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Following the recent proposed changes to the law on federal election funding, NSW and Victoria have followed suit with NSW amending legislation that deals with political donations and election expenditure in state and local government elections, and Victoria proposing to do the same.
NSW passes the new Electoral Funding Act 2018
On 20 May 2018, the NSW Parliament passed the Electoral Funding Act 2018 (the NSW Act). The NSW Act replaces the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (the Old Act).
Broadly speaking the NSW Act governs how political donations are made, received and used in state and local government election campaigns including the use by entities (e.g. not-for-profit organisations) to promote or oppose a party or the election of a candidate or influence the voting at a state or local government election.
Will the NSW Act impact my not-for-profit organisation?
The most likely way a not-for-profit organisation would fall under the scope of the NSW Act would be meeting the definition of a ‘third-party campaigner’. If you are actively engaged in influencing local or state elections directly (or indirectly), or promoting or opposing candidates directly (or indirectly) it may be worth seeking legal advice on whether you meet the definition of third party campaigner.
However, given the similarities between the NSW Act and Old Act it is highly likely that if you are caught by the NSW Act you would have already been caught by the Old Act.
There are two key changes to the NSW Act that might impact third party campaigners:
- the amount of ‘electoral expenditure’ a third-party campaigner can spend in the lead up to the election (from $1.3 million to $500,000 for state elections), and
- it is now unlawful for a third-party campaigner to act in concert with another person or persons to incur electoral expenditure above the capped amount in a state or local election campaign (during a specific period in the lead up to the election).
If my not-for-profit organisation is caught by the NSW Act what does it mean?
Your organisation may be required to:
- register with the NSW Electoral Commission
- appoint an ‘official agent’
- disclose expenditure and political donations
- keep a separate campaign account
- ensure you do not exceed the expenditure amount, and
- ensure you do not accept political donations over a certain amount.
There a range of penalties for non-compliance.
You can find out more information on the NSW Electoral Commission's Funding and Disclosure page.
Victoria introduces the Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill 2018
On 8 May 2018, the Victorian Government introduced the Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (the VIC Bill) to Parliament. The Bill proposes a new political funding and disclosure regime for Victoria. According to the Hon. Daniel Andrews MP, the Bill:
- caps donations at $4,000 over a four-year parliamentary term
- reduces the disclosure limit from $13,500 to $1,000 per financial year
- bans foreign donations, and
- introduces penalties for non-compliance with the VIC Bill.
Remember, at this stage this is still only a Bill. Not-for-profit Law will update this page with further information as the Bill makes it way through the Parliament.