Election Funding Guide

Updated: 8 November 2017

Election funding

Qualifying for election funding

Division 3 of Part XX of the Act deals with election funding. To be entitled to election funding a candidate must receive a least 4% of the formal first preference votes in an election in which the candidate stands. For a Senate group, the group as a whole must receive at least 4% of the formal first preference votes in the Senate election in that state or territory.

Amount of election funding

Sections 294(1) and (2) of the Act specify the amount payable for each first preference vote given for a candidate in a House of Representatives or for a candidate or group in a Senate election respectively. Further, section 321 provides for these amounts to be indexed each six months in accordance with increases in the All Groups Consumer Price Index.

To determine the election funding entitlement that a candidate or Senate group will be paid, the number of formal first preference votes is multiplied by the indexed election funding rate applicable at the time of the election.

Payment of election funding

Section 299(5D) provides that the AEC is required to pay at least 95% of the election funding entitlement calculated on the basis of the votes counted as at the 20th day after the polling day in the election. This payment must be made as soon as possible after that 20th day, which normally sees payments processed in the fourth week after polling day. The balance must be paid as soon as possible after the amount of the full entitlement is known, in other words, upon the finalisation of the vote count.

Section 299(1)(d) of the Act provides that payment of an election funding entitlement in respect of a candidate or candidates endorsed by a registered political party be made to the agent of the State branch of the party in the State or Territory in which the candidate or candidates stood for election.

Section 299A(1) of the Act provides that these payments of election funding entitlements must be made either:

  • electronically into a bank account nominated by the party for the purpose; or
  • by cheque payable to the registered political party.

Section 299(2) of the Act provides that payment of an election funding entitlement in respect of an unendorsed candidate (for example, an 'independent' candidate) be made to the agent of the candidate. Section 299(3) provides that payment of an election funding entitlement in respect of a Senate group be made to the agent of the group. Where no agent is formally appointed, payment will be made to the candidate or, in the case of a Senate group, to the first-listed candidate in the group. Appendix 3 of this guide provides advice on appointing a candidate or Senate group agent.

Payments of election funding entitlements to unendorsed candidates or Senate groups or where no agent has been appointed will be made by cheque direct to the candidate or lead candidate in the Senate group.

Direct deposit into party bank account

Section 299A(2) provides that a bank account nominated by a party for the purpose of payment of election funding entitlements must satisfy the following conditions:

  • the account must be maintained by the party
  • the account must be with a bank or other authorised deposit-taking institution, a full list of which is available at: http://www.apra.gov.au/ADI/ADIList.cfm
  • the account must be kept in Australia
  • the account name must consist of, or include:
    1. if the account is maintained by a registered political party–the name of the party as it appears in the Register of Political Parties; or
    2. if the account is held by a State branch of a political party, and the branch is not a registered political party–the name of the State branch.

The AEC may require evidence that the nominated account meets the above mentioned conditions, for example an original account statement.

Where an account is not nominated, payment is made by cheque made out to the registered political party or State branch of the political party, and posted to the relevant party agent.

Section 299A(4) of the Act allows the AEC to approve special abbreviations of registered political parties' names to be used for the purpose of clearly identifying the payee on cheques issued.

Redirection of payments

Section 299 of the Act contains a number of provisions that allow the election funding entitlements due to one party to be paid to another party.

By agreement

Section 299(5A) provides that a political party may elect to have their payment of election funding entitlements diverted to another party or branch at the request of the agents of the parties or branches involved. Section 299(5B) provides that a notice requesting to have the payment of election funding entitlements diverted must be made to the AEC before polling day in an election, and it:

  • must be signed by the agent of each registered political party or State branch of the party specified in the notice; and
  • remains current for all elections until revoked by written consent of the agents of the parties involved.

Designated federal party

Section 287B(2) of the Act provides that a registered officer of a registered political party that has 2 or more State branches may give written notice to the AEC that the party chooses to be treated as a designated federal party. A choice under section 287B(2) may be revoked by the registered officer by providing written notice to the AEC. A choice under section 287B(2) must not be revoked during the period:

  • beginning at the start of the polling day for an election; and
  • ending on the 14th day after the day on which the writ for that election is returned.

Section 299(1)(bb) of the Act provides that where a party has chosen to be treated as a designated federal party, the election funding entitlements of the party and of all its State branches will be paid to the designated federal party. Section 299(5H) of the Act allows the registered officer of that party to give written notice to the AEC specifying percentages of payments to be apportioned between the registered political party and its State branches. A notice under section 299(5H) is required to be lodged before polling day for an election.

Special provisions

Various sub-sections of 299 of the Act outline the arrangements relating to the payment of election funding entitlements to the Liberal Party and its State branches. The sub-sections that apply to the Liberal Party and its State branches are similar in operation to those sub-sections that govern designated federal parties.

Section 288A of the Act provides the Australian Democrats with the option to appoint a principal agent and, where a principal agent is appointed, section 299(1)(c) requires all election funding entitlements to be paid to that principal agent.

Joint Senate groups

Sections 299(4)(ac)(i), (ad)(i), (ae)(i), (af)(i) and (b)(i) provide that a joint Senate group (a group that includes candidates endorsed by different political parties) may agree to split election funding entitlements between the endorsing parties. To be effective, section 299(5) provides that such agreements must be:

  • signed by the agent of each party involved in running the joint Senate ticket; and
  • lodged with the AEC before the 20th day after polling day.

If no agreement is lodged, the AEC will determine the division of the election funding entitlement.

Death of a candidate

Section 300 of the Act provides that an election funding entitlement may still be paid even if a candidate dies during the course of the election. For endorsed candidates, payment will continue to be made to the registered political party. For unendorsed candidates, payment is made to the candidate's agent or, if they had not appointed an agent, to their legal personal representative.

Death of member of Senate group

Section 301 of the Act provides that election funding entitlement may still be paid, to a Senate group even if a member of the group dies during the course of the election.

In the case of an unendorsed Senate group without an appointed agent, where the lead candidate dies payment is made to the next listed member of the group.

Overpayments and payments in error

Section 299(6) provides that where a payment of election funding is made and a person, registered political party or State branch of the party is not entitled to receive the amount paid, that part of the payment to which they were not entitled is recoverable by the Commonwealth.