Australian Electoral Commission

Legislative review

Updated: 14 November 2011

The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010 (the Bill) was introduced into the House of Representatives on 20 October 2010. The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on 17 November 2010 and was introduced to the Senate on the same day.

Key measures in the Bill propose to:

  • reduce the disclosure threshold to $1 000,
  • reduce the deadline for lodging disclosures from 15 weeks to eight weeks,
  • change annual financial disclosures to be made biannual, with lodgment required each six month period ending on 30 June and 31 December,
  • ensure that for the purposes of the disclosure threshold and the disclosure of gifts, related political parties are treated as one entity,
  • prohibit the receipt of a gift of foreign property and certain anonymous gifts by registered political parties, candidates and members of a Senate group,
  • subjecting donors to political parties above a predetermined threshold to compliance audits, with the AEC empowered to serve investigation notices on donors,
  • permitting compliance reviews of third parties, such as donors, candidates or Senate groups (anyone with a disclosure obligation),
  • include penalties for parties and associated entities in the form of forfeiture of receipts or donations not included on a disclosure return or not submitted by the due lodgment date,
  • provide that public funding of election campaigning is limited to the lesser amount of either the actual electoral expenditure or the amount awarded per vote where the four per cent threshold is satisfied.

It should also be noted that New South Wales and Queensland governments have recently amended their funding and disclosure schemes.

The AEC tabled its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) on the conduct of the 2010 federal election on 21 February 2011. The submission made, among other things, two recommendations on the administration of political party registration:

  • compulsory enrolment for party members supporting an application for registration of a political party, and
  • checking enrolment details of members supporting an application for party registration.

The JSCEM is conducting an inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns. The terms of reference for this inquiry are:

  1. issues raised in the Government's Electoral Reform Green Paper – Donations, Funding and Expenditure released in December 2008,
  2. the role of third parties in the electoral process,
  3. the transparency and accountability of the funding regime,
  4. limiting the escalating cost of elections,
  5. any relevant measures at the state and territory level and implications for the Commonwealth,
  6. the international practices for the funding of political parties and election campaigns, including in Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States of America.

The report on this inquiry is due by 1 December 2011.