Political finance

General

How are political parties and politicians funded in your jurisdiction?

Political parties and politicians’ campaigns are funded through public funds and private donations. Remuneration of politicians is funded through public money.

Registration of interests

Must parties and politicians register or otherwise declare their interests? What interests, other than travel, hospitality and gifts, must be declared?

Registered political parties (and their respective state or territory branches and associated entities) must lodge an annual return to the Australian Electoral Commission detailing the following:

  • the total value of receipts;
  • details of amounts received that are more than the disclosure threshold (currently A$13,800, indexed annually), including the name and address of the person from whom the amount was received, whether the receipt was a donation, and the sum received from the person;
  • the total value of payments;
  • the total value of debts as at 30 June; and
  • details of debts outstanding as at 30 June that total more than the disclosure threshold (currently A$13,800, indexed annually), including the name and address of the person to whom the debt is owed, the amount owed and whether that debt is to a financial institution.

The Australian Electoral Commission also requires political candidates, unendorsed Senate groups and Senate groups endorsed by more than one registered political party to disclose donations and electoral expenditure incurred during an election. Electoral returns to the Commission must show:

  • the total value of donations received;
  • the total number of donors;
  • individual donations received above the disclosure threshold (currently A$13,800, indexed annually) and the details of those donations, including:
    • the date on which each donation was received;
    • the amount or value of each donation; and
    • the name and address of the donor; and
  • electoral expenditure incurred.
Contributions to political parties and officials

Are political contributions or other disbursements to parties and political officials limited or regulated? How?

Australian law does not currently limit who may make political contributions nor does it restrict how much may be contributed. Persons or organisations who make donations to political parties or candidates above the disclosure threshold (currently A$13,800, indexed annually) must lodge a return with the Australian Electoral Commission.

If a person is registered under the Scheme in relation to a foreign principal and the person undertakes disbursement activity on behalf of the foreign principal (meaning when the person disburses money or things of value and neither the person nor a recipient of the disbursement is required to disclose it under the general disclosure threshold to the Australian Electoral Commission), the person must give the secretary a notice specifying the total value reached in specific circumstances.

Sources of funding for political campaigns

Describe how political campaigns for legislative positions and executive offices are financed.

Political campaigns are funded by private donations and public funds. The amount of public funds payable is calculated by multiplying the number of formal first preference votes received by that political party by the rate of payment applicable at the time.

Lobbyist participation in fundraising and electioneering

Describe whether registration as a lobbyist triggers any special restrictions or disclosure requirements with respect to candidate fundraising.

There are no special restrictions or disclosure requirements for lobbyists with respect to political donations or candidate fundraising at a federal level. Certain state and territory regimes apply different standards for donations and donors.

Independent expenditure and coordination

How is parallel political campaigning independent of a candidate or party regulated?

Political campaigning independent of a candidate or party is not restricted under Australian law, however, independent third parties who incur political expenditure above the disclosure threshold (currently A$13,800, indexed annually) in one year must lodge an annual return to the Australian Electoral Commission.