Financial disclosure overview

Updated: 17 October 2019

Annual disclosure

Annual returns

Registered political parties and their state and territory branches, associated entities, political campaigners, third parties and donors are required to lodge an annual return with the AEC.

Political parties, associated entities and political campaigners

Annual returns for political parties, associated entities and political campaigners for each financial year must show:

  • the total value of receipts;
  • details of amounts received that are more than the disclosure threshold;
  • the total value of payments;
  • the total value of debts as at 30 June;
  • details of debts outstanding as at 30 June that total more than the disclosure threshold; and
  • details of any discretionary benefits received from the Commonwealth, state or territory.

The details to be disclosed for amounts received that are more than the disclosure threshold are:

  • full name and address details of the person or organisation from whom the amount was received;
  • the sum of amounts received from that person or organisation; and
  • whether the receipt is a ‘donation’ or ‘other receipt’.

The details of debts outstanding as at 30 June that total more than the disclosure threshold are:

  • full name and address details of the person or organisation that the debt is owed to;
  • the amount that is owed; and
  • whether the debt is to a financial institution or non-financial institution.

In addition to the above, political campaigners must show the total amount of amount of electoral expenditure incurred by, or with the authority of the campaigner.

Third parties

Annual returns for third parties for each financial year must include:

  • total electoral expenditure incurred above the disclosure threshold;
  • details of gifts received for political expenditure of more than the disclosure threshold wholly or partly used to incur the political expenditure disclosed in the return; and
  • a signed statement of compliance with foreign donations restrictions.

Electoral matter and electoral expenditure

There are two definitions that are relevant to disclosing electoral expenditure and determining what electoral communications need to be authorised for the purpose of Part XXA of the Electoral Act.

  • Electoral expenditure is expenditure incurred for the dominant purpose of creating or communicating electoral matter.
  • Electoral matter will be defined to be matter communicated or intended to be communicated for the dominant purpose of influencing the way electors vote in a federal election.

Where expenditure is incurred to create or communicate electoral matter, in addition to other reasons, the dominant purpose of the expenditure must be considered.

In general, any expenditure incurred by a political entity, a member of the House of Representatives or a Senator in relation to an election will be electoral expenditure.

Communications that have the dominant purpose of educating their audience, raising awareness of, or encouraging debate on a public policy issue are not considered electoral matter.

The Explanatory Memorandum contains some helpful examples of electoral matter and electoral expenditure.

Donors

Annual returns for organisation and individual donors to political parties and political campaigners for each financial year must disclose details of donations:

  • including gifts-in-kind, made to registered political parties or political campaigners totalling more than the disclosure threshold; and
  • of more than the disclosure threshold received and used (wholly or partly) to make the donations disclosed in the return.

Foreign donations

From 1 January 2019 the Electoral Act restricts the receipt of donations from foreign donors. A foreign donor can be:

  • 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;
  • An entity (whether or not incorporated) to which none of the following conditions apply:
    • The entity is incorporated in Australia;
    • The entity’s head office is in Australia;
    • The principal place of activity of the entity is, or is in, Australia;
  • An individual who is neither a Commonwealth elector, nor an Australian citizen, nor an Australian permanent resident, or a holder of Special Category Visa subclass 444.

Political parties and political campaigners must not receive donations from foreign donors for the amount or value of $1,000 or more. A foreign donor must not make gifts to a political party or political campaigner for $100 or more if the purpose is for the gift to be used for electoral expenditure or for creating or communicating electoral matter.

Third parties must not receive donations from foreign donors for the amount or value equal to the disclosure threshold ($13,800), which are then used for the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure or for creating or communicating electoral matter.

Election disclosure

Election returns

Candidates, unendorsed Senate groups and Senate groups endorsed by more than one registered political party must lodge election disclosure returns with the AEC. The returns must show:

  • the total value of donations received;
  • the total number of donors;
  • all individual donations received above the disclosure threshold (personal gifts such as Christmas and birthday presents need not be disclosed);
  • the details of donations including:
    • the date on which each donation was received;
    • the amount or value of each donation;
    • the name and address of the donor;
  • the total amount of electoral expenditure incurred by or with the authority of the candidate or Senate group; and
  • details of any discretionary benefits received from the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory during the period of 12 months before polling day.

People or organisations making donations to candidates or Senate groups in excess of the disclosure threshold must also lodge a donor return.

Penalties

Civil penalties have been added to a wider range of criminal penalties associated with election funding and disclosure. These penalties affect political parties, their associated entities and other non-party political actors.

Public inspection

Election disclosure returns are made available for public inspection 24 weeks after polling day on this website. Annual disclosure returns are similarly made available for public inspection from the first working day in February.

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