Australian Electoral Commission

Election Funding Guide

Updated: 25 November 2011
Election Funding Guide

Election Funding Guide

This reference guide provides information about the public funding of federal election campaigns. It should be noted that in the interpretation and application of the provisions in Part XX of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 relating to election funding, that other legislation and other sections of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act), together with legal precedents, may be relevant.

Election funding

Qualifying for election funding

To be entitled to election funding a candidate must receive at least 4% of the formal first preference votes in the particular election in which the candidate stands.

For a Senate group, the group as a whole must receive at least 4% of the formal first preference votes in the Senate election in that state or territory.

Amount of election funding

The amount of the funding entitlement is calculated by multiplying the number of formal first preference votes achieved by a candidate (or by all the candidates in a Senate group) by the current election funding rate. The funding rate is reviewed every 6 months in line with increases in the consumer price index.

Payment of election funding

At least 95% of the election funding entitlement is paid in the 4th week after polling day, on the basis of votes counted as at the 20th day after polling day. The balance is paid when the counting of votes is finalised and the final entitlement is known.

The election funding entitlements of candidates endorsed by a federally registered political party are paid to the political party. The entitlements of unendorsed (independent) candidates are paid to the candidate or their agent. Payment is made:

  • electronically to a bank account nominated by the party agent for this purpose (see next section for requirements applying to bank accounts);
  • by cheque made out to the political party andsent to the party agent; or
  • by cheque to the agent of an unendorsed candidate or Senate group or where no agent has been appointed, by cheque direct to the candidate or the lead candidate in the Senate group.

Death of a candidate

Election funding is still paid for an eligible candidate or member of a Senate group that receives at least 4% of the formal first preference votes, even if that candidate dies during the course of the federal election. For endorsed candidates, payment will continue to be made to the party. For unendorsed candidates, payment is made to the candidate's agent or if they had not appointed an agent to their legal personal representative. In the case of an unendorsed Senate group without an appointed agent, where the lead candidate dies payment is made to the next listed member of the group.

Overpayments and payments in error

Payments made to a person, party or branch that is not entitled to the money are recoverable by the Commonwealth.

Election funding arrangements for political parties

Direct deposit into party bank accounts

To receive election funding payments as a direct deposit, political parties must provide the AEC with the details of an eligible account.

The account must satisfy the following conditions:

  1. the account must be maintained by the party;
  2. the account must be with a bank or other authorised deposit-taking institution (a full list is available at http://www.apra.gov.au)
  3. the account must be kept in Australia;
  4. the account name must consist of, or include:
    1. if the account is maintained by a registered political party – the name of the party as it appears in the Register of Political Parties; or
    2. if the account is held by a State branch of a political party, and the branch is not a registered political party – the name of the State branch.

The AEC may require evidence that the nominated account meets these conditions such as being provided with an original account statement.

Where an account is not nominated, payment is made by cheque made out to the party or branch, and posted to the relevant agent.

The AEC can approve special abbreviations of registered parties' names to be used for the purpose of clearly indentifying the payee on cheques issued.

Diversion of payments

A number of provisions exist that allow the election funding entitlements due to one political party to be instead paid to another political party.

By agreement

Political parties may elect to have their payments of election funding diverted to another party or branch at the request of the agents of the parties or branches involved. A request to have the payments diverted must be made to the AEC before polling day in an election, and it:

  • must be signed by the agents of the parties or branches; and
  • remains current for all elections until revoked by written consent of the agents of the parties involved.

As a designated federal party

Payments may also be apportioned between a party and its branches. To do this, registered parties with two or more branches may elect to be a designated federal party and lodge funding agreements.

  • The registered officer of the party may notify the AEC before polling day in an election that the party wishes to be a designated federal party for funding agreement purposes.
  • The designated federal party status remains current for all elections until revoked by the registered officer. It cannot be revoked between polling day and 14 days after the return of the writs.
  • A designated federal party may then lodge a funding agreement with the AEC before polling day specifying the percentages of payments payable to the party and to some or all of its state branches. If no agreement is lodged, no payments are made to state branches, with 100% of the election funding entitlement being made to the designated federal party.
  • The funding agreement remains current for all elections until revoked by the parties involved in the agreement. It can only be revoked for a particular election before if received by the AEC polling day.

It is open to parties to notify separate arrangements for particular states or territories.

Special provisions

Special provisions exist in the Electoral Act for the payment of election funding to the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Democrats. The provisions applying to the Liberal Party of Australia operate very similarly to that governing designated federal parties, but the Liberal Party of Australia has no avenue to opt out of these arrangements. The Australian Democrats have the option to appoint a principal agent to whom all the election funding of the party and its state branches is paid.

Joint Senate groups

The election funding entitlement of a joint Senate group (a group including candidates endorsed by different political parties) must be split between the parties before being paid. Parties can formally register their shares of the election funding entitlement of a joint Senate group for a particular election by agreement specifying the shares to be received by each party. To be effective, a copy of the agreement must be:

  • Signed by the registered agent of each party involved in running the joint Senate ticket; and
  • Lodged with the AEC before the 20th day after polling day.

If no agreement is lodged, the AEC will determine the division of the election funding payment.

Advice to parties

The AEC will contact parties to discuss payment options in the lead-up to each election.

Glossary of terms

AEC

Australian Electoral Commission

Designated federal party

The registered officer of a designated federal party may notify shares of election funding to be paid to the registered party and its unregistered state branches.

Election funding entitlement

The amount of public election funding payable to a political party based on the number (at least 4%) of formal first preference votes obtained by a candidate or Senate group at a federal election or by-election.

Electoral Act

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Indexation

The election funding rate per vote is indexed every 6 months to any rise in the CPI.

Joint Senate group

A Senate group made up of endorsed by more than one political party.

Party agent

A person appointed by notice in writing to the AEC by the relevant branch of the party. A party agent is not automatically the agent for candidates of the party.

Registered officer

The person identified in the AEC's Register of Political Parties as the registered officer for that party. The registered officer may notify the AEC that the party is a designated federal party.

Registered political party

A political party registered with the AEC (registration with a state or territory electoral commission does not confer federal registration). State or territory branches of a registered political party are treated as separate parties for the purposes of the funding and disclosure provisions of the Electoral Act.

Senate group

Two or more candidates for election to the Senate who made a written request to the AEC with their nominations that their names be grouped on the ballot-paper, or grouped in a specified order.

State branch

An unregistered branch or division of a registered political party organised on the basis of a state or territory. State branches are treated as separate parties for funding and disclosure purposes.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) recommends that if particular issues arise, users should seek professional legal advice. The AEC is able to provide guidance on its approach to the administration of the funding and disclosure provisions but is not able to provide legal advice in particular circumstances. Links to the Electoral Act and AEC contacts are provided in the footer below.