Title Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Bill 2021
Database Explanatory Memoranda
Date 03-12-2021 03:58 PM
Source House of Reps
System Id legislation/ems/r6752_ems_bb9e441e-9dfb-42c3-a2b5-534ddaa963c3


Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Bill 2021

2019-2020-2021

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

ELECTORAL LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (POLITICAL CAMPAIGNERS) BILL 2021

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters,
the Hon Ben Morton MP)

 


 

Glossary

The following abbreviations and acronyms are used throughout this Explanatory Memorandum:

Abbreviation

Definition

Bill

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Bill 2021

AEC

Australian Electoral Commission

Electoral Act

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Item

Refers to an item in the Bill

ICCPR

 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

JSCEM

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

 


 

ELECTORAL LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (POLITICAL CAMPAIGNERS) BILL 2021

GENERAL OUTLINE

The Bill reduces the thresholds for electoral expenditure that can be incurred by an individual or organisation before they are required to register as a political campaigner.

The amendments are intended to enhance public confidence in Australia’s political processes by aligning transparency requirements for political actors who seek to influence the outcome of an election to more closely resemble those for political parties, candidates, and members of Australian Parliament.

The Bill builds on the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Act 2018 and the Electoral and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 to improve the consistency of regulation applying to the electoral expenditure by political actors.

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

The measures in the Bill are expected to be cost neutral. There will be no significant costs or savings associated with the Bill.

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

A Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights has been completed in relation to the amendments in the Bill. The amendments have been assessed as compatible with Australia’s human rights obligations.


 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Bill 2021

The Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.

The Bill amends the registration requirements for political campaigners, by reducing the electoral expenditure threshold at which registration is mandatory.

Human rights implications

The impact of the Bill on the following rights from the ICCPR has been considered:

·         the right to freedom of expression under Article 19.

Article 19 – Freedom of Expression

1.      The amendment in the Bill engages the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR, because it requires political campaigners to register from a lower electoral expenditure threshold. This amendment assists the Australian electorate in making informed decisions in the conduct of electoral processes, by aligning transparency requirements for all significant political actors seeking to influence electoral outcomes.

2.      The reduction in the threshold for registration requirements is intended to assist electors by providing more information about the increasingly complex environment of political and electoral advocacy. The new threshold of expenditure by an entity or individual is not insignificant, and targeted localised campaigns have the ability to affect electoral outcomes.

3.      The amendment is unlikely to create significant regulatory or administrative burden for affected political actors, as any political actor affected by this amendment already has mandatory disclosure obligations as a “third party” under the Electoral Act, or would be required to make such disclosures if similar electoral expenditure were incurred in future.

4.      Given that Article 19 of the ICCPR carries special duties and responsibilities, it may be subject to certain restrictions required by law that, relevantly, are necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others. The proposed limitation on the right to freedom of expression is proportionate to the legitimate end sought, as transparency, accountability and public confidence in the political system enables the Australian electorate to make informed decisions in the exercise of their franchise.

5.      The limitation of the right is therefore consistent with Article 19 of the ICCPR.

Conclusion

6.      The Bill is compatible with human rights because, to the extent it may limit human rights, those limitations are reasonable, necessary, and proportionate.


 

ELECTORAL LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (POLITICAL CAMPAIGNERS) BILL 2021

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Clause 1 – Short title

1.             Clause 1is a formal provision specifying the title of the Bill when enacted will be the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Act 2021 (the Act).

Clause 2 – Commencement

2.             Subclause 2(1)provides that the provisions in column 1 of the Commencement table commence at the time set out in column 2.

3.             Clause 1in the Commencement table provides that the whole Act commences the day after the Act receives the Royal Assent.

4.             A note is inserted below the Commencement table stating that the table relates only to the provisions of the Act as originally enacted. The table will not be amended to deal with any later amendments of the Act.

5.             Subclause 2(2)provides that information in column 3 of the Commencement table is not part of the Act. Information may be inserted into column 3, or information in it may be edited, in any published version of the Act.

Clause 3 – Schedules

6.             Clause 3provides that legislation specified in a Schedule to the Act is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the Schedule concerned, and any other item in a Schedule to the Act has effect according to its terms.


 

Schedule 1 — Amendments

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

1.        Item 1omits “$500,000” in subparagraph 287F(1)(a), and substitutes it with “$100,000”.

2.        Item 2 omits “$100,000 or more” in subparagraph 287F(1)(b)(i) and substitutes it with “at least equal to the disclosure threshold”.

3.        Item 3 replaces “two-thirds” in subparagraph 287F(1)(b)(ii) with “one-third”.

4.        These amendments are intended to reduce the expenditure threshold at which a person or entity must register as a political campaigner for a financial year, not including a member of Australian Parliament or a “political entity” as defined in existing subsection 4(1) of the Electoral Act. The purpose of this reduction is to assist electors in making informed choices during the electoral process, by aligning the transparency of political actors with a significant purpose of influencing elections.

5.        These amendments implement Recommendation 18 from the JSCEM Report on the conductof the2019 federal election and matters related thereto, and are unlikely to create significant regulatory or administrative burden for affected political actors, as any political actor affected by this amendment already has mandatory disclosure obligations as a “third party” under the Electoral Act, or would be required to make such disclosures if similar electoral expenditure were incurred in future. The additional reporting requirements reflect that organisations which incur electoral expenditure above the thresholds outlined in Items 1, 2 and 3 are significant political actors or that electoral expenditure and activity represents a significant component of the organisation’s activity, and should be subject to transparency requirements that align with their political influence.

6.        Item4 is an application provision that provides that, upon commencement of the Act, for the purposes of Part XX of the Electoral Act, a reference to “financial years” in subsection 287F(1) of the Electoral Act includes financial years beginning before the commencement of the Act. This provision is intended to ensure that financial years that pre-date the commencement of the Act are not excluded from the effect of the amendments.

7.        Item4 also has a note that alerts the reader that the effect of Item 4 means that a person or entity may be required to register as a political campaigner before the end of 90 days after commencement of the Act.