Obligations of registered political parties

Updated: 8 September 2016

The financial disclosure obligation under the Act

Section 314AB of the Act governs the lodgement of annual disclosures by political parties.

The agent of each political party must within 16 weeks after the end of each financial year furnish to the AEC a return in the approved form.

The Political Party Disclosure Return (the return) requires disclosure of the following information covering the financial year from 1 July to 30 June:

  • total receipts
  • details of amounts received that are more than the disclosure threshold
  • total payments
  • total debts as at 30 June
  • details of debts outstanding as at 30 June that total more than the disclosure threshold.

The disclosure threshold for the 2016–17 financial year is for amounts of more than $13 200. This figure is indexed annually.

State branches

A State branch that is registered under section 130 of the Electoral Act must lodge annual financial disclosure returns covering the operation of the party in their State or Territory. The party agent of the State branch is responsible for lodging the annual financial disclosure return for the registered State branch of the party.

Where a registered political party has State and Territory branches that are not separately registered or recognised, the party agent of the registered political party at the national level must lodge annual financial disclosure returns covering the operation of all those State and Territory branches together with the national level operations.

Recognised branches

Where a registered political party has State or Territory branches which are separately recognised by the AEC, a State or Territory branch so recognised must lodge a separate annual financial disclosure return covering the operation of the party in their State or Territory.

Associated entities of political parties

Associated entities of registered political parties must lodge similar annual financial disclosure returns.

An associated entity of a registered political party is:

  • an entity controlled by one or more registered political parties;
  • an entity that operates wholly, or to a significant extent, for the benefit of one or more registered political parties;
  • an entity that is a financial member of a registered political party or on whose behalf another person is a financial member of a registered political party;
  • an entity that has voting rights in a registered political party or on whose behalf another person has voting rights in a registered political party.

The AEC releases a series of publications designed to assist political parties, candidates, donors and other persons that may have financial disclosure obligations under the Act. These publications include:

Date for public inspection of annual returns

Annual returns are made available for public inspection on the first working day of February each year.

Returns can be seen at:

  • the AEC's website
  • through public access terminals in the AEC National Office in Canberra and at its AEC State Offices located in each state and territory capital city

Record keeping

Political parties must give consideration to the financial recording systems and procedures that are appropriate to their needs and circumstances.

Financial recording systems and procedures must be sufficient to enable the return, which will be publicly available, to be properly completed.

All transactions should be supported by source documents recording the details of individual transactions.

Examples of source documents are:

  • receipts
  • tax invoices
  • loan documents
  • wages records
  • bank deposit books and cheque butts
  • bank account statements
  • credit card statements.

Source documents contain information required to complete the return, such as the:

  • date of the transaction
  • name of person and/or organisation from whom a receipt was received
  • name of person and/or organisation to whom a payment was made
  • name and address of organisation that has provided a loan to the party
  • total payment made or amount received
  • amount of goods and services tax (GST)
  • merchant fees.

A cash book may be used to record all receipts and payments, whether by cash, cheque, credit card, direct debit, direct credit, EFTPOS or other payment or receipt method. An example of another payment or receipt method is where the party has received a gift-in-kind.

While all amounts received and paid can be recorded in a cash book, the cash book may be incomplete. Therefore the cash book should be reconciled to external bank statements to ensure transactions that have been made directly to all the party's bank accounts are included. A cash book can assist with completing the return.

Retention of records

All relevant records, whether formal or informal, should be retained for a minimum of three years. Receipt books, bank records, receipt registers, source documents and working papers documenting how figures disclosed in the return were derived must be kept for this period.