Election Funding and Disclosure Report - 2014 WA Senate election: Election funding

Updated: 11 June 2015

Authority

Division 3 of Part XX of the Electoral Act provides for the payment of election funding for candidates who have contested an election for the House of Representatives or the Senate and have reached the threshold of first preference votes which attracts election funding payments. The relevant provisions for the purposes of this report are ss.294, 297 and 299 of the Electoral Act. These sections are set out in full in Appendix B.

Operation of the relevant provisions

Entitlement

Section 294 of the Electoral Act provides a general entitlement to election funding for each first preference vote given for a candidate in a House of Representatives or Senate election.

Election funding entitlements are calculated by multiplying the number of formal first preference votes received by relevant candidates, or Senate groups as a whole, by the funding rate applicable to the period in which an election is held.

Indexation is calculated in accordance with the provisions contained in s.321 of the Electoral Act.

For the 2014 WA Senate election the funding rate was 252.781 cents per eligible vote.1

Election funding is an entitlement under the Electoral Act once the prescribed eligibility criteria have been met. The Electoral Act does not require those who have met the eligibility criteria to provide evidence that funds were either committed or spent in the running of an election campaign.

Eligibility

To be eligible to receive a payment of election funding a candidate for the House of Representatives must receive at least four per cent of the formal first preference votes cast in the electorate contested by that candidate (s.297(1) of the Electoral Act).

For a Senate group to be eligible the group as a whole must receive a total of at least four per cent of the formal first preference votes in the Senate election in the state or territory contested (s.297(2) of the Electoral Act).

Formal first preference votes cast in favour of candidates and/or Senate groups who fail to reach the four per cent threshold of total formal first preference votes are not eligible votes for the purpose of election funding. Votes rejected and declared as informal in the election concerned are also not eligible first preference votes (s.294(4) of the Electoral Act).

General election payment arrangements

Under s.287B of the Electoral Act, the registered officer of a registered political party can notify the AEC that they are choosing to be treated to a "designated federal party".2 This then allows the national body of the party to receive, under s.299(1)(bb) and s.299(4)(aab) respectively, the candidate and Senate group election funding entitlements on behalf of all their state branches. This is an arrangement similar to that which exists for the Liberal Party under s.299(1)(b) and s.299(4)(aa) of the Electoral Act.

Under s.299(1)(d) of the Electoral Act, the payment of election funding entitlements of eligible candidates and Senate groups that were endorsed by registered political parties are made to the agent of the state or territory branch of the party unless other arrangements, such as those detailed below, are in place for the redirection of those payments.

Section 299 of the Electoral Act includes specific provisions for the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Democrats under which payments for all state branches of those parties are to be paid to the federal body of the party. Similarly, the federal body of any party group can, under s.287B, apply to be treated as a 'designated federal party' so that payments for all state branches of those parties are paid to the federal party.

Under s.299A(1) of the Electoral Act, political parties are entitled to receive their election funding by direct credit or cheque. Section 299A(2) requires that for an account to be eligible to receive election funding by direct credit, it must be operated by the party in Australia with an authorised deposit taking institution and held in the name of the party. Otherwise, payments are required by s.299A(1)(b) to be paid by cheque payable to the party.

Given the eligibility requirements under s.299A(2) of the Electoral Act, the direct credit payment option is available only to political parties and not to independent candidates or independent Senate groups. Independent candidates and Senate groups, therefore, receive election funding payments by cheque.

Under s.299(1)(b) and s.299(4)(aa) respectively, candidate and Senate group election funding entitlements of all state branches of the Liberal Party of Australia may be paid to the party agent of the federal division of the party. Section 299(5E) enables the party agent of the Liberal Party to give to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) a written notice determining specified percentages of election funding payments which are to be paid between the federal party and a state branch.

Section 299(2) of the Electoral Act requires that payment of election funding for independent candidates or independent Senate groups must be made to the agent of the candidate. Under s.299(3) payment of election funding must be made to the agent of the Senate group. Where no candidate agent is appointed for a candidate, under s.289(3), a candidate is deemed to be their own agent. Where no agent is appointed for a Senate group,3 under s.289(4), the candidate listed first on the ballot paper is deemed to be the agent of the group.

Subsections 299(4)(ac)(i), (ad)(i), (ae)(i), (af)(i) and (b)(i) of the Electoral Act allow for members of groups endorsed by two registered parties to divide payments for election funding into agreed shares as determined either by the agents of the relevant parties or, in the absence of a formal agreement, by the AEC. In accordance with the requirements of s.299(5) these agreements must be signed by relevant agents and lodged with the AEC before the 20th day after the election polling date.

Subsection 299(5A) of the Electoral Act allows the agents of two different political parties to lodge a notice with the AEC requesting that the entitlements of one party be paid to the other. Unlike other provisions under s.299, a notice under s.299(5A) is not limited to payments being redirected to the federal body of a political party but allows election funding payments to be redirected between any political parties, including, unrelated parties.

Subsection 299(5D)(a) of the Electoral Act requires the AEC to pay at least 95 per cent of the entitlement calculated on the basis of the votes counted as at the 20th day after polling day. The payment must be made as soon as possible after the 20th day. Any remaining balance must be paid as soon as possible once the amount of the full entitlement is known.

Subsection 299(5H) of the Electoral Act enables the party agent of a designated federal party to give to the AEC a written notice determining specified percentages of election funding payments which are to be paid between the party and a state branch.

Payments for the 2014 WA Senate Election

Method of payment

No notice requesting payment of specified percentages between the federal and the Western Australian State branch was lodged with the AEC by the Liberal Party under s.299(5A) of the Electoral Act for the 2014 WA Senate election. Therefore the full entitlements for the 2014 WA Senate election were paid to the federal division of the Liberal Party in accordance with s.299(4)(aa) of the Electoral Act.

The Family First Party and the Australian Labor Party were the only registered political parties for the 2014 WA Senate election that had notices in force with the AEC to be treated as designated federal parties in respect of their election funding entitlements. No notice for the 2014 WA Senate election was lodged with the AEC by either the Family First Party or the Australian Labor Party under s.299(5H) of the Electoral Act. Payment of election funding entitlements for these parties was made, in full, to the designated federal parties in accordance with s.299(4)(aab) of the Electoral Act.

No notices were lodged under s.299(5A) of the Electoral Act requiring payment redirection between political parties.

No Senate groups at the 2014 WA Senate election were endorsed by more than one registered political party.

Candidates paid

For the 2014 WA Senate election the AEC made no election funding payments to independent candidates under s.299 of the Electoral Act.

Payment by cheque or credit

For the 2014 WA Senate election the AEC made election funding payments to four registered political parties. Three political parties which had nominated bank accounts which met the eligibility criteria under s.299(A)(2) of the Electoral Act chose to receive election funding by direct credit. The remaining political party received their election funding by cheque. The details of such payments are set out below in Table 1.

Table 1: Credit and cheque payments to political parties
Payment Parties
Direct credit Liberal Party of Australia
Australian Labor Party
The Greens (WA) Inc
Cheque Palmer United Party

Payments made

Subsection 299(5D)(a) of the Electoral Act requires at least 95 per cent of the entitlement to be paid as soon as possible after the 20th day after polling day. The AEC's policy in administering this provision is to pay up to 99 per cent of each party's and candidate's funding entitlement calculated as at the 20th day after polling day and withhold the greater of 1 per cent or $200 from the first payment. This approach maximises the early release of funds to political parties and candidates while still withholding a sufficient proportion of the initial entitlement to avoid the risk of possible overpayments following the finalisation of the vote count.

The first payment totalling $2 671 177.54 was based on the vote count as at the close of business on Friday 25 April 2014 with payments processed the following week. In accordance with s.299(5D)(b), the final payment could not be made until the full entitlement was known at the finalisation of the counting of votes. Payment of the balance of entitlements totalling $27 037.19 was finalised on 9 May 2014.

New Parties: eligibility for funding

Three new parties were registered with the AEC between the 2013 federal election and the 2014 WA Senate election. These were the 21st Century Party, the Natural Medicine Party and the Single Parents' Party. None of these parties qualified for election funding at the 2014 WA Senate election.

Table 2 provides a list of the election funding payments distributed at the 2014 WA Senate election, listed in order of the largest to the smallest amount paid.

Table 2: Summary of payments – 2014 WA Senate election
Recipients First Payment ($) Final Payment ($) Total Payment ($)
Parties
Liberal Party of Australia 1 089 141.93 11 011.54 1 100 153.47
Australian Labor Party 688 411.49 6 973.87 695 385.36
Australian Greens 498 882.24 5 056.91 503 939.15
Palmer United Party 394 741.88 3 994.87 398 736.75
Total 2 671 177.54 27 037.19 2 698 214.73
  1. This represents an increase of 1.6 per cent compared to the 2013 federal election funding rate of 248.800 cents per eligible vote.
  2. Section 287B of the Electoral Act defines designated federal party as a registered political party, other than the Liberal Party, that has two or more State branches and has lodged a written notice with the AEC choosing to be treated as a designated federal party.
  3. Under s.289(2A) where all members of a Senate group have been endorsed by the same registered political party, the agent of the relevant state branch of the party is deemed to be the agent for the group.