Electoral communications and authorisation requirements

Updated: 15 January 2019

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

An electoral communication is a matter communicated, or intended to be communicated, for the dominant purpose of influencing the way electors vote in a federal election.  This includes, but is not limited to, a communication that expressly promotes or opposes a candidate, political party, member or Senator.

The authorisation requirements apply to electoral communication made at any time. The requirements are not limited to communication undertaken during an election period. The requirements apply to modern communication channels and methods including online platforms, bulk text messages and robo-calls.

The form of an 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 is an offence that may 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.

Enquiries or complaints about electoral communications

I would like to:

The Electoral Act does not regulate:

  • truth in electoral communications
  • the amount of electoral advertising a candidate or political party may make or the communication channels they may use
  • the SPAM Act or Do Not Call Register – inquiries or complaints can be made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
  • broadcast electoral communications or the obligations of broadcasters – inquiries or complaints can be made to ACMA.
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