FAQs: Referendum disclosure

For further information go to Referendum disclosure.

No, there is no requirement for a referendum entity to be registered with the AEC.

Yes, it is possible for a referendum entity to meet the definition of referendum donor (by donating to another referendum entity).

A referendum return would be required to be lodged by both the referendum entity and the referendum donor.

Entities that lodge annual returns could also be a referendum entity for the purposes of the disclosure requirements of the Referendum Act.

Expenditure and donations related to a referendum, and reported in a referendum return, may also be required to be reported in an annual return.

Charities that incur referendum expenditure (above the disclosure threshold during the referendum disclosure period) to influence voters in a referendum are subject to the requirements of the Referendum Act. This type of expenditure can create an obligation as a referendum entity.

The referendum expenditure period:

  • starts on the day that is six months before the writ for a referendum is issued; and
  • ends on the voting day for the referendum.

The timeframe for the 2023 referendum is shown below:

  • The Governor-General issued the writ for the referendum on 11 September 2023.
  • The referendum voting day is set for 14 October 2023.
  • As a result, the referendum expenditure period will run from 11 March (six months before the issue of the writ) to 14 October 2023 (voting day).

Staff wages may be included in referendum expenditure. Where expenditure is incurred to create or communicate referendum matter, in addition to other reasons, the dominant purpose of the expenditure must be considered. You will find examples of the dominant purpose of expenditure in the factsheet relating to staff:

If you incur referendum expenditure outside the referendum expenditure period, there is no obligation to disclose it – even if it is above the disclosure threshold.

In the same way, there is no obligation to disclose donations made or received outside the referendum expenditure period.

Disclosure of certain information (e.g. expenditure, details of donations) by referendum entities and donors is required if it is above the disclosure threshold.

The disclosure threshold amount for the 2023 referendum is $15,200.

The threshold applies to the referendum expenditure period: from 11 March (six months before the issue of the writ) to 14 October 2023 (voting day).

Note: the disclosure threshold for the 2023 referendum is in place for the current term of Parliament. This may differ from the current disclosure threshold relating to financial disclosure (annual and election returns).

A donation has the same meaning as a gift under the Referendum Act.

A gift is defined as any disposition of property made by a person to another person, being a disposition made without consideration in money or money's worth or with inadequate consideration, and includes the provision of a service (other than volunteer labour) for no consideration or for inadequate consideration.

You would need to understand the definition of a foreign campaigner in relation to your specific organisation.

For an organisation, a foreign campaigner is defined as:

  • a body politic of a foreign country, or part of such a body politic,
  • a body politic of a part of a foreign country, or part of such a body politic,
  • a foreign public enterprise, or
  • an entity (whether or not incorporated) that does not meet any of the following conditions:
    • the entity is incorporated in Australia
    • the entity’s head office is in Australia
    • the principal place of activity of the entity is in Australia.

A foreign campaigner is limited from directly incurring referendum expenditure or fundraising for the purpose of incurring referendum expenditure of $1,000 or more in a financial year.

Updated: 20 September 2023
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