Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Program 1.1 Electoral roll management

Report on performance: Program 1.2 Election management and support services

Report on performance: Program 1.3 Education and communication

Management and accountability

Financial statements



Funding and disclosure services

Updated: 18 October 2011

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Deliver transparency and accountability in the sources of political funding in Australia and the expenditure of those participants involved in the political process at the federal level. A range of products have been produced, and will continue to be maintained, that are designed to assist persons with reporting obligations to lodge accurate and timely returns in accordance with the requirements of the Act.


As required by the Electoral Act, the AEC pays public funding entitlements to participants in proportion to the number of first preference votes gained by candidates at each federal election or by election.

The Act requires political parties, their associated entities, donors, third parties that incur political expenditure and candidates who contest federal elections to lodge financial disclosure returns with the AEC. The AEC produces return forms and guides for these clients, to enable them to report relevant financial transactions as required by the Act. The returns are published on the AEC website, which provides a tool to assist members of the public to access the returns and analyse the information.

The AEC is empowered to ensure that returns lodged by registered political parties, their state and territory branches and associated entities comply with the provisions of the Act. The AEC does this by reviewing a sample of the returns lodged each year. Where errors or omissions are identified in the course of these compliance reviews, the AEC seeks amendments to correct the public record.

In addition, the AEC has broader powers to investigate possible breaches of the disclosure provisions. The AEC makes preliminary assessments of possible breaches, including allegations made to the AEC or raised in the media or parliament, to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to enable it to use its formal investigative powers. During a preliminary assessment, the AEC also makes a judgment as to whether the potential breach may compromise public disclosure to a sufficient degree to justify diverting resources to conduct an investigation.


Table 18 summarises the AEC's results against the performance information set out for funding and disclosure services in the 2010–11 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 18 Key performance results for funding and disclosure services
Key performance indicators Results
Election funding calculated and paid in accordance with the legislation. Achieved: 99% of entitlements for the 2010 federal election were paid in the fourth week after polling day; the balance was paid upon the completion of the vote count.
Financial disclosures obtained and placed on the public record in accordance with legislated timeframes. Achieved: Financial disclosure returns for 2009–10 were published on the AEC website on 1 February 2011. Financial disclosure returns for the 2010 federal election were published on the AEC website on 7 February 2011.

Election funding

For the 2010 federal election, funding was paid at the rate of 231.191 cents for each vote received for those candidates and Senate groups that received at least 4 per cent of the formal first preference vote in the election contested.

The Act requires that election funding entitlements be calculated on the basis of votes counted as at the twentieth day after polling day, with at least 95 per cent of those entitlements paid as soon as possible.
The balances of entitlements are required to be paid when the counting of votes is finalised.

For the 2010 federal election, the AEC approved and processed the initial payments of election funding on 13 September 2011. In most cases, the payment was 99 per cent of the entitlement as at the twentieth day after polling day. Of a total of $53 163 385.36 in election funding, $52 411 291.12 was paid in the initial payments, and $752 094.24 was paid upon the completion of the vote count.

After election funding had been finalised, the AEC obtained approval from the Special Minister of State to make payments in lieu of entitlements under the Scheme for Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration, due to mishandling by polling officials. The payments were based on the amount that would have accrued had ballot papers not been eliminated from the vote counts in two pre-poll voting offices in Queensland and one in South Australia. From a survey of those excluded ballot papers, formal first preference votes were identified and added to the totals for all candidates and Senate groups contesting those elections. Had they been included in the count, the additional votes would not have resulted in any change to who would have qualified for election funding, but would have resulted in additional payments. These payments, as detailed in Table 19, were finalised in June 2011.

Table 19 Payments in lieu of election funding entitlements, for House of Representatives and Senate votes that were excluded from the count because of mishandling by officials, for the 2010 federal election
  Additional votes Additional payment ($)
Australian Greens SA 690 1 595.22
Australian Labor Party 2 970 6 866.37
Family First Party 157 362.97
Liberal Party of Australia 3 812 8 813.00
Queensland Greens 33 76.29
Total 7 662 17 713.85

Note: Payments were calculated at the rate of 231.19 cents per vote, the rate applied to votes that were counted in the election.

Financial disclosure returns

During 2010–11, 1 706 financial disclosure returns were lodged: 478 annual financial disclosure returns and 17 amendments covering the 2009–10 financial year and 1 211 election financial disclosure returns from the 2010 federal election.

A major advance in 2010–11 was the development and launch of the online eReturns facility, which allows clients who are required to lodge financial disclosure returns to complete the details for their returns through a secure website. When the clients are satisfied with the details, they can electronically sign the return. The eReturns facility then completes the return, lodges it with the AEC server and emails a copy of the return to the client.

As well as being convenient for clients, eReturns assists AEC staff by reducing the workload and scope for error associated with re-keying data. The AEC has commenced discussions with states and territories which also have financial disclosure requirements to see whether joint use of the eReturns facility would be of benefit to them.

The numbers of returns lodged are summarised in Table 20 and Table 21.

Table 20 Annual financial disclosure returns lodged, 2008–09 to 2010–11
  2008–09a 2009–10 2010–11
Returns lodged by:      
  • political parties
73 74 62
  • associated entities
238 199 190
  • donors
399 254 192
  • third partiesb
75 37 34
Total returns lodged 785 564 478
Total amendments to returns 89 46 17

a The peak in activity associated with the November 2007 federal election is reflected in the results for 2008–09. For the July 2010 federal election, the peak will show in the results for 2011–12.

b 'Third parties' are people or organisations, other than political parties or candidates, who incurred political expenditure.

Table 21 Election financial disclosure returns for a federal election, 2007 and 2010
  2007 2010
Returns lodged by:    
  • candidates
1 399 1 184
  • Senate groups
23 20
  • donors
5 7
Total returns lodged 1 427 1 211

Compliance reviews

Under s.316(2A) of the Act, the AEC has the power to conduct investigations into the compliance of disclosures made on behalf of registered political parties, their state and territory branches and associated entities. The AEC undertakes a cycle of compliance reviews of disclosure returns lodged for political parties and associated entities over a three-year cycle equivalent to the electoral cycle.

The program of coverage seeks to review at least one disclosure return lodged by each registered political party and each state branch of a political party during that three-year cycle. When a review is conducted of a political party's disclosure return, the returns of the associated entities linked to that party are also reviewed. Where discrepancies are identified in the disclosures reviewed, the AEC seeks amendments to be made to the relevant annual returns.

In 2010–11, the AEC completed compliance reviews of 63 political parties and associated entities.

Picture of a woman sorting returns