State electoral commission investigates cases of suspected under-reporting of political donations

By Jackson Graham

December 16, 2021

man-phone-stairs of parliament house victoria
(dglimages/Adobe)

Potential cases of under-reporting of political donations are being investigated by the Victorian Electoral Commission after new laws came into effect three years ago. 

The state government introduced the laws in 2018, with every donation over $1040 now required to be disclosed. The legislation also capped individual donors giving more than $4000 over a four-year parliamentary term, and banned foreign donations. 

The VEC said it has made inquiries into “a number of matters” reflecting potential under-reporting in the past year. 

The allegations include failures to provide disclosure returns, donors providing false or misleading information, and donors failing to provide an annual return.

“Over the last calendar year, a number of notices have been issued by compliance officers,” a VEC spokesperson told The Mandarin

“No charges have been issued against persons alleged to have committed offences … however the information received is currently part of ongoing and open investigations.

“These investigations are ongoing and the VEC does not discuss specific details of active matters.” 

The law carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for avoiding the requirement to disclose funding. 

The VEC’s disclosure website lists 153 donations that have amounted to $362,149 in total funds received across all political parties since November 2018. 

The VEC did not record political donations prior to 2018, and it is unclear how much political donations were contributing to state electoral purposes before the laws began. 

In line with previous years, the Victorian branches of major parties received millions of dollars in payments including donations worth hundreds of thousands in 2019-20, the most recent available returns to the Australian Electoral Commission show. 

However, the VEC pointed out these donations did not need to be disclosed to the VEC if the money was received by the Victorian branches for commonwealth electoral purposes. 

“The disclosure returns provided to the AEC and to the VEC are, and should be expected to be, quite different,” the VEC’s spokesperson said.  

After the coming November 2022 election, an independent review will scrutinise the effectiveness of the political funding and disclosure laws. 

“The review will be conducted by an independent expert panel, which will provide recommendations in relation to the relevant provisions within 12 months after the next state election,” the VEC spokesperson said. 

The commission is also in the process of redeveloping its disclosures system to ensure better “capability, compliance, and functionality”. 

“Ahead of the 2022 state election, the VEC is focused on increased engagement and working on educational opportunities with reporting entities to ensure maximum compliance and understanding in advance of the election,” the spokesperson said.


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