Referendum entities

Are you active in referendum campaigning?

Referendum expenditure over $15,200 from 11 March to 14 October 2023 needs to be reported.

What is a referendum entity?

A referendum entity is a person or organisation that incurs referendum expenditure over the disclosure threshold ($15,200) during the referendum expenditure period.

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.

Does a referendum entity need to register?

Referendum entities are not required to register with the AEC.

Who lodges the referendum return?

If the referendum entity is an individual, they must lodge the return.

If the referendum entity is an organisation, the return should be lodged by the relevant person with the authority to do so.

When is the referendum return due?

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

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

The AEC has no discretion to extend this legislative deadline.

Referendum entities may need to notify referendum donors to make them aware of their potential disclosure obligation.

What is required to be disclosed?

A return must be provided if the person or organisation is a referendum entity at any time during a referendum expenditure period.

A referendum entity must disclose the following information in relation to the referendum expenditure period:

  • referendum expenditure incurred;
  • the total value of donations received for referendum campaigning;
  • the total number of donors;
  • details of donations received from a single source that total more than the disclosure threshold; and
  • a signed statement of compliance with foreign donations restrictions.

Are there restrictions on foreign donations?

Referendum entities are prohibited from receiving donations from foreign donors of $100 or more, if the referendum entity:

  • knows the donor is a foreign donor; and
  • knows that the foreign donor intends the donation to be used for referendum campaigning; or
  • accepts the donation with the intent of using it for referendum campaigning.

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

Disclosure Guide for Referendum Entities

The Disclosure Guide for Referendum Entities 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.

Lodging a referendum return

Referendum entities will lodge returns through the eReturns portal.

Further guidance and a link to the eReturns portal will be available for referendum entities after voting day for the referendum. 

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: 1 April 2024

Record keeping

The Referendum Act makes the referendum entity responsible for record keeping.

Referendum entities 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 voting day for the referendum.

A person or entity 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: 12 September 2023