2.1 To qualify for election funding, a candidate or Senate group must obtain 4% or more of the formal first preference vote in the electorate contested. The amount of funding entitlement is calculated according to the number of first preference votes obtained. Entitlements of endorsed candidates and Senate groups are paid to the State/Territory branches of their political parties.
2.2 At the 1993 election a reimbursement scheme was in operation. Election funding entitlements were initially calculated according to the number of votes received, but parties and independent candidates were also required to submit evidence of campaign expenditure and the final payment of public funding could not exceed expenditure actually incurred. As part of the 1995 amendments the basis for election funding was changed to a direct payment, regardless of expenditure. This means that parties and independent candidates are no longer required to submit detailed claims, enabling payments to be processed more promptly.
2.3 Branches of registered political parties are also now able to enter into signed agreements to redirect the payment of their election funding to another party or branch or, in the case of the Australian Democrats, to appoint a principal agent to whom the entitlements of all branches of the party are to be paid. For the 1996 federal election, agreements were in force redirecting the funding entitlements of all State and Territory branches of the Australian Labor Party to its national secretariat and the Australian Democrats had appointed a principal agent.
2.4 The 1995 amendments also set a new base rate for election funding of $1.50 for both House of Representatives and Senate votes.
2.5 In line with increases in the CPI, the rate of election funding had risen to 157.594 cents per vote by the time of the election. This compares to rates of 100.787 cents and 50.393 cents per vote respectively for the House of Representatives and Senate at the 1993 federal election.
2.6 A total of $32 154 800.55 in election funding was paid at the 1996 election. The following chart and table summarise the distribution of funding paid. A more detailed breakdown of election funding payments is provided at Appendix 1.
Labor Party $12 856 382.99
Liberal Party $12 489 503.44
National Party $2 997 271.54
Democrats $2 968 965.40
Others $842 677.18
2.7 In accordance with the Act, payments of election funding must be made to an agent. As can be seen from the following chart of total funding paid since the inception of the scheme at the 1984 election, the funding paid in 1996 was considerably greater than previously. This now sees very large cheques for the funding entitlements of parties being made out in the name of individuals. This election saw cheques for millions of dollars made out in agents' names.
2.8 The AEC is concerned, particularly given the very large amounts of funding now being paid to individuals as agents of political parties, that the legislation as it currently stands does not compel an agent to deposit the cheque in an account of the party. A more secure method of effecting payment would be to make cheques out in the party's name. This would require an amendment to the legislation which, as it stands, does not allow the agent to nominate such a redirection of payment.
Payments of election funding must be made in the registered name of the particular party or branch.
2.9 The election funding entitlements of endorsed candidates are paid to the agent of the relevant political party. The Queensland Division of the Liberal Party 'disendorsed' its candidate for the electorate of Oxley, before polling day for the 1996 election but after the close of nominations. This timing precluded the party from cancelling the nomination and consequently the Act continued to recognise the candidate as an endorsed Liberal candidate for the purposes of the election. Therefore, the candidate appeared on the ballot papers with 'Liberal' printed beside her name. In accordance with subsection 299(1) of the Act, election funding entitlement based on the vote obtained by the candidate was paid to the agent of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party.