Report Released on the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 (Cth)

Monday 16 April 2018 @ 10.21 a.m. | Legal Research

In April 2018, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (‘the Committee’) released its report into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 (Cth) (‘the Bill’). The Bill, which is for the purpose of regulating foreign donations to political parties and other organisations, was supported in principle by the committee’s report, subject to the recommendations being adopted. The recommendations focused on ensuring increased transparency for voters during election periods.


The Bill was introduced in the Senate on 7 December 2017. The Bill implements recommendations from the Second Interim Report on the Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2016 Federal Election: Foreign Donations, which have been outlined by TimeBase previously.

Following its introduction, the Bill was referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for inquiry and report. For more information on the Bill, please read TimeBase’s earlier article.

Main Recommendations

Some of the key recommendations of the report are as follows:

  • That the Government reconsider introducing the term ‘political purpose’ in the Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) as there may be scope for confusion with the term in the Charities Act 2013 (Cth);
  • That the Government consider amending the definition of 'political expenditure' to define the type of expenditure which is undertaken to influence voters to take specific action in their capacity as voters, which will not capture non-political issue advocacy;
  • That the Government consider establishing a publicly available ‘Transparency Register’ that provides voluntary registration for entitles engaged in ‘political expenditure’, mandatory registration for all entitles engaged in activities that require disclosure of ‘political expenditure that reach a minimum threshold and disclosure obligations commensurate with levels of expenditure;
  • That the Government consider establishing a process that requires all political parties to reaffirm their registration before each election or be automatically deregistered;
  • That the Government introduce the possibility of administrative action by third party entities to support compliance with the Electoral Act 1918 (Cth);
  • That the Government consider providing a legislative mechanism to achieve greater transparency for foreign funds that move through multiple organisations and to prohibit the use of these funds by way of political expenditure;
  • That the Government resources the Australian Electoral Commission and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to undertake a comprehensive education campaign for businesses, industry associations and the charity sector on their obligations under the Electoral Act 1918 (Cth).

In the foreword of the report, the Chair of the Committee Senator Linda Reynolds stated:

“Australian citizens must have visibility of who is seeking to influence their votes and have confidence that foreigners are not seeking to influence the outcome of their votes. Therefore, Australia’s electoral laws must apply equally to all participating in the political process with the aim of influencing electors voting intentions. The committee therefore recommends introduction of a new and easily accessible transparency register to provide voters with the ability to readily identify who is seeking to influence their vote. A transparency register would also assist all third parties, particularly those not compliant with current legislative requirements, to better understand and comply with regulatory obligations.”

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, ‘Advisory report on the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017,’ April 2018.

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Finding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 (Cth), as published on TimeBase LawOne.

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