Electoral communications and authorisation requirements

Updated: 19 June 2018

Anyone intending to communicate regarding an electoral, referendum or political matter (electoral communication) must ensure the communication is appropriately authorised.

On 15 March 2018, new authorisation requirements were established in Part XXA of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act) to:

  • enhance the transparency of the electoral system by allowing voters to know who is communicating electoral matter,
  • ensure that people communicating electoral matter are accountable for their communication, and
  • that those people can be traced if there are any breaches of the new requirements.

The amendments replaced the former authorisation requirements in Part XXI of the Electoral Act.

Planning electoral communication

The new authorisation requirements apply to electoral communication made at any time. The authorisation requirements are not limited to communication undertaken during an election period. The requirements apply to communication that:

  • is intended or likely to affect voting in a federal election or referendum, or
  • contains an express or implicit comment on the election or referendum, a political party or candidates, or an issue that is before electors in connection with an election or referendum.

The new rules extend the previous authorisation requirements to modern communication channels and methods including online platforms, bulk text messages and robo-calls.

The authorisation particulars for electoral communication will depend on the type of communication, and the entity or person who authorises the communication. The authorisation particulars are set out in section 321D of the Electoral Act and the Commonwealth Electoral (Authorisation of Voter Communication) Determination 2018.

Failure to comply with the new authorisation requirements will be subject to a civil penalty regime administered by the Australian Electoral Commission.

More information about the authorisation requirements is available in the Electoral Backgrounder:  Electoral communications and authorisation requirements.

Complaints about electoral communications

The Electoral Act does not regulate truth in electoral communication.

Complaints about the authorisation of electoral communication can be made to the Australian Electoral Commission.

Inquiries or complaints about the obligations on broadcasters can be made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).