Financial disclosure legislative changes

Updated: 3 March 2022

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Foreign Influences and Offences) Act 2022

On 17 February 2022, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Foreign Influences and Offences) Act 2022 received Royal Assent. The changes take effect from 18 February 2022.

The primary amendment to Part XX of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act) extends the ban on foreign donations to also prohibit foreign persons and foreign entities from fundraising for electoral expenditure or directly incurring electoral expenditure of $1,000 or more in a financial year.

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Annual Disclosure Equality) Act 2021

On 13 December 2021, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Annual Disclosure Equality) Act 2021 received Royal Assent. The changes take effect from 14 December 2021.

The primary amendments are to the disclosure requirements of the Electoral Act and apply to:

  • members of the House of Representatives (MPs)
  • Senators,
  • donors to MPs and Senators, and
  • candidates and Senate groups.

Some changes resulting from the Annual Disclosure Equality Act may require action by 12 January 2022. Detailed information including new guides and forms is included here.

An MP or a Senator who receives one or more gifts for federal purposes during a financial year must now lodge an annual disclosure return with the AEC.

If an MP or a Senator did not receive any gifts during the financial year that were made for federal purposes, a return does not need to be provided.

The legislation has retrospective application and an annual disclosure return for 2020-21 may need to be provided if gifts for a federal purpose were received in that year.

An MP or a Senator who is required to lodge a 2020-21 annual return must lodge the return by 12 January 2022 using the relevant form:

More information can be found in the Financial Disclosure Guide for MPs and Senators 2020-21 .

The Annual Disclosure Equality Act extends the restriction on receiving donations from foreign donors to include MPs and Senators.

The Electoral Act will restrict MPs and Senators from receiving gifts of $1,000 or more from a foreign donor and they will need to take steps to ensure gifts or donations are not from foreign donors.

Refer to the foreign donations fact sheet available on the AEC’s website for further information.

A person or entity that provides a donation or donations totalling more than the disclosure threshold for federal purposes to an MP or a Senator during a financial year will be required to lodge an annual donor return.

For the purposes of the disclosure period and restrictions on receiving foreign donations, the definition of a candidate and Senate group has been amended.

A person is taken to commence being a candidate in an election or by-election 6 months before the earlier of:

  • the day the person announced they would be a candidate in the election or
    by-election; or
  • the day they nominated as a candidate in the election or by-election.

A Senate group commences as a group in an election on the day that is 6 months before the day the members of the group make a request under the Electoral Act for their names to be grouped in the ballot papers for the election.

A person or group ceases to be a candidate or group 30 days after the polling day in the election.

Candidates who announced their candidacy before 14 December 2021 are required to take acceptable action in relation to foreign donations received in the six months prior to their announcement by Tuesday 25 January 2022 (6 weeks from commencement).

Refer to the foreign donations fact sheet available on the AEC’s website for further information.

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Act 2021

On 13 December 2021, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Act 2021 received Royal Assent. The changes take effect from 14 December 2021.

The primary amendments are to the disclosure requirements of the Electoral Act and apply to:

  • political campaigners
  • third parties
  • associated entities.

Some changes resulting from the Political Campaigners Act require action in relation to both registration as a significant third party within 90 days of commencement of the act and a Significant Third Party Disclosure Return lodged within 30 days of registration. Detailed information including new guides and forms is included here.

A political campaigner is now to be known as a significant third party.

The requirement for the registration of a person or entity that meets the definition of a significant third party (formerly a political campaigner) has also been amended.

Registration as a significant third party is required 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:
    1. the aggregate of which is at least equal to the disclosure threshold; and
    2. 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.

If you are currently registered as a political campaigner on the Transparency Register, you will not be required to re-register as a significant third party. You will be automatically categorised as a significant third party on the Transparency Register.

The definition of ‘electoral expenditure’ has been expanded from expenditure with the dominant purpose of creating or communicating electoral matter, to now include any expenditure incurred ‘in relation to an election’ for significant third parties and associated entities. This rule currently applies to political parties and candidates and will now similarly apply to significant third parties and associated entities.

The change of definition to significant third parties may require some current third parties to be registered as a significant third party.

The AEC will contact all current third parties who meet the requirements for registering as a significant third party.

The AEC will contact identified new significant third parties who meet the requirements for registering as a significant third party.

If you are currently registered as a political campaigner on the Transparency Register, you will not be required to re-register as a significant third party. You will be automatically categorised as a significant third party on the Transparency Register.

If you are not currently registered as a political campaigner and if you meet the requirements for registering as a significant third party, you are required to register as a significant third party using the registration form within 90 days of becoming required to register.

As the legislation commenced on 14 December 2021, third parties that currently meet the definition of a significant third party must register as a significant third party by 14 March 2022.

A person or entity that is required to be registered in a financial year must not incur any, or any further electoral expenditure or fundraise any, or any further amounts for the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure in that financial year until they are registered.

Upon registration, a 2020-21 Significant Third Party Return must be lodged within 30 days of becoming registered. A 2020-21 Significant Third Party Return form is available on the AEC website.

More information can be found in the 2020-21 Significant Third Party Financial Disclosure Guide.

The definition of an associated entity has been amended to include an entity that:

  • operates wholly, or to a significant extent, for the benefit of one or more disclosure entities, and the benefit relates to one or more electoral activities (whether or not the electoral activities are undertaken during an election period).

If you are not currently registered as an associated entity and you meet the requirements for registering as an associated entity you are required to register as an associated entity using the registration form within 90 days of becoming required to register.

Upon registration, a 2020-21 Associated Entity Return must be lodged within 30 days of becoming registered. A 2020-21 Associated Entity Return form is available on the AEC website.

More information can be found on the AEC website and in the 2020-21 Associated Entity Financial Disclosure Guide.

Please note that if you are also registered as a significant third party for a financial year and lodge a significant third party return for that financial year you are not required to lodge an associated entity return for that financial year.

The Electoral Act currently restricts political entities, significant third parties and third parties from receiving donations from foreign donors. The restrictions on foreign donations have now been extended to include associated entities.

The Electoral Act will restrict associated entities from receiving gifts of $1,000 or more from a foreign donor and they will need to take steps to ensure gifts or donations are not from foreign donors.

Refer to the foreign donations fact sheet available on the AEC’s website for further information.

Updates to AEC financial disclosure information

As a result of the changes in the Annual Disclosure Equality Act and the Political Campaigners Act, impacted financial disclosure information is being updated. Changes will be made to relevant financial disclosure webpages, guides and forms. Go to Financial disclosure for future updates.

Further information