Donations to registered political parties and candidates are regulated. The rules relating to the public disclosure of donations, and limits on the size of anonymous donations and overseas donations were changed on 1 January 2011.
A party donation is a donation of money, goods or services that is made to a party and includes:
- goods or services paid for by others that have a reasonable market value greater than $1,500 (but not a donor's own labour),
- discounted goods or services (where the reasonable market value is greater than $1,500), the difference between the contract or agreed price and the reasonable market value of those goods or services is a donation,
- the amount of any payment in excess of reasonable market value for goods or services provided by the party, or
- credit offered at terms more favourable than the commercial terms and conditions prevailing at the time.
The secretary of each registered political party must file an annual return of party donations with the Electoral Commission by 30 April of the following year for donations received in the last 12 months, for the year ending 31 December. Party donations and contributions to donations of more than $15,000 (incl GST) are required to be declared in the party's annual return of donations. A series of donations, or contributions of more than $1,500 to donations, made by one person that adds up to more than $15,000 must also be declared.
A return is required even if the party has received nil donations during the calendar year. An auditor's report must accompany the return, including where nil donations are declared.
Parties are also required to make an immediate disclosure to the Electoral Commission where a donor gives a party more than $30,000 in a 12 month period. Parties must have systems in place to track aggregated totals by donors for the purposes of the annual donations return, as well as immediate returns of donations exceeding $30,000.
The Electoral Commission is required to set the forms of the return, supervise parties' compliance, and make returns available for public inspection.
Party secretaries are required to keep records of all donations received. Records should be kept of gifts from any person or organisation to a registered political party.
Banding of donations
From 1 January 2011 party secretaries were required to keep records of the following information for disclosure in the annual return of party donations in 2012 and thereafter:
- the number of anonymous party donations received under $1,500 and the total amount of such donations
- the number of overseas party donations received under $1,500 and the total amount of such donations
- the number of all party donations received over $1,500 but less than $5,000 and the total amount of such donations
- the number of all party donations received over $5,000 but less than $15,000 and the total amount of such donations.
The following pages relate to the disclosure by registered political parties of donations received.