Political parties

Updated: 27 June 2024

What is a political party?

A registered political party means a party that is registered under Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).

How do you register a political party?

You can apply to register a political party with the AEC. Go to Political party registration for further information.

Who lodges the annual return?

The party agent is responsible for lodging the annual return.

Political parties must appoint a party agent using the Appoint Party Agent form at the time of registration.
The Appoint Party Agent form can also be used to change the party agent.

For the purposes of disclosure, organised state or territory branches or divisions of registered political parties are treated as separate entities and must complete their own disclosure returns.

Note: a number of state and territory jurisdictions have their own disclosure schemes, which are separate to the Commonwealth funding and disclosure scheme administered by the AEC.

When is the annual return due?

The annual return covering the financial year 1 July to 30 June must be lodged by 20 October each year.

The annual return can be lodged any time from 1 July each year.

For a political party that is registered or is deregistered during the financial year, the annual return must be provided in relation to the whole financial year.

What is required to be disclosed?

Political parties must disclose the following information in the annual return:

  • 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, a State or a Territory during the financial year.

Financial Disclosure Guide for Political Parties

The Financial Disclosure Guide for Political Parties is designed to assist political parties to understand their financial disclosure obligations under Part XX of the Electoral Act.

The guide provides information derived from the Electoral Act as well as from the experiences of the AEC in the administration of the Commonwealth funding and disclosure scheme.

Lodging an annual return

The annual return can be lodged through the eReturns portal.

The party agent for a registered political party will be issued an eReturns username and password by the AEC.

For more information on lodging an annual return go to Lodge a financial disclosure return.

For important terms that party agents need to complete annual returns, explore Financial Disclosure FAQs.

Further information and examples can be found in the Financial Disclosure Guide for Political Parties 2023-24.

Record keeping

Political parties should have adequate financial recording systems and procedures to enable the return, which will be publicly available, to be properly completed. The Electoral Act makes the party agent responsible for record keeping.

Relevant records must be retained for a minimum of 5 years following the end of the reporting period.

A person or entity who fails to comply with these requirements is subject to civil penalties.

Further information