The AEC helps deliver an impartial and independent electoral system through election services, assistance and advice. The AEC has a range of stakeholders. It provides support to Australian workplaces, members of parliament, political parties and candidates, state, territory and overseas electoral authorities and engages in public and private sector partnerships.
The AEC conducted 1 257 workplace elections and ballots in 2012–13. These included industrial elections, protected action ballots, and fee-for-service elections and ballots. All were effective and delivered on time.
In 2012–13, the AEC conducted 186 industrial elections to fill offices in employee (unions) and employer organisations registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Fair Work Act). In accordance with the Fair Work Act, all elections were secret ballots, using voting systems specified in the registered rules of the organisation, and all industrial elections were in accordance with the rules of the organisation. Postal voting was the most common voting method. After each election, the AEC reported to the Fair Work Commission and the organisations involved.
Protected action ballots allow working Australians to choose, by secret ballot, whether they agree with proposed industrial action, such as strikes, bans or work stoppages. Protected action ballots, conducted under the provisions of the Fair Work Act occur when a bargaining representative for an employee lodges a request with the Fair Work Commission for such a ballot during negotiations for an enterprise agreement. The Fair Work Commission appoints the AEC to run ballots.
In 2012–13, the AEC conducted 816 protected action ballots for employees from organisations across many industries.
Ballots were by post or at worksites and usually took about two weeks. Following declaration the AEC provided the results to the Fair Work Commission, the bargaining representative for the employee and the organisation. Post-ballot reports went to the Fair Work Commission.
Industrial elections: conduct industrial elections in a timely and transparent manner that meets the requirements of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 and each organisation’s rules, and deliver election time specific services.
Key performance indicator: Industrial elections delivered in accordance with relevant legislation and each individual organisation’s rules.
Key performance indicator: Protected action ballots delivered in accordance with relevant legislation and Fair Work Australia (FWA) orders.
Key performance indicator: All election tasks carried out in accordance with legislated timeframes.
AEC provides fee-for-service elections and ballots at full cost recovery. In 2012–13, the AEC delivered 186 fee-for-service elections and ballots for public and private sector organisations, seven more than in 2011–12. Of the 186 elections and ballots completed there were:
In 2012–13, the AEC provided roll maintenance, staff, facilities and resources to assist state, territory and local government electoral bodies conduct parliamentary elections. See Table 33 for more details.
The AEC assisted sectors in the Australian economy conduct important polls. For example, the AEC was the official returning officer for SugarPoll 2012, where sugarcane growers and millers voted to form Sugar Research Australia.
To build awareness of the AEC’s enterprise agreement services, the AEC engages with workplace managers and is a member of the Australian Human Resources Institute.
In 2012–13, the AEC received 115 enquiries through the AEC website, of which 45 per cent converted to actual elections and ballots.
Client satisfaction surveys show 95 per cent of clients were 'satistfied', and 86 per cent ‘very satisfied’ with the AEC’s service. Sixty-eight per cent of clients selected the AEC for its perceived reliability.
Table 6 gives a breakdown of fee-for-service and industrial elections conducted by the AEC in 2012–13.
Fee-for-service: successfully deliver elections and ballots for authorities and organisations on a full cost recovery basis in accordance with the AEC’s minimum standards, deliver effective assistance with the conduct of state, territory and local government elections where requested by the relevant electoral body.
Key performance indicator: Fee-for-service elections successfully delivered, as required, on a full cost recovery basis.
Key performance indicator: Effective assistance is provided with the conduct of state, territory and local government elections where requested by the relevant electoral body.
Key performance indicator: State, local government stakeholders and fee-for-service clients are fully satisfied with the services provided.
|Elections and ballots|
|Contested industrial elections||34||27||11||8||7||10||0||3||100|
|Uncontested industrial elections||33||31||20||28||23||16||2||2||155|
|Protected action ballots||120||265||290||52||50||32||1||6||816|
|Enterprise agreement ballots||22||61||11||14||6||8||1||0||123|
|Other commercial elections and ballots||15||20||15||2||5||1||0||5||63|
|Other elections and ballots||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Total elections and ballots completed||224||404||347||104||91||67||4||16||1 257|
|Positions available (industrial)||1 863||3 976||565||488||654||258||30||65||7 899|
|Unfilled positions (industrial)||583||2 521||89||201||177||39||1||15||3 626|
|Candidates for uncontested offices (industrial)||1 064||1 328||414||296||472||193||29||47||3 843|
|Total candidates||1 717||1 601||544||363||503||248||29||65||5 070|
|Ballot papers issued (industrial)||406 736||344 337||202 866||31 371||28 862||4 815||0||8 691||1 027 678|
|Ballot papers returned (industrial)||96 380||113 160||31 635||9 004||7 880||2 256||0||2 284||262 599|
|Ballot papers issued (protected action)||16 203||36 578||10 307||2 813||3 554||1 681||132||209||71 477|
|Ballot papers returned (protected action)||10 574||25 563||7 168||1 920||2 791||1 154||131||89||49 390|
|Ballot papers issued (enterprise agreements)||5 605||74 740||20 236||2 254||1 248||1 351||165||0||105 599|
|Ballot papers returned (enterprise agreements)||4 674||34 367||10 151||1 467||696||856||87||0||52 298|
|Ballot papers issued (other commercial)||4 235||10 267||20 095||584||661||572||0||789||37 203|
|Ballot papers returned (other commercial)||1 516||3 722||10 845||584||356||225||0||729||17 977|
|Ballot papers issued (other)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ballot papers returned (other)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ballot papers issued||432 779||465 922||253 504||37 022||34 325||8 419||297||9 689||1 241 957|
|Ballot papers returned||113 144||176 812||59 799||12 975||11 723||4 491||218||3 102||382 264|
While 2012–13 was a non-election year, it was a crucial time for preparations, and the AEC continued to focus on the priorities identified after the 2010 federal election. The AEC needed to be ready to deliver an election, by-election or referendum at any time. This meant the AEC had to be ready to provide Australians with accessible and convenient ways to vote and be ready to deliver accurate and timely results.
The AEC’s major activity in 2012–13 was preparing to conduct a federal election at the same time as a proposed referendum. The priorities identified after the 2010 federal election were to:
For the AEC to run an election and a referendum together requires additional staff training, systems testing, procedures update, and supplier contracts. The AEC used the Election Preparation Program to review and monitor processes and election readiness. Of note, the AEC:
Federal elections, by-elections and referendums: deliver a range of products and services to support the successful conduct of a federal election or referendum.
Key performance indicator: Federal election events (including by-elections and referendums) successfully delivered as required within the reporting period. AEC election practices and management are in accordance with relevant legislation. All election tasks carried out in accordance with legislated timeframes.
Key performance indicator: High level of election preparedness maintained and key milestones met.
Between 8 June and 20 July 2012, the AEC conducted a simulated election to replicate election activities for AEC staff. The simulation was a practical activity that reinforced operational training for both a federal election and referendum allowing for assessment and enhanced preparedness. While relevant and useful for staff, its development and implementation was a large undertaking, and the process needs refinement to make it a more efficient and effective tool.
For the next electoral event, each polling official, both new and experienced, will receive an experiential DVD with training material. The DVD includes re-enactments of activities at election and referendum polling places, and reinforces and supports existing training material. The re-enactments give polling officials a uniform idea of the workings of a polling place on election day, and familiarises them with multiple scenarios.
A detailed review of the AEC virtual tally room made technical improvements to enhance usability and intuitiveness.
A new home page will contain three main elements:
To help deliver the next election the AEC collaborates with government agencies to assist voters including:
In 2012–13, the AEC provided support services to parliament and the Special Minister of State in relation to the administration of the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act. The minister referred 103 letters on electoral matters. Major themes included legislative reform measures, voting, enrolment, and access to information from the Commonwealth electoral roll.
The AEC supplied 1 835 extracts of electoral roll information to members of parliamenta 278 less than 2011–12. A list of extracts supplied is at Table 21. This decrease is because some members now receive roll data through their party.
The AEC provided 656 extracts of roll information to federally registered political parties, 262 more than 2011–12. A table showing roll information provided to registered political parties is at Table 23.
The AEC manages the Register of Political Parties, assists parties, administers financial disclosure, and ensures that candidates are aware of their rights and obligations when standing for election.
Party registrations: maintain the Register of Political Parties in a way that meets the requirements of the Electoral Act and assists persons in making applications for party registration.
Key performance indicator: Party registration processed in accordance with the legislation and the Party Register updated in a timely manner.
The AEC maintains the Register of Political Parties, required under Part XI of the Electoral Act, and assists political parties to apply for and maintain registration.
In 2012–13, the AEC:
Political parties are not obliged to register with the AEC, but for those that do there are benefits and obligations.
The AEC processed 38 applications to register a political party, deregister a political party or change a registered name. This was an unprecedented increase, with 30 applications received between January and June 2013. In comparison, only 20 applications were received in the lead-up to the 2010 federal election.
In June 2013, the AEC received two applications for review of a delegate’s decision. Both related to the refusal of an application to change the registered officer of the Australian Democrats. The three Commissioners of the AEC will determine the applications as soon as practicable.
In 2012–13, the AEC finalised its regular review of the eligibility of non-parliamentary registered political parties for continuing registration. At 30 June 2012, seven reviews were in progress. Of those seven parties, the AEC delegate approved the continuing registration of six parties and deregistered one, the Carers Allianceb which has since successfully applied for re-registration.
The AEC reviewed all registered parliamentary parties, and all maintained eligibility for registration. In March 2013, the government amended the Electoral Act in respect of party registration provisions:
In 2012–13, the AEC received 28 applications to change the details of the registered officer of a party and 123 applications to change records of other party officials (deputy, registered officers, party agents and party secretaries). This is a significant increase on 2011–12, when there was no federal election.
The AEC contacts parties through the year to ask them to check records held by the AEC concerning party officers. This request is included in most correspondence on party registration. Up-to-date details for parties are critical in an election year. The AEC updates online information for party registration including:
The Commonwealth funding and disclosure scheme, established under Part XX of the Electoral Act deals with the public funding of federal election campaigns and the disclosure of detailed financial information.
The disclosure scheme provides transparency of financial dealings. It requires candidates, political parties and associated entities, donors and other participants in the electoral process to lodge annual or election period financial disclosure returns with the AEC.
Funding and disclosure services: 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 are available to assist persons with reporting obligations to lodge accurate and timely returns in accordance with the requirements of the Electoral Act.
Key performance indicator: Election funding calculated and paid in accordance with the legislation.
Key performance indicator: Financial disclosures obtained and placed on the public record in accordance with legislated timeframes.
During 2012–13, the AEC received 624 annual financial disclosure returns including 518 annual financial disclosure returns, and 47 amendments covering 2011–12, and 18 annual financial disclosure returns and 41 amendments relating to previous financial years.
Returns for 2012–13 are due for lodgement after 30 June 2013. The numbers of returns lodged are summarised below.
|Return type||Lodgement year|
|Political Party – amendment||30||
|Associated Entity – amendment||17||17||10|
|Donor – amendment||1||28||21|
|Political expenditure – amendment||0||0||0|
Online completion of financial disclosure returns including electronic signature, and lodgement with the AEC through a secure website is available. In 2012–13, uptake of the eReturns facility continued with 56 per cent of returns completed online. Table 8 shows uptake of eReturns.
|Reporting period||Percentage of annual returns lodged through eReturns|
In 2012–13, 35 compliance reviews of political parties and associated entities were completedc. These routine compliance reviews of a sample of annual disclosure returns are not investigations. Any actual or suspected failure in the disclosures under examinationd does not trigger such reviews. The AEC undertakes compliance reviews over a three-year cycle that shadows the life of the federal parliament. In the course of this cycle, every political party can expect to have at least one of its disclosure returns reviewed, and some may have all of their returns reviewed. Usual AEC practice is to review the returns for the same year of the associated entities of a party under review, particularly when it is the first disclosure return reviewed for that party in the three-year cycle.
A formal notice requiring a person to provide documents and other evidence, in writing or orally, in a manner and at a place and time specified in the notice initiates the review.
In 2012–13, there were no special investigations conducted by the AEC under section 316(3) of the Electoral Act.
In August 2012, the Electoral Commissioner announced an independent review of the AEC’s disclosure and compliance function and the way the AEC monitors political donations under Part XX of the Electoral Act. The former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Mr Ron McLeod AM, with assistance from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) led the review.
The review focused on effective administration of the AEC’s legislative responsibilities and made recommendations to improve the operation of the disclosure compliance function. The supporting PwC technical review focused on detailed work level issues.
The review made four key recommendations:
In January 2013, the Electoral Commissioner established an internal project team to consider how to implement the recommendations. The team is due to report shortly.
The AEC calculates the election funding rate for each vote received by candidates and Senate groups that receive at least four per cent of the formal first vote in a federal election. While no elections or by-elections occurred during 2012–13, the election funding rate was:
The funding rate payable for the 2013 federal election will be 248.800 cents.
The AEC promotes and develops cooperative working relationships with electoral bodies both in Australia and overseas to share expertise and build capability. Such collaboration includes:
The ECANZ is a collaborative forum of electoral commissioners from Australia’s federal, state and territory electoral bodies and the Chief Electoral Officer of New Zealand. The AEC chairs and provides secretariat services. ECANZ initiatives in 2012–13 included:
At 30 June 2013, ECANZ membership was:
In February 2013, the AEC attended the annual Electoral Education Network (EEN) conference, which the Tasmanian Electoral Commission hosted in Hobart. Established in May 2009 the EEN exists for discussion and collaboration between educators from Australian and New Zealand electoral bodies. Discussion included innovations in electoral education, the challenges and opportunities provided by social media, the national curriculum, and enrolment campaigns.
The AEC has joint roll arrangements with the state and territory electoral commissions, and in most cases maintains the state and territory electoral rolls on their behalf.
The joint roll agreement is for the purpose of preparing, updating and revising rolls of voters for federal, state and local government elections. Joint roll agreements mean voters enrol only once for state, territory and federal enrolment. The agreements allow joint enrolment stimulation and roll review activities.
In 2012–13, the AEC provided state and territory electoral authorities with 909 products and services based on information in the electoral roll. This included data from the electoral roll for 76 electoral events in the states and territories such as:
The AEC provided electoral roll products for the:
The difference between the Commonwealth and state/territory electoral rolls is an ongoing challenge. At 30 June, the details of 323 000 voters on state rolls were not up-to-date on the Commonwealth electoral roll and the details of 230 000 voters on the Commonwealth roll were not up-to-date for state purposes.
Some state enrolment requirements are different from the Commonwealth and this explains the divergence in the roll, for example, a partially completed enrolment form may meet the requirements of one jurisdiction, but not the other.
Differences are marked in New South Wales and Victoria, where state legislation permits direct enrolment and direct update. The AEC continues to work to update details for federal purposes to manage this roll divergence.
In 2012–13, the AEC conducted TSRA Board elections for 19 of the 20 wards on 15 September and for the ward of Kubin on 8 December 2012. This was the first time the AEC conducted all elections.
Due to the geography of the Torres Strait Islands and small voter numbers in outer islands, voting options were mobile polling, pre-poll voting (Thursday Island and Cairns) and postal voting.
Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) elections: deliver a range of products and services to support the successful conduct of TSRA elections that are conducted in line with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005.
Key performance indicator: TSRA elections delivered in accordance with relevant legislation, on a full cost recover basis.
The AEC has strong relationships with many international electoral administration bodies, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America and South Africa. In particular, the AEC delivers the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) electoral administrators’ course.
Advice and assistance in overseas elections: provide, in cases approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, advice and assistance in matters relating to elections and referendums to authorities of foreign countries or to foreign organisations. As part of this process, develop capacity-building materials.
Key performance indicator: International assistance by the AEC meets the goals specified for individual projects undertaken, with stakeholders fully satisfied with the services provided.
The AEC conducted AusAID-funded electoral support programs in Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Bhutan and a number of Pacific islands.
In 2012–13, the AEC provided secretariat services to the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators’ Network (PIANZEA), hosted two PIANZEA work placements, and began delivery of the AusAID-funded support program set for 2012–15.
In February 2013, the AEC hosted the South Asian Civic, Electoral and Voter Education Forum in Bangkok for Nepal and neighbouring South Asian countries.
The AEC delivers capability development assistance in Indonesia through a partnership arrangement with the Indonesian General Election Commission, the Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU). With an AEC employee based in Jakarta and a small team of locally engaged staff, the AEC’s activities in 2012–13 included:
The AEC assisted Secretáriado Técnico de Administração Eleitoral (STAE) and the Comissão Nacional de Eleições (CNE), the election management bodies in Timor-Leste, prepare for parliamentary elections on 7 July 2012.
In August 2012, at the time of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Election, the AEC delivered:
Additionally, the AEC supported Timor-Leste officers:
The AEC continues to provide technical assistance to the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission (PNGEC) as part of the ‘Twinning Program’, funded by AusAID. In 2012–13, AEC assistance included:
In 2012–13, the AEC assisted the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) with ongoing operation of the Nepalese Electoral Education and Information Centre (EEIC) in Kathmandu. Two AEC staff attended an EEIC review and planning workshop in Dhulikhel, Nepal in October 2012.
As the Australian Partner Organisation for three Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development working in the EEIC, the AEC provided pre-deployment briefings, ongoing support and mentoring.
The AEC’s activities in Bhutan in 2012–13 included:
As part of the AEC’s involvement in the PIANZEA Network, in 2012–13, the AEC assisted the Tongan Electoral Commission with town and district elections.
In July 2012, the AEC helped conduct a three-day training and subsequent pilot of a voter education program in Vanuatu.
The AEC also attended the:
In 2012–13, the AEC continued its collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance to host international study from African and Asia-Pacific electoral administration bodies. Funded by AusAID, there were four study groups held at the AEC to enhance the knowledge and skills of participants to administer elections in Africa. International participants came from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Federated States of Micronesia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Each study group included up to 17 international participants.
The AEC hosted international delegations, including a study visit of four election officials from Mongolia, five election officials from Bangladesh and parliamentary delegations from Vietnam and Argentina.
The AEC works with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and AusAID to deliver international activities. AusAID primarily funds the AEC’s international activities under a strategic partnership agreement and umbrella ‘record of understanding’. In 2012–13, the AEC worked closely with other providers of international electoral assistance, including the:
The AEC receives expert advice from eminent researchers and experts in the Australian electoral system through the Electoral Commissioner’s Advisory Board on Electoral Research (CABER). Established in 2010, CABER fosters a connection between the AEC and the electoral research community. This helps better plan the AEC’s research activity and improve the delivery of electoral services. CABER membership is:
On advice from CABER the AEC: