Third party electoral expenditure and disclosure
Updated: 17 December 2021
A ‘third party’ is a person or entity (other than a political entity or a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate) incurring electoral expenditure that is:
Third parties are subject to the requirements of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).
Important information for third parties:
What is electoral matter and electoral expenditure?
There are two definitions relevant to third parties disclosing electoral expenditure:
- Electoral matter is matter communicated or intended to be communicated for the dominant purpose of influencing the way electors vote in a federal election.
- Electoral expenditure is expenditure incurred for the dominant purpose of creating or communicating electoral matter.
For further information, refer to the Electoral matter and electoral expenditure fact sheet.
What are third party obligations?
As a ‘third party’, a person or organisation has these obligations:
- Provide an annual return to the AEC by 17 November each year; and
- Comply with foreign donations restrictions.
Third parties are not required to register with the AEC. Third parties will be automatically included on the Transparency Register if they lodge a financial disclosure return for the current, or any of the three previous, financial years. Third parties will remain on the Transparency Register for three years following a financial year relating to which they report.
How does this differ from a significant third party?
Persons or entities are required to register as a significant third party when:
- electoral expenditure exceeds $250,000 during that financial year (previously $500,000), or any one of the previous three financial years; or
- electoral expenditure is at least equal to the disclosure threshold during that financial year and electoral expenditure during the previous financial year was at least one‑third of the revenue of the person or entity for that year: or
- during that financial year the person or entity operates for the dominant purpose of fundraising amounts:
- the aggregate of which is at least equal to the disclosure threshold; and
- that are for the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure or that are to be gifted to another person or entity for the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure.
What are the restrictions on foreign donations?
The Electoral Act restricts the receipt of donations from foreign donors. A foreign donor can be a person who is not an Australian citizen or resident, or a corporation that is not incorporated in Australia, or an entity for which the principal place of business is not in Australia.
Third parties must not receive donations from foreign donors for the amount or value equal to or above the disclosure threshold, which are then used for:
- the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure; or
- the dominant purpose of creating or communicating electoral matter.
In addition, a third party must not receive a donation of $100 or more if:
- they know the donor is a foreign donor; and
- they know the donor intended the gift to be used for incurring electoral expenditure or for the dominant purpose of creating or communicating electoral matter; or
- they accepted the gift intending to use it for those purposes.
Refer to the Foreign donations fact sheet for further information.
Financial Disclosure Guide for 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 electoral expenditure of more than the disclosure threshold wholly or partly used to incur the electoral expenditure disclosed in the return; and
- a signed statement of compliance with foreign donations restrictions.
The AEC releases a series of publications designed to assist political participants that may have financial disclosure obligations under the Electoral Act.
Financial disclosure returns