Electoral and political financing: the Commonwealth regime and its reforms

Elections Political parties Democracy Australia

This background note provides an overview of the regulation of political financing at the Commonwealth level including election expenditure.

It also gives an account of the various political financing reforms that have been implemented or proposed at the national level since the 1980s.

The funding of political activity and structures—from holding elections to assisting political parties to perform their vital democratic role—is a crucial consideration for modern democracies. Establishing a funding scheme that ensures fairness and openness requires a legislative system that promotes an equitable distribution of resources among political parties and candidates and the timely disclosure of political donations and electoral expenditure.

Generally speaking, regulatory political financing regimes:

  • prescribe the mechanisms for the public funding of election campaigns
  • set down rules for the monitoring and public disclosure of parties’ receipts and expenditures, along with the disclosure of political donations by individuals and others, and
  • ensure oversight, monitoring and reporting of the regime by an independent body.
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