New electoral funding laws that include stricter political donation guidelines will apply in time for the upcoming NSW state election.
This follows the commencement of the Electoral Funding Act 2018 (NSW) (the Act) on 1 July 2018, replacing the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW).
The overhaul is in response to several reports into political donations in NSW.
One of the key changes is that any donation of more than $1,000 must now be disclosed.
Donations must also be disclosed in a timely manner, with a deadline of 21 days now set if it is made within six months of an upcoming election. These disclosures will be published on the Electoral Commission's website.
We outline the key aspects of the new Act.
Reportable political donation
A reportable political donation is defined as:
- in the case of disclosures under the Act by a party, elected member, group, candidate, associated entity or third-party campaigner - a political donation of or exceeding $1,000, or
- in the case of disclosures under this Act by a major political donor - a political donation of or exceeding $1,000.
A major political donor is defined as an entity or other person who makes a reportable political donation.
Further, a political donation which is less than $1,000 would be treated as a reportable political donation if separate political donations were made to the same party, elected member, group, candidate, associated entity or third-party campaigner within the same financial year and aggregated constitutes a donation of $1,000 or more.
Timing of disclosures
Under the Act, different timeframes are specified for the disclosure of reportable political donations as set out below.
- In relation to a 'reportable political donation' made within six months of a NSW legislative assembly general election, a disclosure needs to be made to the Electoral Commission within 21 days of the political donation being made; and
- In relation to a 'reportable political donation' that is not made during the above election period, the disclosure needs to be made to the Electoral Commission within four weeks after the end of the half year when the political donation was made.
What the disclosure is to include
The disclosure of reportable political donations is to include the following details:
- the party, elected member, group or candidate to or for whose benefit the donation was made (or, the third-party campaigner or associated entity to whom the donation was made)
- the date on which the donation was made
- the name of the donor
- in the case of an individual, the residential address of the donor or in the case of an entity, the address of the registered or other official office of the donor
- the amount of the donation (or the aggregated amounts of the donations)
- in the case of a donor that is an entity - the relevant business number of the entity.
The disclosures, including pre-election disclosures are to be published on the Electoral Commission's website.
For the Electoral Commission's fact sheet about the changes, please see here.
This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.