In this section:
- What is a political donation?
- What is a reportable donation?
- What is NOT a political donation?
- What is an unlawful political donation?
- Prohibition on donations
- Prohibition on anonymous donations
- Adjustment for inflation of monetary caps
- Party subscriptions and membership fees
- Political donations to multiple third-party campaigners
A political donation is a gift made by a political donor to or for the benefit of a candidate, a group of candidates, a political party, an elected member of the NSW parliament or of a local council or third-party campaigners in NSW.
Political donations include:
- A donation of money
- The provision of a service at no charge or at a discounted charge
- An annual or other subscription paid to a party by a party member or a person/entity for affiliation with the party
- The amount paid by a person as a contribution, entry fee or other payment that entitle that or any other person to participate in or benefit from a fundraising event where the amount forms part of the proceeds from the event
- The transfer of money to a NSW Branch of a party from the federal branch of the party
- The transfer of money to a NSW branch of a party from the branch of another State or Territory
- The transfer of money from a party to another party with which it has an association (e.g. common membership, coalition or otherwise)
- Money from the sale of a gift donated to a candidate or group (eg a gift is donated to a candidate or group and it is sold by the candidate or group at a fundraising event such as an auction)
- Uncharged interest on a loan that is the additional amount that would have been payable to the lender if the loan had been made on terms requiring the payment of interest at the generally prevailing interest rate for a loan of that kind, and the interest payable had not been waived, and any interest payments were not capitalised
- Use of a vehicle not owned by the candidate during an election campaign (unless a payment is made by the candidate, the value of the use of the vehicle is deemed to be a political donation)
A reportable political donation is a single donation of $1,000 or more, or multiple donations from one donor to the same recipient in one financial year that total $1,000 or more.
Political parties, elected members, candidates, groups and third party campaigners are required to issue political donors with a receipt or acknowledgement slip if the donor makes a reportable political donation. The receipt or acknowledgement slip must have a statement advising political donors of the requirement to disclose political donations to the NSWEC.
Gifts to an individual made in a private capacity solely for personal use are not political donations.
Bequests made to a political party, third-party campaigner, elected member, group or candidate.
Prohibition on Making Certain Indirect Campaign Contributions
It is unlawful for a political donor to make any of the following indirect campaign contributions where the value of the contribution exceeds $1,000 or the total value of the items provided by the same person within the one financial year exceeds $1,000:
- The provision of office accommodation, vehicles, computers or other equipment for no payment or inadequate payment for use solely or substantially for election campaign purposes
- A full or part payment of costs incurred by a candidate or group of electoral expenditure for advertising or other purposes (or making an agreement to make such a payment)
- Waiving of all or part of a payment for costs incurred by a candidate or group for electoral expenditure for advertising incurred by the candidate or group
Electoral expenditure for advertising is taken to be incurred by a political party, an elected member, a candidate or group of candidates only if the advertising is authorised by that political party, elected member, candidate or a group of candidates (as applicable).
Indirect campaign contributions that are prohibited do not include the provision of volunteer labour.
The penalty for making a prohibited indirect campaign contribution to a political party, elected member, candidate or group is a fine of $11,000.
It is unlawful for a person to accept a reportable political donation unless:
- It is made by an individual who is enrolled on the roll of electors for federal, state or local government elections, or
- It is made by an entity that has a relevant business number which can be an Australian Business Number (ABN) or any other number allocated or recognised by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for the purposes of identifying the entity.
Where an individual is not enrolled, a political donation may be lawfully accepted where the Electoral Commissioner has been supplied with acceptable identification of the individual showing the individual's full name and a residential address in Australia.
Where an entity does not have a relevant business number, a political donation can be lawfully accepted where the Electoral Commissioner has been supplied with identification of the principal or executive officer showing their full name and residential address in Australia.
It is unlawful for a person to accept a reportable political donation unless:
- the name and address of the person or entity are known or provided to the person accepting the donation, and
- there are no grounds to believe that the name and address provided are not true.
Reportable political donations cannot be accepted by any person unless the individual is known to be enrolled for a Federal, State or Local Government election.
The penalty for accepting an anonymous reportable political donation is a fine of $11,000.
The NSWEC adjusts amounts calculated for the monetary caps on electoral communication expenditure and political donations, in accordance with Schedule 1 of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosure Act 1981.
Caps on Political Donations
Caps on political donations do not apply to local government elections or elected members of local councils.
Each of the capped amounts referred to below are adjusted for inflation each financial year.
The Caps on Political Donations for the 2015 State General Election were reduced by legislative amendment effective 28 October 2014.
For donations received between 28 October 2014 to 30 June 2015 the following caps apply:
- $5,000 for political donations to or for the benefit of a registered political party
- $5,000 for political donations to or for the benefit of a group
- $2,000 for political donations to or for the benefit of an unregistered party
- $2,000 for political donations to or for the benefit of a candidate
- $2,000 for political donations to or for the benefit of an elected member
- $2,000 for political donations to or for the benefit of a third-party campaigner
For donations received between 1 July 2014 to 27 October 2014 the following caps apply:
- $5,700 for political donations to or for the benefit of a registered political party
- $5,700 for political donations to or for the benefit of a group
- $2,400 for political donations to or for the benefit of an unregistered party
- $2,400 for political donations to or for the benefit of a candidate
- $2,400 for political donations to or for the benefit of an elected member
- $2,400 for political donations to or for the benefit of a third-party campaigner
The prohibition on political donations that exceed the applicable cap do not apply to the donor. The prohibition on political donations that exceed the applicable cap applies to the recipient of the donation.
It is not unlawful for a person to accept a political donation that exceeds the applicable cap if the donation (or that part that exceeds the applicable cap) is to be paid into an account kept exclusively for the purposes of federal or local government election campaigns.
A political donation exceeds the applicable cap if that donation and other separate donations made by the same person or entity within the same financial year exceeds the cap when aggregated.
A political donation to an elected member, candidate or group of candidates of the same party exceeds the applicable cap if that donation and other separate donations made within the same financial year to other elected members, candidates and groups of endorsed by the same party exceed the cap when aggregated.
A third-party campaigner may accept a political donation which exceeds the applicable cap if the donation (or the part of the donation that exceeds the cap) is paid into an account other than the campaign account for an election.
Political donations are required to be disclosed in connection with both State and local government elections and members but the cap on political donations only applies to State elections and members.
An annual or other subscription paid to a party by a member of the party is not included in the applicable cap on political donations except the amount of the subscription that exceeds the maximum subscription amount of $2,000.
A party levy paid to a party by an elected member endorsed by the party is not subject to the cap on political donations.
It is unlawful for a person or entity to knowingly make or accept political donations to more than three third-party campaigners in the same financial year.