Parliament passes new electoral finance laws

  • Simon Power

Parliament today voted overwhelmingly to pass new electoral finance laws to govern next year’s General Election.

The Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act passed its third reading 116 votes to 5.

Justice Minister Simon Power said the new Act fulfils an election promise to repeal Labour’s 2007 Electoral Finance Act and replace it through a process which involves all parliamentary parties and the public.

“One of the most important aspects of the new regime is the process we used to construct it,” Mr Power said.

“That’s why we completed four rounds of consultation to ensure the rules which govern election spending are fair, transparent, workable and, most importantly, enduring.

“I’m pleased with the constructive engagement we received from the public and other political parties in order to build broad consensus on electoral finance laws.”

The Act:

· Adds a new definition of ’regulated period’ to avoid retrospective application. The refinement is likely to result in a regulated period of approximately three months, compared with up to 11 months under the Electoral Finance Act 2007.

· Modernises the definition of ‘election advertisement’ so it is media neutral and has clear exemptions, including for editorial information and personal views published on the Internet.

· Clarifies that Parliamentary Service funding is not available for an election advertisement published during the regulated period.

· Includes minor increases to the amount of money that political parties and candidates can spend on election advertising, which has not changed since 1995.

· Requires more transparency about the identity of promoters on election advertisements and stricter rules about who can authorise election advertisements.

· Requires parties to disclose the number and total amount of donations in bands.

· Establishes a regime for third-party promoters:

o Requiring people who spend more than $12,000 (GST included) on parallel campaigning to register with the Electoral Commission. The register will be publicly available.

o Requiring expense returns from those who spend more than $100,000 (GST included) on election advertising during the regulated period.

o Prohibiting third-party promoters from spending more than $300,000 (GST included) each on election advertising during the regulated period. This is more than double the limit under the 2007 law.

“I’m confident this bill strikes the right balance between fairness and participation in electoral debate.”

The new electoral finance laws form one part of the Government’s package of electoral reforms, which include a referendum on the voting system and the establishment of a new one-stop-shop Electoral Commission.

Further information about the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Act, including Cabinet papers, can be found here.

Frequently asked questions about electoral finance can be found at

Previous announcements on electoral finance can be found here.