Chapter 1 - Introduction

  1. Introduction
    1. Conducting a review of the most recent Federal election is standard practice for the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (the Committee), with a review of every election since the 1987 federal election which elected the 33rd Parliament.
    2. On 29 July 2022, the Special Minister of State, Senator the Hon Don Farrell, asked the Committee to inquire into and report on all aspects of the 2022 federal election. The Minister enclosed terms of reference, with several specific areas for the Committee to consider.
    3. Evidence to the inquiry confirmed that Australia’s electoral system is strong, but it is clear that around the world democracies are being challenged and there is declining public trust in electoral systems. It is important we make sure our laws are fit for purpose in this evolving environment.
    4. Essentially, the terms of reference invite focus on three main areas:
  • Money: how money works in elections and how our elections are funded
  • Information: how voters get information in elections and how that is regulated
  • Participation: who gets to participate in our elections and how.
    1. This Interim Report focusses on terms of reference a-d. The final report will revisit these, as well as provide detailed consideration of terms of reference e-g.

Clear calls for change

1.6In preparation for this Interim Report, the Committee has focussed immediate attention on evidence and advice on the first two issues. Questions which arise about money can be simplified as:

  • how much is involved (in funding elections, parties, individuals)?
  • who gets it (individuals, entities, candidates, incumbents)?
  • from where does it come (donations, fundraising, government ie taxpayers)?
  • how is it received (public or private sources)?
  • who knows about it (disclosure, transparency)?
    1. Questions which arise around information can be simplified as:
  • To what extent is trust an issue in elections?
  • How is ‘truth’ judged?
  • What, or who, can the public trust as ‘reliable’, ‘accurate’, or ‘credible’?
  • What happens if ‘information’ is thought to be misleading or wrong?
  • Are there accountability mechanisms?
    1. Discussion and debate on these key questions have expanded over time, and particularly in the context of recent elections in Australia and globally.
    2. In this report, the Committee sets out the case for change. The Committee acknowledges the views of stakeholders who propose improvements which can be made from the outset, to strengthen the democratic principles and processes that are so clearly valued by Australian voters.
    3. In acknowledging the views of stakeholders, including legal and constitutional experts, the Committee has also been focussed on considering examples of reform, or administration, which are currently in place and operating with a degree of success elsewhere, including in Australian state or territory jurisdictions. The Committee has given careful attention to how these models might be adapted as needed, and adopted at the Commonwealth level.
    4. The Committee agrees that there are areas where clear and direct changes can be proposed, and where reforms will address some of the concerns raised, and has made recommendations accordingly.

Conduct of the inquiry to date

1.12At the time of this report’s writing, the Committee is continuing to gather evidence with a particular focus on terms of reference e-g, and notes that current and future evidence will inform the final report.

Activities and consultation

1.13A media release announcing the inquiry was issued on 5 August 2022, calling for submissions to be received by 7 October 2022.

1.14The Committee invited submissions from a number of relevant and interested parties, including political parties, government agencies, academics, non-government and civil society organisations, businesses, peak bodies, social media platforms and individuals.

A note on submissions received

1.15At the tabling of this interim report, the inquiry received 1,492 submissions and held nine public hearings which are listed at Appendix A and B respectively.

1.16The committee received a large number of emails generated as a result of campaigns from three sources: #OurDemocracy, Protect the Vote, and Liberal HQ.[1] In the interest of transparency these emails were accepted as submissions and authorised for publication. The Committee notes the strong public interest in Australia’s democracy, including in how elections are conducted.

Report structure

1.17Following the structure and format of previous reports which review federal elections, the Committee presents information received on this latest election and highlights areas where the case has been made for reform to be undertaken. The remainder of this introductory chapter presents facts and figures about the 2022 election.

1.18Chapter Two focusses on issues related to money. This includes political donations and disclosure, transparency, campaign expenditure, and the regulation of political campaigners and associated entities. As noted earlier, these are complex and highly intertwined issues and as such the Committee has tried to consider the system as a whole.

1.19Chapter Three explores trust in the electoral system and options for truth in political advertising.

1.20Chapter Four outlines electoral participation and lifting enfranchisement of Indigenous people, foreshadowing that the Committee is continuing to gather evidence on these matters for more detailed consideration in its final report.

Prior to the 2022 Election

Legislative change in the 46th Parliament

1.21During the 46th Parliament, twelve bills amending electoral legislation were passed.[2] Amendments included:

  • measures to make electoral processes more efficient, supporting an earlier result
  • assurance of the Senate counting system
  • introduction of ‘designated electors’, where suspected multiple voters could only cast a declaration vote
  • tightening the financial disclosure scheme
  • amendments to authorisation requirements
  • a higher bar for parties to be registered
  • contingency measures, including allowing voters in COVID-19 isolation to vote by telephone.[3]

The 2022 Election – in brief

1.22Members of the 47th Parliament of Australia were elected at the 2022 federal election, which took place on Saturday, 21 May 2022.

1.23The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) highlighted that the ‘2022 federal election was the biggest in our history’ adding:

It involved 17.2 million citizens, 105,000 temporary election staff and more voting options than ever before. We printed 59.4 million ballot papers, opened 8,479 voting locations and issued 2.7 million postal votes. More Australians voted than ever before, with 15.5 million votes cast.[4]

1.24The estimated enrolment rate for the 2022 federal election was very similar to 2019 federal election with 96.8 per cent of eligible voters enrolled to vote nationally. Turnout was slightly lower than the previous election:

  • House of Representatives turnout rate was 89.8 per cent (compared to 91.9 per cent in 2019)
  • Senate turnout rate was 90.5 per cent nationally (compared to 92.5 per cent in 2019).[5]
    1. In comparison with elections held in other countries during the pandemic, which saw markedly lower voter turnout rates, the voter turnout rate in Australia was ‘one of the best turnouts seen for a COVID election around the world.’[6]
    2. The AEC noted that ‘more people than ever cast formal votes in the 2022 federal election, meaning their ballot papers were marked correctly and counted toward the election results.’ In addition:
  • the national House of Representatives formality rate was 94.8 per cent (compared to 94.5 per cent in 2019)
  • the national Senate formality rate was 96.6 per cent (compared to 96.2 per cent in 2019).[7]
    1. The federal election was not however without its challenges; the ‘ever-changing pandemic environment, extreme weather events, concerns about mis- and disinformation, and substantive legislative changes on the doorstep of the event all combined to create a deeply complex and uncertain operating environment.’[8]

Election timeline

1.28The path to an election comprises a series of set deadlines. A timeline of election milestones is set out in Table 1.1 below.

Table 1.1Election timeline



Announcement of election

Postal vote applications opened

10 April 2022

Issue of the writs

11 April 2022

Close of the rolls

18 April 2022

Close of candidate bulk nominations

19 April 2022

Close of candidate nominations

21 April 2022

Declaration of nominations

22 April 2022

Preliminary scrutiny commences[9]

2 May 2022

Early voting commences

9 May 2022

Mobile voting commences

9 May 2022

Election advertising blackout commences

18 May 2022

Closure of postal vote applications

18 May 2022

Polling day

21 May 2022

Count of votes

21 May 2022

Last day for receipt of declaration votes

3 June 2022

Source: Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 Federal Election Timetable’, viewed 14 November 2022, <>.

2022 Election – funding and disclosure settings

1.29The Parliamentary Library’s quick guide Election funding and disclosure in Australian jurisdictions contains a reference table outlining the election funding and disclosure regulatory settings and thresholds for each jurisdiction, which is in Table 1.2 below.[10]

1.30Both the gift and loan disclosure thresholds are very comparable across five out of the nine jurisdictions listed. The anonymous donations threshold is also similar across six jurisdictions. During an election period in NSW donations must be disclosed within 21 days, and in Victoria donors and recipients must also disclose donations within 21 days. In comparison, South Australia requires the reporting of large gift (a gift with an amount or value in excess of $25,000) within 7 days[11]; and the ACT in the period from 36 days before polling day until 30 days after the election is declared (a gift with an amount or value in excess of $1,000 in the financial year) the disclosure must be made within seven days and within seven days of the end of the month after that period.[12] The rest of the requirements across Australia’s jurisdictions, particularly with donation and expenditure caps, vary widely.

Table 1.2Election funding and disclosure settings










Gift disclosure










Loan disclosure











Donation cap

(to party)




Donation cap



4 years

Donor returns



cap (max for








cap indexed

Per seat







caps for third






caps for


















Banned donor












Per vote public









Public funding

vote threshold








Public funding

capped to



funding (max)






Other public






21 days

21 days




5 days


reporting cycle









Source: Parliamentary Library, Research Paper Series, 2022-23, Election funding and disclosure in Australian jurisdictions: a quick guide, 6 December 2022, pp. 13-14.

2022 Election – current disclosure regime

1.31The current disclosure scheme requires the following entities to lodge annual or election returns with the AEC and other entities are only required to lodge returns if they meet certain conditions.

Table 1.3Financial disclosure of annual or election returns

Annual returns

Election returns

Political parties

Significant third parties[27]

Associated entities[28]

Members of the House of Representatives


Third parties[29]

Annual donors[30]


Senate groups[32]

Election donors[33]

Source: Australian Electoral Commission, ‘Financial disclosure’, viewed 22 December 2022, <>

1.32Annual returns must be lodged by:

  • registered political parties and their state and territory branches, significant third parties, and associated entities – 20 October each year
  • MPs and senators who receive one or more gifts for federal purposes – 17November each year.
  • third parties that incur electoral expenditure above the disclosure threshold – 17 November each year.[34]
    1. Annual returns by political parties, significant third parties, associated entities, members of the House of Representatives, senators, third parties, and donors are available to the public before the end of the first business day in February each year after the return is provided. Federal election returns by candidates, Senate groups and donors are available before the end of 24 weeks after polling day.[35]

2022 Election - funding from AEC

1.34Parties and candidates who received at least 4 per cent of the formal first preference vote at the 2022 federal election received an automatic payment of election funding of $10,656. This initial payment amount was provided pursuant to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and is an indexed figure:

To receive election funding greater than the automatic payment, agents of eligible political parties and candidates were required to lodge a claim with the AEC setting out electoral expenditure incurred. For the 2022 federal election, the period for lodging a claim for election funding was 10 June 2022 to 20 November 2022.[36]

1.35Total election funding paid by the AEC in relation to the 2022 federal election was $75,876,944.42. Political parties were paid $73,984,748.25 and $1,892,196.17 was paid to independent candidates.[37]

1.36This amount includes $713,952 in automatic payments and $75,162,992.42 in claims accepted by the AEC.[38]

Table 1.4Election funding payments by the AEC to political parties

Political Party

Total 2022 Election Funding Paid

Australian Labor Party - Federal


Liberal Party of Australia


The Australian Greens - Victoria


Pauline Hanson's One Nation


The Greens NSW


National Party of Australia-NSW


Queensland Greens


United Australia Party


Australian Greens


The Greens WA Inc


National Party of Australia - Victoria


Liberal Democratic Party


Country Liberal Party NT


David Pocock


Katter's Australian Party (KAP)


Jacqui Lambie Network


Centre Alliance


Kim for Canberra


Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party


National Party of Australia (WA) Inc


Victorian Socialists


Legalise Cannabis Australia


The Great Australian Party


Socialist Alliance


Indigenous - Aboriginal Party of Australia


The Local Party of Australia




Source: Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 Federal Election: Election funding payments finalised’, viewed 22 February 2023, <>

Table 1.5Election funding payments by the AEC to Independent Candidates

Political Party

Total 2022 Election Funding Paid

Zali Steggall


Helen Mary Haines


Monique Ryan


Sophie Scamps


Zoe Daniel


Allegra May Spender


Katherine Ella Chaney


Andrew Wilkie


Carolyn Gai Heise


Dai Le


Kylea Jane Tink


Rob Priestly


Kathleen Louise Hook


Nicolette Boele


Alex Dyson


Penny Ackery


Georgia Steele


Hanabeth Luke


Jack Dempsey


Liz Habermann


Deb Leonard


Sophie Kate Baldwin


Claire Ferres Miles


Jamie Christie


Suzanne Holt


Matthew Sharpham


Joanne Elizabeth Dyer


Despina O'Connor


Kirstie Smolenski


Stuart Bonds


Steve Attkins


Craig Anthony Garland


Sarah Joan Russell


Timothy Bohm


Kelli Jacobi


Stewart Brooker


James Laurie


Nina Digiglio


Jarrod James Bingham


Duncan Scott


George Razay




Source: Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 Federal Election: Election funding payments finalised’, viewed 22 February 2023, <>

2022 Election - financial disclosure returns

1.37The financial disclosure returns for the 2022 federal election cover donations, electoral expenditure, and discretionary benefits by candidates and unendorsed (or jointly endorsed) Senate groups that contested the 2022 federal election.[39]

Of the 1,624 candidates who contested the federal election, a total of 1,590 have lodged returns. Of these, 1,001 candidates lodged nil returns.

In addition, 14 Senate group returns were lodged, seven of which were nil returns. A further 65 donor returns were also lodged.[40]


[1]#OurDemocracy, viewed on 20 December 2022, <>; Protect the Vote, viewed on 20 December 2022,; Correspondence from Liberal HQ, 30 September 2022, Authorised by A. Hirst for the Liberal Party of Australia.

[2]Electoral Amendment (Territory Representation) 2020; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) 2020; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Annual Disclosure Equality) 2021; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Assurance of Senate Counting) 2021; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Contingency Measures) 2021; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Counting, Scrutiny and Operational Efficiencies) 2021; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Offences and Preventing Multiple Voting) 2021; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Party Registration Integrity) 2021; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) 2021; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Authorisations) 2022; Electoral Legislation Amendment (COVID Enfranchisement) 2022; Electoral Legislation Amendment (Foreign Influences and Offences) 2022.

[3]Australian Electoral Commission, Submission 330, p. 10.

[4]Australian Electoral Commission, Committee Hansard, 28 September 2022, p. 1.

[5]Australian Electoral Commission, Submission 330, p. 12.

[6]Australian Electoral Commission, Submission 330, p. 12; Australian Electoral Commission, Committee Hansard, 28 September 2022, p. 3.

[7]Australian Electoral Commission, Submission 330, p. 12.

[8]Australian Electoral Commission, Committee Hansard, 28 September 2022, p. 1.

[9]Preliminary scrutiny is conducted to ensure that a person lodging a postal vote certificate or declaration envelope is entitled to vote. No ballot paper is opened or scrutinised prior to the close of the poll at 6pm on election day.

[10]Indexed amounts are per the last advice published by the relevant electoral commission.

[11]Electoral Commission South Australia, ‘Funding and disclosure - state elections’, viewed 6 April 2023, <>

[12]Elections ACT, ‘New campaign finance laws in the ACT - from 1 July 2021’, viewed 6 April 2023, <>

[13]For parties that have opted into the SA public funding scheme.

[14]Tasmanian Legislative Assembly elections only. Different rules apply for Legislative Council elections.

[15]A donation cap of $4,000 to parties and $6,000 to candidates during the period of one general election to the next general election.

[16]Property developers, gambling, tobacco, liquor industries or persons closely associated.

[17]Property developers.

[18]Property developers.

[19]For votes in the Legislative Assembly; a rate of $3.50 per vote applies in the Legislative Council.

[20]For votes in the Legislative Assembly; a rate of $3.24 per vote applies in the Legislative Council.

[21]An amount of $216,210 for the first member, $75,660 for the second and $37,850 for the third through 45th.

[22]Divided between eligible parties.

[23]An amount of $5,996.99 quarterly per MLA, with a total of 25 MLAs in the Assembly.

[24]Gifts over the disclosure threshold at any time must be reported within seven days.

[25]Expenditure only.

[26]Six monthly reporting in the year prior to the election, quarterly reporting in the first half of the election year and increased reporting frequency into the election period.

[27]A significant third party is a person or entity (other than a political entity, a member of the House of Representatives or a Senator) whose electoral expenditure exceeds $250,000 during that financial year or any one of the previous three financial years; or electoral expenditure is at least equal to the disclosure threshold during that financial year, and electoral expenditure during the previous financial year was at least one-third of the revenue of the person or entity for that year; or during that financial year the person or entity operates for the dominant purpose of fundraising amounts.

[28]An entity (other than a political entity) is an associated entity if any of the following apply in a financial year the entity is controlled; operates wholly, or to a significant extent; is a financial member; has voting rights by one or more registered political parties; he entity operates wholly, or to a significant extent, for the benefit of one or more disclosure entities, and the benefit relates to one or more electoral activities (whether or not the electoral activities are undertaken during an election period).

[29]A third party is a person or entity (other than a political entity or a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate) incurring electoral expenditure that is: more than the disclosure threshold during a financial year; but is not required to be registered as a significant third party.

[30]A donor is a person or entity (other than a political entity or associated entity) that during a financial year makes one or more donations totalling more than the disclosure threshold to: a registered political party or a State branch of a registered political party a significant third party any person or entity with the intention of benefiting a particular registered political party or a State branch of a registered political party or significant third party.

[31]For the purpose of disclosure, a person is taken to be a candidate in an election commencing from the earlier of the following days: 6 months before the day the person announced their candidacy; or 6 months before the day the person nominated as a candidate in an election; and ceases at the end of 30 days after polling day.

[32]A group is taken to be a Senate group in an election commencing from 6 months before the day the members of a group make a request under section 168 of the Electoral Act for their names to be grouped in the ballot papers for an election and ceases 30 days after polling day.

[33]A donor is a person or entity (other than a political entity or associated entity) that makes one or more donations totalling more than the disclosure threshold to: a candidate, or a member of a Senate group.

[34]Australian Electoral Commission, ‘Annual returns’, viewed 22 December 2022, <>

[35]Australian Electoral Commission, ‘Transparency Register’, viewed 22 December 2022, <>

[36]Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 Federal Election: Election funding payments finalised’, viewed 22 February 2023, <>

[37]Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 Federal Election: Election funding payments finalised’, viewed 22 February 2023, <>

[38]Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 Federal Election: Election funding payments finalised’, viewed 22 February 2023, <>

[39]Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 federal election financial disclosure returns published today’, viewed 22 February 2022, <>

[40]Australian Electoral Commission, ‘2022 federal election financial disclosure returns published today’, viewed 22 February 2022, <>

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 2374