure all election funding payments were paid directly to the federal secretariat of the party.

In 2002, provisions were inserted to ensure that payments of election funding to the Liberal Party of Australia are paid to the federal secretariat unless a specific agreement between the state or territory branch and the federal secretariat of the Liberal Party is in force. At the same time, provisions were inserted to permit a registered officer to notify the AEC that their party is a designated federal party, which would ensure that almost identical arrangements for the payment of election funding would apply to those parties as applies to the Liberal Party.

The AEC is of the view that the distribution of election funding is a matter properly left to the internal arrangements of each party.

RECOMMENDATION 3

The Act be amended to reduce the four separate provisions to a single provision that meets the requirements of all parties in order to rationalise and simplify provisions for payment of public funding to political parties.

In 1990, ss.287(4A) was inserted into the Act to cater for political parties which operate in only one state. However, the combination of ss.287(4A) with s.299 puts a question mark over the ability to pay election funding entitlements to a party that carries on activities in more than one, but not all, states.

For example, the Family First Party is formally recognised by the AEC as having state branches organised on the basis of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

Formal recognition is required to identify:

  • branches of registered political parties with an obligation to lodge their own financial disclosure returns under ss.314AB(1) and be paid election funding,
  • entitlement to elector information which is made available to a registered political party under s.90B, and
  • entitlement to electronic lists of postal vote applications which are made available to a registered political party under s.189A.

At the 2010 federal election, the Family First Party endorsed candidates in New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania as well as the three states in which the party's branches are formally recognised. If the Family First Party was entitled to receive election funding in any state where the party is not recognised as having a branch established there is some doubt as to whether the AEC could pay election funding to the party for that state due to the operation of ss.299(1)(d) of the Act. The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of Australia also endorsed candidates in a state where they are not formally recognised and therefore could also have been affected in regard to election funding entitlements for its endorsed candidates in that state. An amendment to the Act would be needed to correct this anomaly.

RECOMMENDATION 4

The Act be amended to ensure the payment of election funding entitlements for eligible candidates and Senate groups can be made to the party whether or not the party is organised on the basis of a particular state or territory.

Funding history

From its introduction in 1984 until 1995, federal election funding operated as a reimbursement of expenditure scheme. The Act was amended in 1995 to operate on an entitlement basis and to bring the payment entitlement for Senate and House of Representatives votes into line, and to increase the base rate of payment.

The election funding payment rates and amounts, since the base rate of payment ($1.50 prior to indexing) was set by Parliament in 1995, are outlined in Table 5.

Table 5 – Election funding payment rates and payments since 1996
Election Funding Rate per vote Total Payments Change %
1996 $1.57594 32.15 N/A
1998 $1.62210 33.92 5.51%
2001 $1.79026 38.56 13.68%
2004 $1.94397 41.93 8.74%
2007 $2.10027 49.00 16.86%
2010 $2.31191 53.16 8.49%