Enquiry/complaint facility

Updated: 16 August 2023

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act) and Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 (Referendum Act) create a regulatory scheme for participants in federal elections and referendums.


The authorisation scheme requires persons and entities communicating certain electoral and referendum matter (for example, paid electoral advertising) to authorise those communications so that electors can know who is responsible for the communication.

Anyone intending to communicate matter intended to affect a federal election or referendum must ensure the communication is appropriately authorised.

Misleading or deceptive publications

Everyone has an obligation not to mislead or deceive electors in relation to the casting of a vote.

Identifying possible breaches

To assist the AEC in identifying possible breaches of the Electoral Act or Referendum Act provisions you should contact us if you are aware of a person or entity that is communicating electoral matter or referendum matter without an authorisation, or with particulars that are not formatted correctly or reasonably prominent, or that may mislead or deceive electors.

It is also a breach of the authorisation provisions for a foreign campaigner to authorise electoral and referendum material.

Further information on the authorisation scheme, including the meaning of electoral matter or referendum matter is available in the Backgrounder.

Further information in relation to misleading or deceptive communications in relation to the casting of a vote is available.

Reporting suspected breaches to the AEC

If you have knowledge of any activity that might constitute a suspected breach of the Electoral Act or Referendum Act we need your information and you are encouraged to report things we might not know about. You can report any suspected breach by:

What information should I provide?

You need to give us as much information as you can, as we may not be able to contact you again for more details (if you have chosen not to provide contact details).

The type of information that will assist us with our inquiries is:

  1. What is the name of the person or entity?
    • full name, position, location, party, entity, donor, candidate or third party
  2. What is the suspected breach?
    • failure to authorise an electoral or referendum communication
    • failure to display the authorisation particulars prominently on an electoral or referendum communication
    • failure to include each of the required authorisation particulars, e.g. a full street address on printed material
    • a foreign campaigner has authorised electoral or referendum communication
  3. Details about the alleged breach
    • Clear photo of the entire communication
    • Location of the communication
    • Time of the photograph
    • The name of the individual who took the photograph
    • Distance from communication when taking the photograph
    • Length of time the communication has been displayed or distributed.
  4. How you became aware of this matter
  5. Your name and contact details should we require further information

How will my enquiry be dealt with?

The AEC will assess all information it receives in relation to a possible breach of the Electoral Act or Referendum Act.

The action the AEC will take will depend on whether there is sufficient evidence of a breach having occurred. The AEC may monitor the party, entity or person's ongoing compliance with their obligations, request information from the party, entity or person who appears to be in breach or a third party who may be able to provide assistance, evidence or information to assist the AEC inquiries.

So as not to prejudice any possible outcomes the AEC will not provide you with any details of inquiries or investigation that it undertakes in relation to a possible breach.

It may be that your complaint forms the basis of the AEC’s enforcement of the authorisation scheme, including seeking civil penalties in Court or an enforceable undertaking with the person or entity. In the case of a misleading or deceptive publication, the AEC may refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the AEC conduct an investigation?

The AEC will only conduct an investigation if there appears to be a breach of the provisions.

Will my details be protected?

You can access the AEC's Privacy Policy on the AEC website. The AEC is bound by the provisions of the Privacy Act 1988, (Privacy Act) including the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs). The APPs set out standards, rights and obligations for how the AEC handles and maintains personal information. The policy provides a protection of the personal details of any person who provides information in relation to a breach or possible breach of the authorisation provisions.

Can I make an anonymous report?

Yes. However this may limit our ability to investigate your report to us, particularly where we need to seek further clarification or information from you and we cannot do so.

What is the benefit for me in reporting a breach of the authorisation provisions?

The authorisation scheme is aimed at providing transparency, traceability and accountability in relation to communications to voters. Any information the AEC receives assists us in ensuring that any person or entity with an obligation to authorise communications meets them. If the AEC is not able to achieve voluntary compliance, your information or evidence may assist in any enforcement action required to achieve compliance.