The purpose of the referendum disclosure scheme under Part VIIIA of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 (Referendum Act) is to promote accountability and transparency and inform the public about the financial dealings of entities and donors involved in the referendum process.
Following a referendum, referendum entities must lodge returns that provide details of donations received and expenditure incurred during the referendum expenditure period. Referendum donors must lodge returns for donations made.
The AEC website provides an overview of the referendum disclosure scheme. Additional content will be made available progressively.
Where expenditure is incurred to create or communicate referendum matter, in addition to other reasons, the dominant purpose of the expenditure must be considered.
A referendum entity is a person or organisation that incurs referendum expenditure over the referendum disclosure threshold during the referendum expenditure period.
The referendum expenditure period:
The Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022 Explanatory Memorandum provides an example timeframe, unrelated to a specific referendum, that is shown below:
Disclosure of certain information (e.g. expenditure, details of donations) by referendum entities and donors is required if it is above the disclosure threshold.
The threshold applies to the referendum expenditure period.
The current disclosure threshold amount is $15,200.
A referendum donor is a person or entity that makes one or more donations totalling more than the disclosure threshold to a referendum entity during the referendum expenditure period and the donor intends the gift or gifts to be used for the dominant purpose of incurring referendum expenditure or creating or communicating referendum matter.
Referendum entities are prohibited from receiving foreign donations of at least $100 during a referendum expenditure period, if:
Find out more about the definition of a foreign donor and restrictions on foreign donations:
Restrictions apply to foreign campaigners that incur referendum expenditure or conduct fundraising for referendum expenditure.
A foreign campaigner means a person or entity that is:
A foreign campaigner is limited from directly incurring referendum expenditure or fundraising for the purpose of incurring referendum expenditure of $1,000 or more in a financial year.
Referendum entities and donors will lodge returns through the eReturns portal.
Further guidance and a link to the eReturns portal will be available for referendum entities and donors in the lead up to a referendum.
The Referendum Act imposes civil penalties, and in some cases criminal penalties, if a referendum entity or donor contravenes the requirements of the Referendum Act.
The Transparency Register will publish returns for referendum entities and donors 24 weeks after voting day for a referendum.
Further details of reporting will be provided.
Part VIIIA of the Referendum Act deals with the referendum disclosure scheme requirements for referendum entities and donors.
Australian Electoral Commission
Ph: 02 6271 4552
10 Mort Street
Canberra ACT 2601
Locked Bag 4007
Canberra ACT 2601