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Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010

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2010

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL AMENDMENT (POLITICAL DONATIONS AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2010

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by the authority of the Special Minister of State,

the Hon Gary Gray AO MP)

 

 

 



COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL AMENDMENT (POLITICAL DONATIONS AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2010

OUTLINE

 

The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010 (the Bill) amends the funding and disclosure provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act).

 

The Bill contains provisions that will:

·          reduce the disclosure threshold from ‘more than $10,000’ (indexed to the Consumer Price Index annually) to $1,000 (non-indexed);

·          require people who make gifts at or above the threshold to candidates and members of groups during the election disclosure period to furnish a return within 8 weeks after polling day.  Agents of candidates and groups have a similar timeframe to furnish a return in relation to gifts received during the disclosure period;

·          require people who make gifts, agents of registered political parties, the financial controller of an associated entity, or people if they fall within the relevant provision, who have incurred political expenditure to furnish a return within 8 weeks after 31 December and 30 June each year;

·          prevent ‘donation splitting’ by ensuring that for the purposes of the $1,000 disclosure threshold, related political parties are treated as the one entity;

·          make unlawful the receipt of a gift of foreign property by political parties, candidates and members of a Senate group.  It will also be unlawful in some situations for associated entities and people incurring political expenditure to receive a gift of foreign property;

·          extend the ban on anonymous gifts to encompass all anonymous gifts except where the gift is $50 or less and received at a ‘general public activity’ or a ‘private event’ as defined;

·          tie public election funding to reported and verified electoral expenditure.  In other words, unendorsed candidates, registered political parties and unendorsed Senate groups, who receive at least four percent of formal first preference votes in an election, will receive the lesser amount of either:

                    i.               the ‘electoral expenditure’ that was actually incurred in an election period; or

                  ii.        the amount of $2.31191 (indexed to CPI every 6 months) per formal first preference vote received;

·          provide for the recovery of gifts of foreign property that are not returned, anonymous gifts that are not returned and undisclosed gifts; and

·          introduce new offences and penalties related to the new measures and increase the penalties for existing offence provisions.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

There may be additional costs for the Australian Electoral Commission, however the exact magnitude is difficult to quantify.  Public funding for elections may be reduced due to the new requirement to claim electoral expenditure.  There may be increased revenue as a result of recovering unlawful gifts or undisclosed gifts. 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1 - Short title

 

1.              This clause provides for the Act to be cited as the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Act 2010 .

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

2.              Sections 1 to 3 commence upon Royal Assent.  Schedule 1 commences on 1 July 2011.

 

Clause 3 - Schedule(s)

 

3.              This clause specifies that each Act specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the Schedule, and any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

 

Schedule 1 - Amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

 

Part 1 - Amendments

 

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

 

Item 1 - Subsection 4(1)

 

4.              This item inserts a definition of ‘related’ into the Interpretation section of the Electoral Act.  The definition of ‘related’ is based on subsection 123(2) of the Electoral Act which is repealed by item 6.  The concept of related parties is now relevant for Part XI and Part XX of the Electoral Act.  In the application of this definition to Part XX of the Act, it applies so that the total value of the gifts made by donors to ‘related’ parts of a political party will be subject to the $1,000 disclosure threshold.

 

Item 2 - Subsection 4(1)

 

5.              This item inserts a definition of ‘reporting period’ into the Interpretation section of the Electoral Act.  A definition of ‘reporting period’ is required due to the amendments made by items 48, 69 to 72, 76, 78, 80 to 83, 86 to 90, 92, 93 and 96.  The ‘reporting period’ relies on the existing financial year reporting obligations and overlays the new six-monthly reporting obligations.

 

Item 3 - Subsection 17A(1)

Item 4 - Subsection 17A(1)

 

6.              Item 3 omits ‘(1)’ from subsection 17A(1) which is necessary due to the repeal of subsection 17A(2) described below at item 5.  Section 17 of the Electoral Act requires the Electoral Commission to publish various reports, including reports about the operation of Part XX of the Electoral Act.  Section 17A provides that those reports must not contain certain particulars of information obtained from the notice to produce powers contained in subsection 316(2A).  Item 4 extends the application of new section 17A so that it now also applies to additional categories of persons who are required to furnish returns under sections 305A, 305B, 314AEB and 314AEC including persons acting on their behalf and their officers.

 

Item 5 - Subsection 17A(2)

 

7.              Item 5 repeals a redundant provision.  Subsection 17A(2) of the Electoral Act contains a definition of ‘prescribed person’ for the purposes of section 17A.  However, section 17A is amended by item 4 to remove the reference to ‘prescribed person’ making the definition of ‘prescribed person’ at subsection 17A(2) redundant.

 

Item 6 - Subsection 123(2)

 

8.              This item repeals subsection 123(2) which provided for a definition of related parties only for the purposes of the registration of political parties in Part XI of the Electoral Act.  The definition of related parties has been moved to subsection 4(1) by item 1 and applies to the whole Electoral Act.

 

Item 7 - Subsection 287(1)

 

9.              This item inserts a definition of ‘electoral expenditure’ into subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act.  This subsection defines many of the terms used in Part XX of the Electoral Act.  The new definition sets out the categories of electoral expenditure that may be the subject of a claim for public election funding.  The entitlement to public election funding is discussed under item 23.  This definition is an exhaustive list of the types of expenditure that can be claimed to obtain public election funding.

 

10.          Paragraph (a) of this definition is similar to the existing definition of ‘electoral expenditure’ in subsection 308(1) of the Electoral Act that is used for the basis of the returns of electoral expenditure by candidates and groups under section 309.  Expenditure may be incurred on the categories specified in paragraph (a) at any time, but the activity must take place during the election period.  The ‘election period’ is defined by subsection 287(1) to be the period from the issue of a writ to the close of polling.

 

11.          Paragraphs (b) and (c) of this definition provide for additional categories of electoral expenditure that may be the subject of a claim for public election funding.  These amendments include reasonable costs incurred for the rental of dedicated campaign premises, the hiring and payment of dedicated campaign staff, and office administration.

 

12.          To encourage transparency and to maintain the nexus between public election funding and legitimate campaign expenses, limitations are imposed on the categories of electoral expenditure set out in paragraphs (b) and (c).  This is because unlike ‘How to Vote Cards’, for example, these new categories of electoral expenditure may be used for many more purposes than conducting an election campaign.

 

13.          The first limitation is that the expenditure must be incurred during the election period.  In this way the relationship between election campaigning and these categories of electoral expenditure is made clearer.

 

14.          Dedicated campaign premises, are limited to any house, building or premises used for the primary purpose of conducting an election campaign.  The rent of premises that were, for example, leased before the issue of a writ could come within the definition of electoral expenditure if the premises were leased for that primary purpose.  Only the rent that was incurred during the election period may be claimed.

 

15.          The payment of dedicated campaign staff will be limited to those additional staff employed or contracted for the primary purpose of conducting an election campaign.  Staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 cannot be the subject of a claim for electoral expenditure.

 

16.          General office administration will be limited to the purchase, lease, hire or hire purchase of office equipment for the primary purpose of conducting an election campaign.  The costs of running and maintaining the equipment may also be claimed as electoral expenditure.  To provide some level of administrative certainty and to prevent an endless variety of equipment being claimed, item 12 defines ‘office equipment’ to include telephones, faxes, computers, personal digital assistants, personal organisers, photocopiers and printers and other equipment that can be used for the purposes of communication.

 

17.          Travel, or accommodation in connection with travel, may also be the subject of a claim for electoral expenditure.  This category is limited to the extent that the expenditure could reasonably be expected to have been incurred for the primary purpose of conducting an election campaign.

 

18.          Paragraphs (d) and (e) introduce provisions to clarify that if allowances, entitlements or benefits received by a member of Parliament in his or her capacity as a member are used to meet electoral expenditure, then that electoral expenditure cannot be claimed for the purposes of public election funding.  Allowances relating to remuneration are not covered by this provision so that a sitting member may use what could be thought of as his or her ‘salary’ to contribute to election campaigns.

 

19.          These provisions are intended to prevent ‘double dipping’.  As sitting members of Parliament may be able to meet some electoral expenditure by way of allowances, entitlements or benefits paid by the Commonwealth in some circumstances, it is not appropriate that this electoral expenditure is claimed for public election funding purposes.  The amendment does not affect the legitimate use of these allowances, entitlements and benefits.

 

Item 8 - Subsection 287(1) (definition of eligible vote )

 

20.          This item repeals the definition of ‘eligible vote’ in subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act.  This definition is redundant as the new entitlement provisions in item 23 provide for the scheme of public election funding.

 

Item 9 - Subsection 287(1) (definition of entitlement )

 

21.          This item repeals the definition of ‘entitlement’ in subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act.  This definition is redundant as the new entitlement provisions in item 23 provide for the scheme of public election funding.

 



Item 10 - Subsection 287(1)

 

22.          This amendment inserts into subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act a reference to ‘general public activity’.  The concept of ‘general public activity’ is used to distinguish one of the two situations when a permitted anonymous gift may be received.  The definition refers to subsection 306AF(3) which is discussed under item 51.

 

Item 11 - Subsection 287(1)

 

23.          This item inserts a definition of ‘group vote’ that is necessary for part of the calculation of the entitlement to public election funding for Senate groups.  A Senate group is one that comprises candidates which have made a request under section 168 of the Electoral Act to the Australian Electoral Officer at the time of nomination, to be grouped on the ballot paper.

 

24.          This definition specifies that a ‘group vote’ means a first preference vote given to a candidate who is a member of the group and which has been counted for the purposes of section 273 of the Electoral Act.  Section 273 sets out the rules for the scrutiny of Senate votes.

 

Item 12 - Subsection 287(1)

 

25.          This item inserts a definition of ‘office equipment’ into subsection 287(1) for the purposes of one of the categories of electoral expenditure that may be claimed.  Office equipment is discussed under item 7.

 

Item 13 - Subsection 287(1)

Item 14 - Subsection 287(1)

 

26.          These items insert into subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act references to ‘permitted anonymous gift’ and ‘private event’.  A ‘permitted anonymous gift’ is an anonymous gift that is received in the circumstances set out in section 306AF and is discussed under item 51.  The concept of ‘private event’ is used to distinguish one of two situations when a permitted anonymous gift may be received.  The definition refers to subsection 306AF(6) which is discussed under item 51.

 

Item 15 - Subsection 287(1)

 

27.          Item 15 inserts into subsection 287(1) of the Electoral Act a definition of ‘single claim’.  A ‘single claim’ is one means of making a claim for electoral expenditure under new section 297.  A single claim may cover the electoral expenditure of the federal branch of the registered political party and one or more related State branches of the registered political party.  In this way, the electoral expenditure of the federal branch may be included in a claim for electoral expenditure even though it might not have endorsed any candidates.

 

Item 16 - Subsection 287(2)

 

28.          This item repeals the existing subsection 287(2) of the Electoral Act and inserts a new subsection 287(2).  The substance of the subsection has not changed.  The new subsection 287(2) requires that a claim, return or thing that is required to be lodged under Part XX of the Electoral Act must be lodged at the principal office of the Electoral Commission in Canberra.

 

29.          This subsection makes it clear that compliance with the requirements of Part XX can only be met by lodging the claim, return or other thing with the Electoral Commission in Canberra.  The lodging of such claims, returns and other things at a Divisional or State Office of the Electoral Commission will not satisfy the requirements of the Part.

 

Item 17 - Subsection 287(4)

 

30.          Existing subsection 287(4) operates so that, for the purposes of all of Part XX, a reference to ‘political party’ (other than a reference to the endorsement of a candidate or group in an election) does not include a reference to a part of the political party.  Item 17 amends subsection 287(4) to make it clear that, for the purposes of the reporting of gifts made to political parties, the donor is required to disclose the total value of the gifts made to ‘related’ parts of a political party where the total is $1,000 or more.  Accordingly, section 305B is required to be specifically exempted from the operation of subsection 287(4).

 

Item 18 - After subsection 287(4A)

 

31.          This item inserts a new subsection 287(4B) into the Electoral Act.  This new subsection is similar to existing section 309 of the Electoral Act and makes it clear that electoral expenditure incurred by, or on behalf of, a division of a State branch of a political party is to be regarded as having been incurred by the State branch.

 

32.          This provision enables State branches of political parties to lodge returns and claims for public election funding based on the expenditure that has been incurred by their various divisions or by other persons who have the authority to incur expenditure on their behalf.  This facilitates the lodging of a single claim from a State branch of a political party.

 

Item 19 - After subsection 287(6)

 

33.          This item makes it clear that subsection 287(6) does not apply to a political party that is a body corporate.  New subsection 287(6A) operates so that the new concept of ‘related’ parties in item 1 is not altered by the principles contained in the Corporations Act 2001.

 

Item 20 - Subsection 287A(1)

 

34.          This item provides that subsection 287A(1) applies to the new requirements of Division 4A dealing with the ban on the receipt of gifts of foreign property and the ban on anonymous gifts.  Subsection 287A(1) now provides that Division 4, 4A, 5 and 5A apply as if the campaign committee of an endorsed candidate or endorsed group was a division of the relevant State branch of the political party that endorsed the candidate or members of the group.

 



Item 21 - At the end of Division 1 of Part XX

 

35.          This item inserts a new section 287C into the Electoral Act.  New provisions in relation to gifts of foreign property, anonymous gifts or undisclosed gifts give the Commonwealth the power to recover the amount or value of certain unlawful gifts under several provisions.  For example, a gift might be a gift of foreign property and also anonymous and so both would be recoverable by the Commonwealth.  This item ensures that the Commonwealth may only recover the amount or value of the gift once.

 

Item 22 - Paragraph 292B(a)

 

36.          This item provides that section 292B applies to the new Division 4A.  Section 292B ensures that where an obligation is imposed on an agent of a political party or a State branch of the party, and there is no agent, the obligation rests on each member of the executive committee of the party or branch.

 

Item 23 - Sections 294 and 297

 

37.          Item 23 contains measures that tie public election funding to reported and verified electoral expenditure.  In other words, unendorsed candidates, registered political parties and unendorsed Senate groups, who receive at least four percent of formal first preference votes in an election, will receive the lesser amount of either:

                    i.               the ‘electoral expenditure’ that was actually incurred in an election period; or

                  ii.        the amount of $2.31191 (indexed to CPI every 6 months) per formal first preference vote received.

 

38.          The intention behind the new provisions is to ensure that unendorsed candidates, political parties or unendorsed Senate groups do not make a financial gain from the public election funding system.

 

39.          This item repeals sections 294 and 297 of the Electoral Act and inserts new sections 293 to 298H.  New sections 293 to 298H replace the existing public election funding scheme and contain provisions that establish the new entitlement to public election funding, the making of claims, the determination of claims and a review process.

 

Subdivision A - Entitlement to election funding

 

40.          This subdivision sets out how any entitlement to public election funding is to be calculated.

 

Section 293 - Entitlement to election funding - registered political parties

 

41.          This new section sets out the entitlement to public election funding for registered political parties.  One of the requirements for applying for registration of a political party under section 126 of the Electoral Act is that the application must state whether or not the party wishes to receive public election funding.

 

42.          Subsection 293(1) provides that a registered political party is entitled to public election funding for elections where the total number of formal first preference votes for endorsed candidates is at least four per cent of the overall total of formal first preference votes cast in the election for either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

 

43.          Subsection 293(2) provides that once a registered political party meets the threshold requirements in subsection 293(1), the amount of the public election funding that can be paid is the lesser of:

                    i.             $2.31191 for each formal first preference vote received; and

                  ii.                         the amount of ‘electoral expenditure’ incurred in the ‘election period’ that has been claimed and accepted by the Electoral Commission.

 

44.          Items 116, 117, 122 and 127 ensure that the rate at which public election funding is paid per formal first preference vote given to a candidate or group will be correct on and from 1 July 2011.  There will be no change to the rate of public election funding that applies to each vote from the amount that has been increased every six months by the indexation formula contained in section 321 of the Electoral Act since the $1.50 amount was inserted into the Electoral Act in 1995.

 

45.          Subsection 293(3) provides for the entitlement to public election funding for related registered political parties making a single claim.  Modelled on subsection 293(2), the entitlement to public election funding for registered political parties making a single claim is the lesser of the dollar amount for each formal first preference vote given to a candidate endorsed by any of the parties and the amount of electoral expenditure claimed in respect of the parties covered by the claim.

 

46.          A note following new subsection 293(3) draws attention to the operation of new section 296 which provides for how formal first preference group votes are divided between two or more registered political parties that have endorsed candidates who are members of a Senate group.

 

Section 294 - Entitlement to election funding - unendorsed candidates

 

47.          An unendorsed candidate is a candidate who has lodged a nomination with either the Australian Electoral Officer or the Divisional Returning Officer under Part XIV of the Electoral Act and the nomination form does not include the required notification of the party endorsement and the verification of this endorsement under sections 169 and 169B of the Electoral Act.  An unendorsed candidate includes a candidate who has requested the word ‘Independent’ to be printed on the ballot papers next to his or her name under section 169A of the Electoral Act.  An unendorsed candidate does not include a candidate who is a member a group of unendorsed Senate candidates who have made a joint request, at the time of nomination, to the Australian Electoral Officer under section 168 of the Electoral Act.  Applications from a Senate group with no members endorsed by a registered political party are dealt with in new section 295.

 

48.          Subsection 294(1) provides that a candidate is entitled to public election funding for all elections where the total number of formal first preference votes for the candidate is at least four per cent of the overall total of formal first preference votes cast in the election for either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

 

49.          Subsection 294(2) provides that once a candidate meets the threshold requirements in subsection 294(1), the amount of the public election funding that can be paid is the lesser of:

                    i.             $2.31191 for each formal first preference vote received; and

                  ii.                         the amount of ‘electoral expenditure’ incurred in the ‘election period’ that has been claimed and accepted by the Electoral Commission.

 

Section 295 - Entitlement to election funding - unendorsed groups

 

50.          An unendorsed group is a grouping of Senate candidates who have made a joint request under section 168 of the Electoral Act, at the time of nomination, to the Australian Electoral Officer and who are not endorsed by any registered political party.  This enables such a group to have a box above the line on the Senate ballot paper.

 

51.          Subsection 295(1) provides that an unendorsed group is entitled to public election funding for all elections where the total number of formal first preference votes for the group is at least four per cent of the overall total of formal first preference votes cast in the election for the Senate.

 

52.          Subsection 295(2) provides that once an unendorsed group meets the threshold requirements in subsection 295(1), the amount of the public election funding that can be paid is the lesser of:

                    i.             $2.31191 for each formal first preference vote received; and

                  ii.                         the amount of ‘electoral expenditure’ incurred in the ‘election period’ that has been claimed and accepted by the Electoral Commission.

 

Section 296 - Entitlement to election funding - special rule for joint Senate groups

 

53.          A joint Senate group is a grouping of candidates for the Senate who are endorsed by different registered political parties and who have made a joint request under section 168 of the Electoral Act, at the time of nomination, to the Australian Electoral Officer.  This enables such a group to have a box above the line on the Senate ballot paper.

 

54.          Subsection 296(1) provides for the candidates who are to be regarded as members of a joint Senate group.

 

55.          Subsection 296(2) provides that an agent of one of the registered political parties which have endorsed the candidates under sections 169 and 169B must give to the Electoral Commission a copy of the agreement as to how the parties have agreed to the division of the first preference votes received by the joint Senate group.  This agreement is necessary for the Electoral Commission to calculate the amount of any public election funding that may be payable to the agent of the registered political party in accordance with the requirements of subsections 293(2) and 293(3).

 

56.          Subsection 296(3) requires that each party agent of the registered political parties which have endorsed the candidates who are members of the joint Senate group must sign the original agreement.

 

57.          Subsection 296(4) requires that a copy of the agreement for the division of first preference votes must be given to the Electoral Commission before polling day.

 

58.          Subsection 296(5) provides the Electoral Commission with the discretion to determine the division of the first preference votes between the registered political parties in the absence of any written agreement having been given to the Electoral Commission before polling day.  This subsection reflects a number of provisions in existing subsection 299(4) of the Electoral Act that require the Electoral Commission to determine the shares of electoral funding in the absence of any agreement.

 

Subdivision B - Claims for election funding

 

59.          This subdivision sets out how claims for public election funding can be made to the Electoral Commission.

 

Section 297 - Need for a claim

 

60.          One of the major changes that is introduced by this Bill is the requirement for claims to be lodged with details of the electoral expenditure that has been incurred to be made to the Electoral Commission for any payment of the public election funding entitlement.

 

61.          Subsection 297(1) requires that, in order to be entitled to be paid an amount of public election funding, the agent of the party, candidate or group must make a claim.  The party agents are persons who are appointed in accordance with the processes and requirements contained in sections 288 to 290 of the Electoral Act.  Paragraph 297(1)(b) provides that if a single claim is made, an agent of one of the registered political parties covered by the claim must make the claim.

 

62.          Subsection 297(2) provides that an agent may make an interim claim, or both an interim claim and a final claim, or a final claim.  Interim claims are dealt with in subsection 298B(1) and a final claim in subsection 298B(2).

 

63.          Subsection 297(3) provides that a final claim for public election funding must specify all of the electoral expenditure against which the claim is to be assessed, even if it has been included in an interim claim. 

 

64.          Subsection 297(4) provides that a final claim is able to incorporate, by reference, electoral expenditure that has been included in the interim claim.  Subsection 298E(2) makes it clear that the electoral expenditure that is claimed twice in an interim and a final claim does not result in two entitlements based on the same expenditure.

 

65.          Subsection 297(5) provides that only one interim claim and one final claim for public election funding can be made.

 

Section 298 - Electoral expenditure incurred

 

66.          This provision sets out what is required in a claim for public election funding.  The various categories of registered political parties, candidates and Senate groups must specify in their claims ‘electoral expenditure’ that falls within the scope of the definition in subsection 287(1).  The agent is not required to specify all electoral expenditure that may have been incurred, only that expenditure that is to be claimed against which the entitlement to public election funding is to be calculated.   The six-monthly returns that are required to be lodged under other provisions in Part XX of the Electoral Act address the need to have transparency and accountability in the expenditure incurred by candidates and registered political parties. 

 

67.          Subject to subsection 298(2), subsection 298(1) provides that a claim for public election funding made by the agent of a registered political party must specify the electoral expenditure incurred by the party and its endorsed candidates in relation to the election for which public election funding is sought.

 

68.          Subsection 298(2) provides that if a single claim is made, the claim must specify electoral expenditure incurred by the party, or by candidates endorsed by the party, in relation to all elections held on the same day and for which public election funding is sought.  In this way, for example, the electoral expenditure of the federal branch may be included in a claim for electoral expenditure even though it might not have endorsed any candidates.

 

69.          Subsection 298(3) provides that a claim for public election funding made by the agent of a candidate must specify the electoral expenditure incurred by the candidate in relation to the election for which public election funding is sought.

 

70.          Subsection 298(4) provides that a claim for public election funding made by the agent of a Senate group must specify the electoral expenditure incurred by the group or the candidates who are members of the group for which public election funding is sought.

 

Section 298A - Form of claim

 

71.          Section 298A requires that any claim for public election funding must be made on the ‘approved form’.  The ‘approved forms’ are required to be approved by the Electoral Commissioner in writing and published (see subsection 4(1) of the Electoral Act).  This process is similar to all other approved forms made under the Electoral Act.

 

72.          The form is likely to require an agent to specify whether the claim is an interim or a final claim the types of electoral expenditure, the companies/persons to whom the payments were made or the liability incurred and the basis on which the amounts are calculated. 

 

73.          Sufficient information will need to be provided to enable the Electoral Commission to verify the amount claimed and to conduct compliance audits into the accuracy of the amounts claimed.  Some documents may be required to be provided to the Electoral Commission to support the amount of electoral expenditure that has been claimed to have been incurred. 

 

Section 298B - Lodging of claim

 

74.          Section 298B sets out the two types of claims for public election funding that can be lodged with the Electoral Commission and the timing for lodging these claims.

 

75.          Subsection 298B(1) provides for the lodging of an interim claim.  Such a claim can be made commencing on the twentieth day after polling day.  Any claim for interim funding must be received by the Electoral Commission within six months of polling day.  Subsection 298D(2) makes it clear that an interim claim is to be assessed by the Electoral Commission against the known vote count as at the twentieth day after polling day.  The intent of this provision is similar to the entitlement to the early payment of public election funding contained in existing subsection 299(5D) of the Electoral Act.

 

76.          Subsection 298B(2) provides for the lodging of a final claim.  Such a claim can be made commencing on the day on which the writ or the last writs for the election are returned.  At the time of the return of the writs, the majority of the votes will have been counted.  Any final claim for funding must be received by the Electoral Commission within six months of polling day.

 

77.          Subsection 298B(3) makes it clear that any claim lodged outside the periods specified in subsections 298B(1) and (2) will not be valid and will not be processed by the Electoral Commission or attract any public election funding.

 

Section 298C - Determination of claim

 

78.          The intention of this section is to provide some certainty in the processing of claims for public election funding that have been validly lodged.  Existing subsection 299(5D) of the Electoral Act provides that the Electoral Commission make payments of public election funding ‘as soon as possible after’ the twentieth day after polling day, or after the full amount of entitlement is known.  An end date for the Electoral Commission’s consideration of a claim has been included to enable candidates and political parties to properly plan their financial affairs in relation to the receipt of public election funding.

 

79.          Subsection 298C(1) provides that any claim for public election funding must be decided by the Electoral Commission within 20 days of receipt.  This time period includes the actual making of the payment.

 

80.          Subsection 298C(2) provides that, in deciding whether or not to accept the claim, the Electoral Commission must only have regard to whether an amount claimed is ‘electoral expenditure’ and whether the claimed expenditure was actually incurred.  With the possibility of confusion arising over what expenditure is claimed by which registered political party when a single claim is made, the Electoral Commission may also have regard to whether electoral expenditure has been specified in a claim made by another agent.

 

81.          Subsection 298C(3) deals with the situation where an interim claim is lodged under subsection 298B(1) and no final claim is lodged under subsection 298B(2).  In this situation, the interim claim will be deemed to be the final claim.  This process will finalise any claim for public election funding.  It also enables the Electoral Commission to rely on the variation power in amended section 301 of the Electoral Act to vary the decision, based on the results of compliance audits and monitoring activities in relation to claims for public election funding.

 



Section 298D - Accepting an interim claim

 

82.          The intention of this provision is similar to the entitlement to the early payment of public election funding contained in existing subsection 299(5D) of the Electoral Act.  Under that subsection, the payment of public election funding to a person with an entitlement is made in two stages.  The first payment of 95 per cent of the entitlement is made as soon as possible after the twentieth day after polling day.  The remaining 5 per cent of the entitlement is paid as soon as possible after the full entitlement is known.  This is usually shortly after the return of the writs.

 

83.          Subsection 298D(1) provides that this provision applies where an interim claim for public election funding has been made under subsection 298B(1) and the Electoral Commission has accepted that claim as complying with the requirements of the Electoral Act and the ‘approved form’ in relation to the provision of information about the incurring of ‘electoral expenditure’. 

 

84.          Subsection 298D(2) provides that, in relation to an interim claim, the Electoral Commission must pay the lesser amount of 95 per cent of the relevant amount for each formal first preference vote based on the vote count as at day 20 after polling day and the amount of ‘electoral expenditure’ that the Electoral Commission has accepted to have been incurred.

 

Section 298E - Accepting a final claim

 

85.          This provision deals with the payment of a final claim for public election funding.  A final claim can be made at any time after the return of the writ and up to six months after polling day.  A final claim can be made on its own or after the making of an interim claim.  The intention of this provision is to set out how the final claim amounts are to be calculated, with any amount that has been paid pursuant to an interim claim being deducted from that final amount.

 

86.          Subsection 298E(1) provides that this provision applies to the provision of information about the incurring of ‘electoral expenditure’ where a final claim for public election funding has been made under subsection 298B(2) and the Electoral Commission has accepted that claim as complying with the requirements of the Electoral Act and is in the ‘approved form’.

 

87.          Subsection 298E(2) provides that, in relation to a final claim, the Electoral Commission must pay the lesser amount of 100 per cent of the relevant amount for each formal first preference vote based on the final vote count and the amount of ‘electoral expenditure’ that the Electoral Commission has accepted to have been incurred.  If any amount has been paid by the Electoral Commission under section 298D after determining an interim claim, that amount is to be deducted from the overall amount to which a person is entitled as part of the final claim.

 

Section 298F - Refusing a final claim

 

88.          This section provides that if a final claim is refused, in whole or in part, the Electoral Commission must notify the agent that the claim has been refused and provide reasons for the refusal to the agent.

 

89.          The intention of this provision is to ensure that it is the decision on a final claim that is the operative decision that attracts review rights and that the Electoral Commission is required to provide reasons for any decision refusing the payment of amounts claimed in a final claim.  As a final claim is required to incorporate amounts of ‘electoral expenditure’ contained in the interim claim (see subsection 297(4)), it is the decision on the final claim that is effectively the reviewable decision.

 

Section 298G - Application for reconsideration of decision refusing a final claim

 

90.          This section provides for the reconsideration of decisions made by delegates of the Electoral Commission on a final claim for public election funding.  Reconsideration will be undertaken by the full Commission in a review process that is similar to the review of other administrative decisions made under the Electoral Act.

 

91.          Subsection 298G(1) provides that where a final claim has been refused, the agent may apply to the Electoral Commission for a reconsideration of the delegate’s decision. 

 

92.          Subsection 298G(2) provides that an application for a reconsideration of a decision on a final claim must be in writing and set out the reasons for the application.

 

93.          Subsection 298G(3) provides that an application for reconsideration must be made within 28 days of the agent being notified of the delegate’s decision, or any extension of that time that has been granted by the Electoral Commission.  In deciding whether or not to grant an extension of time, the Electoral Commission intends to have regard to the principles outlined in the case of Hunter Valley Developments v Cohen [1984] FCA 176 where appropriate.

 

Section 298H - Reconsideration by Electoral Commission

 

94.          This section sets out how the Electoral Commission is to deal with an application for the reconsideration of a decision on a final claim.

 

95.          Subsection 298H(1) provides that the Electoral Commission is to reconsider the delegate’s decision that refused all or part of a final claim for public election funding and has the power to affirm, vary, set aside and replace that decision with another decision.

 

96.          Subsection 298H(2) provides that the Electoral Commission is required to give the agent written reasons for its decision on the application.

 

97.          Subsection 298H(3) provides that if the Electoral Commission’s decision results in any additional payment of public election funding, that payment is to be made within 20 days of its decision.

 

98.          Subsection 298H(4) provides that the Electoral Commission is unable to delegate its power to undertake a reconsideration of a final claim for public election funding where it has received a reconsideration application.

 



Subdivision C - Payments of election funding

 

Item 24 - Subsection 299(1)

 

99.          This item amends subsection 299(1) to reflect the new structure of Part XX of the Electoral Act by omitting the previous reference to the Division and substitutin wording that reflects the new claims process.

 

Item 25 - Subsections 299(2) to (5)

 

100.      Item 25 repeals subsections 299(2) to (5) to reflect the new claims process and make it clear who is to receive the payment of public election funding. 

 

101.      Subsection 299(2) provides that if a single claim is made by an agent of a registered political party the public election funding is paid to that agent.

 

102.      Subsection 299(3) provides that any payment of public election funding in respect of an unendorsed candidate is to be made to the candidate’s agent.

 

103.      Subsection 299(4) provides that any payment of public election funding in respect of a Senate group of unendorsed candidates is to be paid to the group’s agent.

 

Item 26 - Subsections 299(5D) and (6)

 

104.      These amendments repeal redundant provisions due to the new claims process.

 

Item 27 - Sections 300 and 301

 

Subdivision D - Miscellaneous

 

105.      These amendments repeal sections 300 and 301 and substitute new sections to reflect the new claims process and simplify the process for dealing with the situation where there has been a death of a candidate or a member of a group.

 

106.      Item 27 also inserts this new heading in the Electoral Act dealing with miscellaneous matters relating to the payment of public election funding.

 

Section 300 - Death of candidates or group members

 

107.      Subsection 300(1) provides that a payment of public election funding may be made even if the candidate dies.

 

108.      Subsection 300(2) provides that where a candidate was his or her own agent (for example because he or she was not endorsed by a political party and not a member of a group), the payment of public election funding may be made to the candidate’s legal personal representative, for example the Executor to the deceased candidate’s estate. 

 

109.      Subsection 300(3) provides that where a candidate who is a member of a Senate group dies, a payment of public election funding may be made for the group.

 

110.      Subsection 300(4) provides that where the candidate who died was the agent of the unendorsed Senate group, the payment of public election funding may be made to another member of the group.

 

Section 301 - Varying decisions accepting claims

 

111.      New section 301 provides the Electoral Commission with a post-payment variation power to vary the previous decision, based on the results of compliance audits and monitoring activities in relation to claims for public election funding.  With the repeal of existing subsection 299(6) of the Electoral Act (item 26) new section 301 contains the power for the recovery of any overpayment.

 

112.      Subsection 301(1) provides that the Electoral Commission is able to vary decisions previously made on claims for public election funding.  Given the timeframes specified in the Act for the making of decisions and payments of public election funding, it is highly likely that situations will arise where the basis of claims will be questioned due to a lack of supporting documentary evidence.  Accordingly, the Electoral Commission is given a specific power to be able to revisit previous decisions and to vary the amount of payments that had previously been approved.

 

113.      Subsection 301(2) provides that where the Electoral Commission makes a decision to vary the amount of public election funding under subsection 301(1), the agent is able to make an application to have that decision reviewed by the full Commission.

 

114.      Subsection 301(3) provides that where the decision under subsection 301(1) results in a decrease in the amount of the entitlement to public election funding, the amount of the previous overpayment can be recovered as a debt due to the Commonwealth.

 

115.      Subsection 301(4) provides that where an amount previously paid for an interim claim is to be taken into account in the variation decision.  This means that the varied decision will in effect be the decision on the final claim.

 

301A - References to the agent of a registered political party if single claim made

 

116.      As a single claim may encompass the expenditure of a number of registered political parties, each with its own agent, new section 301A provides that the agent who submitted a single claim may receive any funding payable under the single claim and deal with the single claim.

 

Item 28 - After section 303

 

117.      This item inserts a new section 303A into the Electoral Act to provide for the treatment of gifts of foreign property that are returned within six weeks after their receipt or, in the case of anonymous gifts, returned or the amount or value of the gift is paid to the Commonwealth within six weeks after receipt.  Gifts that are returned in this period do not have to be disclosed for the purposes of Division 4 unless that gift was a gift of foreign property or an anonymous gift and it was $1,000 or more.  The disclosure of information about attempts to make unlawful gifts to political parties and others involved in the political process is an important part of the transparency and accountability measures of this Bill.

 

Item 29 - Subsection 304(2)

 

118.      This item reduces the period in which a return must be made under these subsections from 15 weeks to 8 weeks.  Subsection 304(2) provides for returns by agents of candidates and members of groups to be made disclosing, amongst other things, the total amount or value of all gifts received by the candidate or member during the disclosure period.  Subsection 304(3) provides for returns by agents of groups to be made disclosing, amongst other things, the total amount or value of all gifts received by the group during the disclosure period.  The disclosure period is defined in subsection 287(1) and varies depending upon the circumstances of the candidate, member or group.

 

Item 30 - Subsection 304(2)

 

119.      Item 30 introduces a new disclosure requirement under subsection 304(2) of the Electoral Act for the agents of candidates, including members of a group, to provide details of anonymous gifts received by candidates and members of a group during the disclosure period for the election.  

 

Item 31 - Subsection 304(3)

 

120.      Item 31 reduces the period in which a return must be made under this subsection from 15 weeks to 8 weeks.  Subsection 304(3) provides for returns by agents of groups to be made disclosing, amongst other things, the total amount or value of all gifts received by the group during the disclosure period

 

Item 32 - Subsection 304(3)

 

121.      Item 32 inserts a similar requirement into subsection 304(3) of the Electoral Act for agents of groups as that inserted by item 30 for the agents of candidates.

 

Item 33 - Subsection 304(4)

 

122.      With the amendments to subsections 304(2) and (3), it is no longer necessary to have subsection 304(4) apply to the whole section.  This is especially the case as the details required to be disclosed in relation to anonymous gifts are set out at paragraphs 304(2)(c) and 304(3)(c).  Accordingly, item 33 amends subsection 304(4) of the Electoral Act so that it only applies to new paragraphs 304(2)(b) and 3(b)

 

Item 34 - Subparagraph 304(5)(b)(ii)

Item 35 - Paragraph 304(5)(c)

Item 36 - Subsection 304(5) (note)

 

123.      These items amend the threshold at which an agent of a candidate or group is required to disclose a gift.  A gift does not have to be disclosed under subsections 304(2) or (3) if it is less than $1,000.  Previously, gifts of $10,000 (indexed under section 321A) or less did not have to be disclosed.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed.

 



Item 37 - Paragraph 304(6)(b)

Item 38 - Paragraph 304(6)(c)

Item 39 - Subsection 304(6) (note)

 

124.      These items amend the threshold for the total amount of gifts made by one person to a candidate or a group which can be made during the period to which the return relates without disclosure.  A gift does not have to be disclosed under subsection 304(6) if the sum of the gifts is less than $1,000.  Previously, gifts totalling $10,000 (indexed under section 321A) or less did not have to be disclosed.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed.

 

Item 40 - At the end of section 304

 

125.      This item inserts new subsections 304(9) and 304(10) to provide for nil returns under the section.  These new subsections are essentially a relocation of existing section 307 with minor wording changes.  Due to the creation of a new Division 4A, dealing with unlawful gifts and other gifts and loans, the section providing for nil returns is better placed with section 304.  Section 307 is repealed by item 58.

 

Item 41 - Subparagraph 305A(1)(b)(ii)

Item 42 - Subsection 305A(1) (note)

Item 43 - Subparagraph 305A(1A)(b)(ii)

Item 44 - Subsection 305A(1A) (note)

Item 45 - Paragraph 305A(2)(b)

Item 46 - Subsection 305A(2) (note)

 

126.      These items amend the threshold at which gifts must be disclosed.  A gift does not have to be disclosed under subparagraphs 305A(1)(b)(ii) and 305A(1A)(b)(ii), or paragraph 305A(2)(b) if the sum of the gifts is less than $1,000.  Previously, gifts totalling $10,000 (indexed under section 321A) or less did not have to be disclosed.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the corresponding notes are also repealed.

 

Item 47 - Paragraph 305A(3)(a)

 

127.      This item amends the time from 15 weeks to 8 weeks in which a return under section 305A must be provided to the Electoral Commission.

 

Item 48 - Subsections 305B(1) and (2)

 

128.      This item repeals subsections 305B(1) and (2) and substitutes new subsections 305B(1), (1A), (2), (2A) and (2B).  These amendments allow for rules about related parties and changes to the reporting period for when returns must be made and the information that must be included in those returns.

 

Subsection 305B(1)

 

129.      New subsection 305B(1) imposes an obligation on a person to furnish a return to the Electoral Commission disclosing all gifts if, in a reporting period, the person makes gifts totalling $1,000 or more to the same registered political party.  The ‘reporting period’ is defined at item 2 to be the first six months of a financial year or a full financial year.  The return must be lodged eight weeks after the reporting period.

 

Subsection 305B(1A)

 

130.      Using the definition of ‘related’ at item 1, new subsection 305B(1A) operates so that if a person makes a gift to a number of related parties, one of which is a registered political party, the gifts are deemed to be made to the single registered political party.  The intention of this subsection is to prevent a person giving multiple gifts under the new $1,000 threshold to various divisions or branches of the same political party which are then not required to be disclosed by the donor.

 

Subsection 305B(2)

 

131.      Similar to 305B(1A), new subsection 305B(2) operates so that, if a person makes a gift to any person or body with the intention of benefiting a political party, subsection 305B(2) deems the gift to have been made directly to that political party for the purposes of the section.  The intent of the provision is to ensure that donors cannot avoid disclosure obligations by using intermediaries.

 

Subsection 305B(2A)

 

132.      To reduce any unnecessary duplication of reporting by donors, new subsections 305B(2A) and (2B) operate as exceptions to the requirement imposed by 305B(1).  New subsection 305B(2A) provides that if a person has furnished a return disclosing gifts to a registered political party in the first six months of a financial year, and makes no further gifts to that registered political party during the remainder of the financial year, the person does not have to furnish a return in respect of the second reporting period that finishes at the end of the full financial year.

 

Subsection 305B(2B)

 

133.      New subsection 305B(2B) provides that if a person making a gift furnishes a return for the second reporting period that finishes at the end of the full financial year, the person does not have to disclose any gift made by the person that has already been disclosed in a return for the first six months of that financial year.

 

Item 49 - Paragraph 305B(3)(c)

 

134.      This item amends what is required to be disclosed by a person who made a gift to a political party.  Due to the operation of the related party provisions in subsections 4(1) and 305B(1A), a donor is also required to furnish details of gifts made to all political parties, not just registered political parties.  A political party is defined in subsection 4(1) to mean, in short, an organisation of which the object or activity is the promotion of the election of candidates endorsed by it to the Senate or House of Representatives.

 

Item 50 - Subsection 305B(3A)

 

135.      This item amends subsection 305B(3A) to clarify the operation of the provision and substitute the new threshold of ‘$1,000 or more’ in place of the references to ‘more than $10,000’ and ‘exceeds $10,000’.  To prevent the use of intermediaries to avoid disclosure obligations under 305B(1), the provision also requires a donor to include in a return details of gifts which enable a person to make a gift to a political party to be disclosed.  The intention of this new subsection is to ensure that donors are not able to use intermediaries to circumvent the operation of the new reporting obligations.

 

Item 51 - Section 306

 

136.      This item repeals section 306 and inserts a new Division 4A into the Electoral Act made up of Subdivisions A, B and C.  Subdivision A generally prohibits gifts of foreign property and is a new prohibition.  Subdivision B generally prohibits anonymous gifts and is an extension of the existing prohibition in previous section 306.  Subdivision C relates to other gifts and loans, and is essentially unchanged from existing provisions.

 

Division 4A - Rules about certain gifts and loans

 

Subdivision A - Gifts of foreign property

 

Section 306 - Interpretation

 

137.      New section 306 defines a number of words and terms for the purposes of Subdivision A.  This interpretive section is required due to the new provisions dealing with gifts of foreign property which are specific to this subdivision.

 

Section 306AA - Subdivision does not apply to gifts that are returned within 6 weeks

 

138.      This section clarifies that the subdivision does not apply to a gift that is returned within six weeks after its receipt.  This provision ensures that if a person receives a gift of foreign property and returns it within six weeks, no offence or penalty would apply for the purposes of sections 306AC or 306AD.

 

Section 306AB - Determining whether a gift or transfer is of Australian or foreign property

 

139.      Taking into account the definitions of ‘Australian property’ and ‘foreign property’ in section 306, subsection 306AB(1) defines what is Australian property, and what is foreign property, for the purposes of the Subdivision.

 

140.      To ensure that Subdivision A is not avoided by using intermediaries, subsection 306AB(2) deems gifts of foreign property to include gifts made using foreign property where the original donor’s main purpose is to enable a person to make a gift to another person or entity.  Similarly, subsection 306AB(3) deems certain transfers or gifts to be transfers or gifts of foreign property.

 

Section 306AC - Gifts of foreign property: when unlawful for political party, candidate etc. to receive gift

 

141.      Subsection 306AC(1) provides that it is unlawful for a registered political party, a State branch of a registered political party, a candidate or a member of a group to receive a gift of foreign property.  It is also unlawful for a person to receive a gift acting on behalf of one of these political parties or persons.

 

142.      For candidates and members of groups, the prohibition only applies during the candidacy or group period.  These periods are defined in new section 306.  The ‘candidacy period’ is the period from when a candidate announces that he or she will be a candidate in an election or when the person nominates as a candidate, and ending 30 days after polling day.  The ‘group period’ is the period from the time when a request to be grouped is made under section 168 of the Electoral Act and ending 30 days after polling day.

 

143.      Subsection 306AC(2) provides that if a person or entity receives a gift that is unlawful under subsection 306AC(1), an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift is payable to the Commonwealth.  A table in subsection 306AC(2) sets out who is liable to pay the amount.

 

144.      Subsection 306AC(3) provides that if, under subsection 306AC(2), an amount is payable to the Commonwealth by two or more persons, these persons are jointly and severally liable for payment of the amount.  This means that while all persons are individually responsible for the debt, just one person may satisfy the debt by paying the amount.

 

145.      Subsection 306AC(4) provides that if the amount under subsection 306AC(2) is not paid, the Commonwealth may recover the amount as a debt due to the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction.  The Commonwealth may take action against one person, or if two or more are liable, any one or more of those persons.

 

Section 306AD - Gifts of foreign property made to enable incurring of political expenditure: when unlawful to use or receive gift

 

146.      Unlike section 306AC that places a prohibition on some people or entities simply receiving a gift of foreign property, section 306AD is directed towards the use of gifts of foreign property for political expenditure or the purpose behind such gifts.  ‘Political expenditure’ is defined in subsection 306(1) as expenditure incurred for any of the purposes specified in paragraph 314AEB(1)(a).

 

147.      Subsection 306AD(1) provides that it is unlawful for a person to incur political expenditure when four circumstances apply.  The first of these is that the person is not a candidate, a member of a group or an associated entity.  These are excluded as separate provisions apply, including to persons who at any time have been a candidate or a member of a group.  The second circumstance is that the foreign property enabled the person to incur the expenditure.  The third is that the purpose of the person who made the gift was to enable the political expenditure.

 

148.      The fourth circumstance is that the recipient of the gift is required by section 314AEB to provide a return to the Electoral Commission setting out the details of the expenditure.  Section 314AEB operates so that a person is not required to make a return unless the total amount of political expenditure incurred by the person during the reporting period was $1,000 or more.

 

149.      Subsection 306AD(2) applies to persons who at any time have been a candidate or a member of a group.  This subsection makes it unlawful for such a person to incur political expenditure if a gift of foreign property enabled the person to incur political expenditure and the main purpose of making the gift was to enable the recipient to incur political expenditure.

 

150.      Subsection 306AD(3) applies to associated entities.  An ‘associated entity’ is defined in subsection 287(1) and generally means an entity that has a close relationship with a registered political party.  This subsection makes it unlawful for an associated entity to receive a gift of foreign property if the main purpose of making the gift was to enable the associated entity to incur political expenditure.

 

151.      Some associated entities are bodies corporate and can receive gifts or incur political expenditure in their own right.  To address situations where an associated entity is not a legal person, subsection 306AD(4) deems that a person receives the gift or incurs the expenditure on behalf of the entity.

 

152.      Subsection 306AD(5) provides that if a person incurs an amount of political expenditure that is unlawful under subsections 306AD(1) or (2), an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift is payable to the Commonwealth.  Subsection 306AD(7) provides that if the amount under subsection 306AD(5) is not paid, the Commonwealth may recover the amount from the person as a debt due to the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

153.      In the situation where an associated entity receives a gift that under subsection 306AD(3) it is unlawful to receive, subsection 306AD(6) provides for two persons that might be liable to pay to the Commonwealth an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift.  This caters for the possibility that the associated entity is not a legal person.  Paragraph 306AD(6)(a) provides that if the associated entity is a body corporate or the trustee of a trust, the amount is payable by the associated entity.  Paragraph 306AD(6)(b) provides that if the associated entity is not a body corporate, the amount is payable by the financial controller of the associated entity.  The financial controller is defined in section 287 as the person responsible for maintaining the financial records of the entity.

 

154.      Subsection 306AD(7) provides that if the amount under subsection 306AD(6) is not paid, the Commonwealth may recover the amount from the person as a debt due to the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

Subdivision B - Anonymous gifts

 

Section 306AE - Interpretation

 

155.      New section 306AE defines a number of words and terms for the purposes of Subdivision B.  This interpretive section is required due to the new provisions dealing with anonymous gifts which are specific to this subdivision. 

 

Section 306AF - Meaning of permitted anonymous gift

 

156.      Subsections 306AF(1) and (4)  define a ‘permitted anonymous gift’ which is used in new section 306AH.  A ‘permitted anonymous gift’ may only be received in two situations.  The first of these is at a ‘general public activity’ such as a fete, where people passing by might, for example, place a donation into a tin.  The second situation is at a ‘private event’ such as a trivia night, where attendees might donate small sums of money.  At both general public activities and private events, a gift would not be a ‘permitted anonymous gift’ unless records specified at paragraphs 306AF(1)(c) and 306AF(4)(c) were kept of the activity or event.

 

157.      For both general public activities and private events, paragraphs 306AF(1)(a) and (4)(a) provide that single donations of more than $50 may not be received.  In addition, subsections 306AF(2) and (5) provide that collectors of gifts cannot knowingly receive more than $50 from the same person.  A further requirement imposed upon private events by paragraph 306AF(4)(d) is the total amount of anonymous gifts collected may not be more than an amount calculated by multiplying $50 by the number of people who attended the event.  If the total collected exceeds the amount calculated by this formula, the excess has to be returned or, if not possible or practicable to return the excess, it has to be paid to the Commonwealth.  For greater administrative simplicity, subsection 306AF(7) limits the operation of the section to gifts of money.

 

Section 306AG - Subdivision does not apply to gifts that are returned or paid to the Commonwealth within 6 weeks

 

158.      This section clarifies that the subdivision does not apply to a gift that is returned within six weeks after its receipt.  This provision ensures that if a person receives an anonymous gift and returns it within six weeks, no offence or penalty would apply for the purposes of sections 306AH, 306AI or 306AJ.  Where it is not possible or practicable to return the gift, the amount or value of the gift can be paid to the Commonwealth.

 

Section 306AH - Anonymous gifts: when unlawful for political party, candidate etc. to receive gift

 

159.      Subsection 306AH(1) provides that it is unlawful for a registered political party, a State branch of a registered political party, a candidate or a member of a group to receive an anonymous gift that is not a permitted anonymous gift.  It is also unlawful for a person to receive an anonymous gift acting on behalf of one of these political parties or persons.

 

160.      For candidates and members of groups, the prohibition only applies during the candidacy or group period.  These periods are defined in new section 306AE.  The ‘candidacy period’ is the period from when a candidate announces that he or she will be a candidate in an election or when the person nominates as a candidate, and ending 30 days after polling day.  The ‘group period’ is the period from the time when a request to be grouped is made under section 168 of the Electoral Act and ending 30 days after polling day.

 

161.      Subsection 306AH(2) provides that if a person or entity receives a gift that is unlawful under subsection 306AG(1), an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift is payable to the Commonwealth.  A table in subsection 306AH(2) sets out who is liable to pay the amount.

 

162.      Subsection 306AH(3) provides that if, under subsection 306AH(2), an amount is payable to the Commonwealth by two or more persons, these persons are jointly and severally liable for payment of the amount.  This means that while all persons are individually responsible for the debt, just one person may satisfy the debt by paying the amount.

 

163.      Subsection 306AH(4) provides that if the amount under subsection 306AH(2) is not paid, the Commonwealth may recover the amount as a debt due to the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction.  The Commonwealth may take action against one person, or if two or more are liable, any one or more of those persons.

 

Section 306AI - Anonymous gifts: when unlawful for political party, candidate etc. to receive gift made using anonymous gift

 

164.      Section 306AI seeks to prevent the use of intermediaries to avoid the prohibition in 306AH to receive an anonymous gift that is not a ‘permitted anonymous gift’.  Similar to subsection 306AB(2) in relation to gifts of foreign property, subsection 306AI(1) provides that it is unlawful for a registered political party, State branch of a registered political party, a candidate or member of a group to receive a gift if an anonymous gift received by the donor (that is not a permitted anonymous gift) enabled the donor to make the gift.

 

165.      Subsection 306AI(2) provides that if a person or entity receives a gift that is unlawful under subsection 306AI(1), an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift is payable to the Commonwealth.  A table in subsection 306AI(2) sets out who is liable to pay the amount.

 

166.      Subsection 306AI(3) provides that if, under subsection 306AI(2), an amount is payable to the Commonwealth by two or more persons, these persons are jointly and severally liable for payment of the amount.  This means that while all persons are individually responsible for the debt, just one person may satisfy the debt by paying the amount.

 

167.      Subsection 306AI(4) provides that if the amount under subsection 306AH(2) is not paid, the Commonwealth may recover the amount as a debt due to the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction.  The Commonwealth may take action against one person, or if two or more are liable, any one or more of those persons.

 

Section 306AJ - Anonymous gifts: when unlawful for person to incur political expenditure using anonymous gift

 

168.      Unlike section 306AH that places a prohibition on some people or entities simply receiving an anonymous gift, section 306AJ is directed towards the use of anonymous gifts for political expenditure.  ‘Political expenditure’ is defined in subsection 306AE(1) as expenditure incurred for any of the purposes specified in paragraph 314AEB(1)(a).

 

169.      Subsection 306AJ(1) provides that it is unlawful for a person to incur political expenditure when four circumstances apply.  The first of these is that the person is not a candidate or a member of a group.  These are excluded as separate provisions apply to persons who at any time have been a candidate or a member of a group.  The second circumstance is that the anonymous gift received by the person enabled the person to incur the expenditure.  The third is that the anonymous gift is not a permitted anonymous gift.  The fourth is that the recipient of the gift is required by section 314AEB to provide a return to the Electoral Commission setting out the details of the expenditure.  Section 314AEB operates so that a person is not required to make a return unless the total amount of political expenditure incurred by the person during the reporting period was $1,000 or more.

 

170.      Subsection 306AJ(2) applies to persons who at any time have been a candidate or a member of a group.  This subsection makes it unlawful for such a person to incur political expenditure if an anonymous gift (that is not a permitted anonymous gift) enabled the person to incur political expenditure.

 

171.      Subsection 306AJ(3) provides that if a person incurs an amount of political expenditure that is unlawful under subsections 306AJ(1) or (2), an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift is payable to the Commonwealth.  Subsection 306AJ(4) provides that if the amount under subsection 306AJ(3) is not paid, the Commonwealth may recover the amount from the person as a debt due to the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

Subdivision C - Other gifts and loans

 

Item 52 - Subsection 306A(1)

Item 53 - Subsection 306A(1) (note)

Item 54 - Subsection 306A(2)

Item 55 - Subsection 306A(2) (note)

 

172.      These items amend the threshold at which it becomes unlawful for a loan to be received unless it is disclosed.  A loan is unlawful above the threshold of $1,000 unless details required by subsection 306A(3) of the loan are recorded.  Previously, loans totalling $10,000 (indexed under section 321A) or less did not have to be disclosed.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the notes are also repealed.

 

Item 56 - Paragraph 306B(a)

Item 57 - Section 306B (note 3)

 

173.      Item 57 amends the threshold at which a gift by a corporation that is wound up within a year of making the gift may be recovered by a liquidator from gifts exceeding $10,000 to a gift of $1,000 or more.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed by item 57.

 

Item 58 - Section 307

 

174.      Section 307 provided for nil returns under Division 4.  With the creation of new Division 4A and the fact that nil returns were only applicable to section 304, item 40 relocates the substance of section 307 to subsections 304(9) and (10).

 

Item 59 - Section 308

 

175.      As the provisions relating to ‘electoral expenditure’ have now been placed in subsection 287(1), item 59 repeals section 308 as it is redundant.

 

Item 60 - Subsections 309(1A)

 

176.      Section 309 of the Electoral Act requires candidates and members of a Senate group that are not endorsed by the same registered political party to furnish a return to the Electoral Commission setting out details of all electoral expenditure in relation to an election.  As item 7 expands the categories of electoral expenditure, without a consequential amendment to subsection 309(1A) of the Electoral Act, the provision would cover the four new categories of electoral expenditure.  Accordingly, item 60 amends subsection 309(1A) of the Electoral Act to limit the provision to electoral expenditure specified at paragraph (a) of the definition in subsection 287(1).

 

Item 61 - Subsection 309(2)

 

177.      This item reduces the period in which a return must be made under subsection 309(2) from 15 weeks to 8 weeks.  Subsection 309(2) provides for returns by agents of candidates to be made disclosing details of all electoral expenditure incurred by or with the authority of the candidate.

 

Item 62 - Subsection 309(2)

 

178.      Similar to item 60, item 62 will limit a return furnished under subsection 309(2) of the Electoral Act to details of electoral expenditure specified at paragraph (a) of the definition in subsection 287(1).

 

Item 63 - Subsection 309(3)

 

179.      Item 63 reduces the period in which a return must be made under subsection 309(3) from 15 weeks to 8 weeks.  Subsection 309(3) provides for returns by agents of groups to be made disclosing details of all electoral expenditure incurred by or with the authority of members of the group.

 

Item 64 - Subsection 309(3)

 

180.      Item 64 will limit a return furnished under subsection 309(3) of the Electoral Act to details of electoral expenditure specified at paragraph (a) of the definition in subsection 287(1).

 

Item 65 - Subsection 311A(2)

Item 66 - Subsection 311A(2) (note)

 

181.      Item 65 reduces the threshold from ‘$10,000 or less’ to ‘less than $1,000’ at which particulars of a payment by a Commonwealth Department in a financial year to advertising agencies, market research organisations, polling organisations, direct mail organisations and media advertising organisations must be included in the Department’s annual report.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed by item 66.

 



Item 67 - Division 5A of Part XX (heading)

 

Division 5A - Returns for reporting periods by registered political parties and other persons

 

182.      The heading to Division 5A of Part XX refers to ‘annual returns’.  This item amends the heading to Division 5A due to the amendments by the following items that change the requirement for annual returns to returns on a six-month and full financial year basis.

 

Item 68 - After section 314AAA

 

183.      This item inserts a new section 314AAA into the Electoral Act to require the disclosure of gifts of foreign property and anonymous gifts that are returned or the amount or value of the gift is paid to the Commonwealth within six weeks after receipt.  The disclosure of information about such gifts is an important part of the transparency and accountability measures of this Bill.

 

Item 69 - Subsection 314AB(1)

 

184.      This item amends the timeframe in which agents of registered political parties or agents of State branches of registered political parties must submit a return to the Electoral Commission setting out the total amount received and paid by the party and the total of outstanding debts.  Previously, such a return had to be submitted within 16 weeks after the end of each financial year.  The item amends the subsection so that a return must be furnished within 8 weeks after the end of each reporting period.  ‘Reporting period’ is defined in subsection 4(1) to mean the first six months of a financial year or a full financial year.

 

Item 70 - Paragraph 314AB(1)(b)

Item 71 - Subsection 314AB(2)

 

185.      These items are consequential to the change from annual to six-monthly reporting and amend the terminology from ‘annual’ or ‘financial year’ to reporting period.

 

Item 72 - Subsection 314AC(1)

Item 73 - Subsection 314AC(1) (note)

 

186.      Item 72 amends both the reporting period and the threshold amount.  Previously, particulars of all sums had to be included in a return if the party received more than $10,000 from one person or organisation during a financial year.  The amendments made by the item will require particulars of all sums to be included in a return if the party received $1,000 or more from one person or organisation during a reporting period.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed by item 73.

 

Item 74 - Subsection 314AC(2)

 

187.      By repealing subsection 314AC(2), this item requires all gifts to be included when calculating, for the purposes of 314AC(1), whether particulars of gifts must be disclosed.  Existing subsection 314AC(2) provided that only particulars of gifts above $10,000 needed to be disclosed.

 

Item 75 - At the end of section 314AC

 

188.      Item 75 amends section 314AC of the Electoral Act to require registered political parties to include in the annual return furnished to the Electoral Commission specified details in relation to the receipt of anonymous gifts if a permitted anonymous gift was received during a reporting period.

 

Item 76 - Subsection 314AE(1)

Item 77 - Subsection 314AE(1) (note)

 

189.      Item 76 amends both the reporting period and the threshold amount.  Previously, particulars of all sums had to be included in a return if a party had outstanding debts of more than $10,000 to a person or an organisation during a financial year.  The amendments made by the item will require particulars of all sums to be included in a return if a party had outstanding debts of $1,000 or more during a reporting period.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed by item 77.

 

Item 78 - Subsection 314AEA(1)

 

190.      This item is consequential to the change from annual to six-monthly reporting and amends the terminology from ‘financial year’ to reporting period in relation to returns by associated entities.

 

Item 79 - Subsection 314AEA(1)

 

191.      This item amends the timeframe in which the financial controller of an associated entity must submit a return to the Electoral Commission setting out the total amount received and paid by the associated entity and the total of outstanding debts.  Previously, such a return had to be submitted within 16 weeks after the end of each financial year.  This item and item 78 above amend the subsection so that a return must be furnished within 8 weeks after the end of each reporting period.  ‘Reporting period’ is defined in subsection 4(1) to mean the first six months of a financial year or a full financial year.

 

Item 80 - Paragraph 314AEA(3)(d)

Item 81 - Subsection 314AEB(1)

Item 82 - Paragraph 314AEB(1)(a)

 

192.      These items are consequential to the change from annual to six-monthly reporting and amend the terminology from ‘financial year’ and ‘year’ to ‘reporting period’ in relation to returns by associated entities and persons incurring political expenditure.

 

Item 83 - Paragraphs 314AEB(1)(b) and (c)

Item 84 - Subsection 314AEB(1) (note)

 

193.      Item 83 repeals paragraphs 314AEB(1)(b) and (c) and substitutes a new paragraph 314AEB(1)(b) that provides a return must be furnished to the Electoral Commission if a total of $1,000 or more was incurred on the kinds of expenditure set out in paragraph 314AEB(1)(a).  The previous threshold was ‘more than $10,000’.  The substance of existing paragraph 314AEB(1)(c) is moved to new subsection 314AEB(1A) by item 85.  As the threshold figure is no longer indexed following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed by item 84.

 

Item 85 - After subsection 314AEB(1)

 

194.      This item inserts new subsection 314AEB(1A) which essentially duplicates paragraph 314AEB(1)(c) that was repealed by item 83.  The new subsection provides that subsection 314AEB(1) does not apply to expenditure incurred by a registered political party, a State branch of a registered political party, the Commonwealth, a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate, a candidate or a member of a group.

 

Item 86 - Subsection 314AEB(2)

 

195.      This item is consequential to the change from annual to six-monthly reporting and amends the terminology from ‘financial year’ to reporting period in relation to returns by persons incurring political expenditure.

 

Item 87 - Paragraph 314AEB(3)(a)

 

196.      This item amends the timeframe in which a return under 314AEB(1) must be provided to the Electoral Commission.  Previously, such a return had to be submitted within 20 weeks after the end of the financial year.  This item amends the subsection so that a return must be furnished within 8 weeks after the end of the reporting period.  ‘Reporting period’ is defined in subsection 4(1) to mean the first six months of a financial year or a full financial year.

 

Item 88 - Subsection 314AEC(1)

Item 89 - Paragraphs 314AEC(1)(a) and (b)

 

197.      These items are consequential to the change from annual to six-monthly reporting and amend the terminology from ‘financial year’ and ‘year’ to reporting period in relation to returns detailing gifts that enabled political expenditure. 

 

Item 90 - Paragraph 314AEC(1)(c)

Item 91 - Subsection 314AEC(1) (note)

Item 92 - After subsection 314AEC(1)

 

198.      Item 90 repeals paragraph 314AEC(1)(c) which operated so that, if a person must provide a return to the Electoral Commission under section 314AEB, and the person received a gift of more than $10,000 which enabled the political expenditure, the person must also provide a return under section 314AEC.  Item 90 substitutes a new paragraph 314AEC(1)(c) to provide that, if a person must provide a return to the Electoral Commission under section 314AEB, a person must also provide a return under section 314AEC if there is at least one major donor in relation to the person and the reporting period.

 

199.      A major donor is defined by new subsection 314AEC(1A), which is inserted by item 92.  A major donor is a person who provides gifts totalling $1,000 or more in a reporting period.

 

200.      As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed by item 91.

 

Item 93 - Subsection 314AEC(2)

Item 94 - Subsection 314AEC(2) (note)

 

201.      Item 93 is consequential to the change from annual to six-monthly reporting and amends the terminology from ‘financial year’ to reporting period in relation to returns by persons receiving gifts enabling political expenditure.  Item 93 also amends subsection 314AEC(2) as a consequence of introducing the new $1,000 threshold.  Rather than providing details of each gift of more than $10,000, the item amends 314AEC(2) to require that details of each gift made by a major donor in a reporting period are provided.  A major donor is defined by new subsection 314AEC(1A).

 

202.      As the threshold figure is no longer indexed, following the repeal of section 321A, the note is also repealed by item 94.

 

Item 95 - After subsection 314AEC(2)

 

203.      Item 95 provides for the disclosure of the receipt of anonymous gifts by persons incurring political expenditure.  The details of the receipt of anonymous gifts will be disclosed in a two step process.  First, a person must have incurred electoral expenditure of a kind specified in paragraph 314AEB(1)(a) and that expenditure must be above the proposed $1,000 threshold.  If that step is satisfied, a return under 314AEC must include specified details of permitted anonymous gifts if any permitted anonymous gifts were received during a reporting period.

 

Item 96 - Paragraph 314AEC(3)(a)

 

204.      This item amends the timeframe in which a return under 314AEC(1) must be provided to the Electoral Commission.  Previously, such a return had to be submitted within 20 weeks after the end of the financial year.  This item amends the subsection so that a return must be furnished within 8 weeks after the end of the reporting period.  ‘Reporting period’ is defined in subsection 4(1) to mean the first six months of a financial year or a full financial year.

 

Item 97 - Subsection 314AEC(4)

 

205.      This item repeals subsection 314AEC(4) which is redundant following the amendments made to subsections 314AEC(1) and 314AEC(2).  This is because details of all gifts made by a major donor are now required.

 

Item 98 - Subsections 315(1) to (4)

 

206.      This item repeals subsections 315(1) to (4) and substitutes new offence and penalty provisions.  The offence and penalty provisions of Part XX have generally not been revised since before 1983, with the penalties inadequate to reflect the level of public money involved.  The penalty levels have been set to encourage appropriate transparency in the political process.

 

Subsection 315(1)

 

207.      This subsection provides that a person commits an offence if the person is required to furnish a return under Division 4, 5 or 5A and the person fails to furnish the return by the time required by the applicable Division.  The maximum penalty is 120 penalty units.  Section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 currently provides that one penalty unit equates to $110.

 

208.      While this offence is based on the previous offence in subsection 315(1), the repeal of subsection 315(1A) by item 98 means that subsection 315(1) is no longer an offence of strict liability.  This means that all elements of the offence have to be proven.

 

Subsection 315(2)

 

209.      This subsection provides that a person commits an offence if the person is required to furnish a return under Division 4, 5 or 5A, the person furnishes a return which purports to be a return under the applicable Division and the return is incomplete.  The maximum penalty is 120 penalty units. 

 

210.      While this offence is based on the previous offence in subsection 315(2), the repeal of subsection 315(2A) means that subsection 315(2) is no longer an offence of strict liability.  This means that all elements of the offence have to be proven.

 

Subsection 315(3)

 

211.      This subsection provides an interpretation of ‘incomplete’ for the purposes of subsection 315(2).  A return will be incomplete if it does not contain all the information that is required to be included in the return by the relevant Division, or by the approved form produced by the Electoral Commission that must be used for the return.

 

Subsection 315(4)

 

212.      This subsection provides that a person commits an offence if the person is required by section 317 to retain records and the person fails to retain the records as required by that section.  The maximum penalty is 120 penalty units.

 

213.      This subsection is based upon repealed subsection 315(2), however it is now located in its own subsection rather than combined with the offence of furnishing an incomplete return.  The offence of furnishing an incomplete return is located in subsection 315(2).  The repeal of subsection 315(2A) by item 98 means that the failure to keep records is no longer an offence of strict liability.  This means that all elements of the offence have to be proven.

 

Subsection 315(4A)

 

214.      This subsection provides that a person commits an offence if the person lodges a purported claim under Division 3 and the person knows that the claim is false or misleading in a material particular or the claim omits a matter or thing without which the claim is misleading in a material particular.  The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 2 years or 240 penalty units, or both.

 

215.      This offence is based upon repealed subsections 315(3) and (4), however the penalty has been significantly increased to reflect the large amount of public money involved with claims under Division 3.  The requirement for the person to have knowledge that the claim is false or misleading is a higher fault element than, for example, recklessness.

 

Subsection 315(4B)

 

216.      This subsection provides that a person commits an offence if the person lodges a purported return under Division 4, 5 or 5A and the person knows that the return is false or misleading in a material particular or the claim omits a matter or thing without which the return is misleading in a material particular.  The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 months or 120 penalty units, or both.

 

217.      This offence is based upon repealed subsections 315(3) and (4), however the penalty has been increased to reflect the importance of a transparent political process.  The requirement for the person to have knowledge that the claim is false or misleading is a higher fault element than, for example, recklessness.

 

Subsection 314(4C)

 

218.      This subsection provides for a new offence of making a record that is required to be kept for the purposes of receiving a permitted anonymous gift that is false or misleading in a material particular.  The maximum penalty for breaching this offence is imprisonment for 12 months or 120 penalty units, or both.  The proposed penalty is the same as for the offence at subsection 315(4B).

 

Item 99 - Subsection 315(5)

 

219.      This amendment repeals references in subsection 315(5) to subsections 315(3) and (4) and inserts a reference to subsection 315(4A).  This amendment is a consequence of new subsection 315(4A) dealing solely with claims under Division 3.  Repealed subsections 315(3) and (4) both contained provisions dealing with Division 3 claims.

 

Item 100 - Subsection 315(6A) (penalty)

 

220.      As this provision relates to claims under Division 3, this amendment increases the penalty so that it is consistent with the offence under subsection 315(4A).

 

Item 101 - Subsection 315(7) (penalty)

 

221.      As this provision relates to returns under Division 4, 5 and 5A, this amendment increases the penalty so that it is consistent with the offence under subsection 315(4B).

 



Item 102 - After subsection 315(10)

 

222.      This item inserts new offences into section 315 to provide offences for the new provisions dealing with gifts of foreign property and anonymous gifts.

 

Subsection 315(10A)

 

223.      This subsection provides for an offence when a gift of foreign property or an anonymous gift is received by specified legal entities.  The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 months or 240 penalty units, or both. 

 

Subsection 315(10B)

 

224.      This subsection provides for an offence when a gift of foreign property or an anonymous gift is received by specified non-legal entities.  The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 months or 240 penalty units, or both.

 

225.      As the gift is received by a non-legal entity, a table in subsection 315(10B) sets out who is liable for the offence if a particular entity receives the gift.

 

Subsection 315(10C)

 

226.      As subsection 315(10B) deems a person or persons liable for an offence by a non-legal entity, subsection 315(10C) provides that a person does not commit an offence against subsection 315(10B) in two situations.  These are if the person does not know of the circumstances because of which the receipt of the gift is unlawful, or the person takes all reasonable steps to avoid those circumstances occurring.

 

Subsection 315(10D)

 

227.      Subsection 315(10D) provides for an offence when a person acting on behalf of a group receives specified unlawful gifts of foreign property or specified unlawful anonymous gifts.  The maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment or 240 penalty units, or both.  Subsection 315(10A) excludes from its operation a person acting on behalf of a group as subsection 315(10D) specifically addresses such people.

 

Subsection 315(10E)

 

228.      Subsection 315(10E) provides for an offence when a person incurs expenditure and the expenditure is unlawful because it was enabled by a specified unlawful gift of foreign property or specified unlawful anonymous gift.  The maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment or 240 penalty units, or both.

 

Item 103 - After section 315

 

229.      This item inserts a new subsection 315AA to provide for the recovery of undisclosed gifts.  An undisclosed gift is defined for the purposes of the section as a gift whose details should be included in a return under subsection 304(2) or (3), section 314AC, section 314AC as it applies for the purpose of section 314AEA, and section 314AEC, and the return was not furnished or the details of the gift were not included.

 

230.      Subsection 315AA(2) provides for a method of extending the period in which details may be provided, and if those details are provided before the end of the extension period, it is as if the details were provided in the return.

 

231.      Subsection 315AA(3) provides that for each disclosure provision specified in the table, an amount equal to the amount or value of the gift is payable to the Commonwealth by the person or persons specified in the table.

 

232.      Subsection 315AA(4) provides that if the amount under subsection 315AA(3) is not paid, the Commonwealth may recover the amount as a debt due to the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction.

 

Item 104 - Subsection 315A(1)

 

233.      This item repeals subsection 315A(1) and substitutes a new subsection which refers to recovery of amounts under Part XX, rather than the two previously specified subsections.  This is because there are now several provisions in Part XX that provide for an amount to be recovered by the Commonwealth.

 

Item 105 - Subsections 316(2A) and (2B)

 

234.      This item repeals subsections 316(2A) and (2B) and substitutes a reworked provision that expands the range of persons or entities that may be asked to produce documents or appear to give evidence to determine compliance with Part XX or if something has been done that is unlawful under Part XX.

 

235.      New subsection 316(2AA) is based on repealed subsection 316(2A) and provides that a notice to a person is to be served personally or by post on the person.

 

236.      New subsection 316(2AB) clarifies that for the people identified at item 6 of the table in subsection 316(2A), compliance is not limited to that return or the period to which that return relates.

 

Item 106 - Subsection 316(2C)

 

237.      This item amends subsection 316(2C) to refer to a political party or branch due to the extension of 316(2A) to include State branches of registered political parties.

 

Item 107 - Subsection 316(5) (penalty)

Item 108 - Subsection 316(5A) (penalty)

Item 109 - Subsections 316(5B) and (5C)

 

238.      Items 107 and 108 increase the penalties under subsections 316(5) and 316(5A) from $1,000 to imprisonment for 12 months or 60 penalty units, or both. 

 

239.      Item 109 repeals subsection 316(5B) to remove strict liability from an offence against 316(5A).  Item 109 also repeals subsection 316(5C) which provided that subsections 316(5) and (5A) do not apply if the person has a reasonable excuse.  The Commonwealth Criminal Code will now govern the application of the offence provisions.

 



Item 110 - Subsection 316(6) (penalty)

 

240.      Consistent with the amendments to subsections 316(5) and (5A) as provided for by items 107 and 108 above, this item increases the penalty under subsection 316(6) from $1,000 or imprisonment for 6 months, or both, to imprisonment for 12 months or 60 penalty units, or both.

 

Item 111 - Subsection 319A(1)

 

241.      This item amends the existing power in section 319A of the Electoral Act that deals with the amendment of claims and returns.  The proposed amendment makes it clear that it is only the final claim for public election funding that can be amended under section 319A, as the final claim itself is able to vary the interim claim for public election funding (see subsection 297(4)).

 

Item 112 - Subsection 319A(2)

 

242.      This amendment makes it clear that it is only the final claim for public election funding that can be amended under section 319A as the final claim itself is able to vary the interim claim for public election funding (see subsection 297(4)).

 

Item 113 - After subsection 319A(4)

 

243.      New subsection 319A(4A) makes it clear that any amendment or variation of a claim for public election funding that is made under this section is not able to result in an increase in the payment.  This subsection links back to the requirements of new subsection 297(5) that only one interim and one final claim may be made.  The intention of this subsection is that candidates and political parties should be able to correct any formal errors and mistakes but not so that they can obtain an increase in public election funding payments.  This process is to assist in the transparency and accountability of candidates and political parties but not to allow repeated amendments of claims for public election funding to attempt to increase those payments.

 

Item 114 - Subsection 319A(9)

 

244.      Due to the substitution of new offence provisions in section 315, this item corrects the references to the relevant offences in section 315.

 

Item 115 - Subsections 320(4) and (5)

 

245.      This item amends subsections 320(4) and (5) to provide that a claim or return may be available for inspection or perusal as soon as practicable after it is lodged.  It is anticipated that advances in technology might enable claims or returns to be available sooner than the current fixed time of 24 weeks after polling day for Division 4 or Division 5 claims (with the exception on section 305B) or February in the calendar year after the return is furnished under Division 5A or section 305B.

 

Item 116 - Subsection 321(1) (definition of relevant amount )

 

246.      Section 321 is the indexation section.  It applies to the amount per vote that can be paid as part of public election funding once a political party, candidate or Senate group obtains at least 4% of the first preference votes in an election.  The amount per vote of $2.31191 specified in sections 293, 294 and 295 is based on the existing amount contained in the current section 294 of the Electoral Act that has been indexed since 1995.  The amendment will ensure that the amount per vote that can be used in the calculation of public election funding will continue to be indexed. 

 

Item 117 - Subsection 321(1) (definition of relevant period )

 

247.      This item amends the definition of ‘relevant period’ in subsection 321(1) so that the indexation of the current $2.31191 amount per vote commences from 1 July 2011.  This is a mechanical provision that is necessary given the amendments to the above amount reflect the current value resulting from the indexation of the previous $1.50 that has occurred in accordance with the Electoral Act since 1995.

 

Item 118 - Section 321A

 

248.      Section 321A provided for the indexation of the previous threshold of ‘more than $10,000’.  This item repeals section 321A as the threshold amount of $1,000 for Part XX is no longer indexed.

 

Item 119 - Section 384

 

249.      This item repeals section 384 which specified two offences as indictable offences and provided that a court of summary jurisdiction may determine the matter in specified circumstances.  By repealing section 384, sections 4G, 4H, 4J and 4JA of the Crimes Act 1914 will provide for indictable offence proceedings.

 

Part 2 - Application and savings provisions

 

Item 120 - Amendments applying to reporting periods starting on or after 1 July 2011

 

250.      This item provides that the amendments made by items 48 to 50 (obligation to furnish returns disclosing gifts made during a reporting period) and items 69 to 97 (Division 5A returns for reporting periods by registered political parties and other persons) apply to reporting periods that start on or after 1 July 2011.

 

Item 121 - Amendments applying to financial years starting on or after 1 July 2011

 

251.      This item provides that amendments made by items 65 and 66 (disclosure of expenditure by Commonwealth Departments) apply in relation to financial years that start on or after 1 July 2011.

 

Item 122 - Amendments applying to elections the writs for which are issued on or after 1 July 2011

 

252.      This item provides that amendments made by the listed items relating to public election funding for elections the writs for which are issued on or after 1 July 2011.

 



Item 123 - Amendments applying to gifts etc made on or after 1 July 2011

 

253.      This item provides that the amendments made by the listed items apply to gifts, transfers or loans made or received, or expenditure incurred on or after 1 July 2011.

 

Item 124 - Amendments applying to acts or omissions occurring on or after 1 July 2011

 

254.      This item provides that the amendments made by the listed items apply to acts or omissions that occur after 1 July 2011.

 

Item 125 - Amendment applying to returns a person becomes required to furnish on or after 1 July 2011

 

255.      This item provides that the amendment made by item 103 of this Schedule applies in relation to returns a person becomes required to furnish on or after 1 July 2011.

 

Item 126 - Saving of notices under subsection 316(2A)

 

256.      This item ensures that a notice given before 1 July 2011 under subsection 316(2A) as then in force has effect after that commencement as if it had been given under that subsection as amended by item 105.

 

Item 127 - Indexation of per-vote amount for election funding

 

257.      Item 127 provides for the indexation of the current public election funding rate to ensure that the correct rate of public election funding will be paid from 1 July 2011.  In order to ensure the correct rate is paid once the provisions commence, the Bill provides for the current funding rate of $2.31191 to be indexed.  Item 127 provides for the rate to be indexed twice using September 2010 and March 2011 All Groups Consumer Price Index (CPI) information.