Referendum donors

Are you donating to a referendum campaign?

Total donations over $15,200 from 11 March to 14 October 2023 need to be reported.

What is a referendum donor?

A donor is a person or entity that makes one or more donations totalling more than the disclosure threshold ($15,200) to a referendum entity at any time during the referendum expenditure period.

The donor also intends for the donation to be used:

  • for the dominant purpose of incurring referendum expenditure or
  • for the dominant purpose of creating or communicating referendum matter.

Information on referendum matter and referendum expenditure can be found in the Factsheet: Referendum matter and referendum expenditure.

What is a referendum entity?

A referendum entity is a person or entity that incurs referendum expenditure during a referendum expenditure period that exceeds the disclosure threshold.

What is the referendum expenditure period?

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 referendum expenditure period relating to the 2023 referendum:

  • starts on 11 March 2023, and
  • ends on 14 October 2023.

Who lodges the referendum return?

If the donor is an individual, they must lodge the return.

If the donor is an organisation, the return should be lodged by a person with the authority to do so.

When is the referendum return due?

Donors must lodge a referendum return with the AEC before the end of 15 weeks after the voting day for the referendum.

Referendum donor returns relating to the 2023 referendum are due by 29 January 2024.

The AEC has no discretion to extend this legislative deadline.

What is required to be disclosed?

A donor must disclose the following information in the referendum return:

  • the value of the donations made in the referendum expenditure period to a referendum entity;
  • the name of the referendum entity; and
  • the dates on which donations were made.

If the total of donations made to a referendum entity exceeds the disclosure threshold, all donations made to that referendum entity, regardless of their value, must be disclosed.

Are there restrictions on foreign donations?

Foreign donors are prohibited from donating $100 or more to referendum entities for the purpose of referendum campaigning.

Find out more about the definition of a foreign donor and restrictions on foreign donations:

Disclosure Guide for Referendum Donors

The Disclosure Guide for Referendum Donors is designed to assist Referendum Entities to understand their financial disclosure obligations under Part VIIIA of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 (Referendum Act).

This guide provides information derived from the Referendum Act as well as from the experiences of the AEC in the administration of the Commonwealth financial disclosure scheme.

General guidance and examples about the disclosure of referendum donations can be found in Referendum disclosure - donations.

Lodging a referendum return

Referendum returns can be lodged through the eReturns portal.

To use eReturns you need a username and password.

Go to Lodge a referendum return for more information.

Referendum returns are due by 29 January 2024.

Publication of referendum returns

Referendum returns are published on the Transparency Register 24 weeks after voting day for the referendum.

Publication date for the 2023 referendum: 2 April 2024.

Record keeping

The Referendum Act makes the donor responsible for record keeping.

Donors should have adequate financial recording systems and procedures to enable the return to be properly completed. All transactions should be supported by source documents.

Relevant records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years after the day the donation is made.

A donor who fails to comply with these requirements is subject to civil penalties.

A referendum return may be subject to review as part of the AEC’s compliance program.

Updated: 16 October 2023