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Court Strikes down NSW Electoral Funding Act Cap on Third-party Campaigns

In a unanimous decision the High Court held the Electoral Funding Act 2018 – which halved the amount third-party groups can spend on state campaigns – breached the Australian Constitution’s implied freedom of political communication.

The Electoral Funding Act cut the amount third-party groups could spend on election campaigns from just over $1 million to $500,000, but increased the amount political parties could spend to $11 million.

A group of unions led by peak body Unions NSW had positioned that setting lower caps for groups who do not run candidates in elections – such as unions and charities – was designed to hinder “disfavoured voices”.

Political donations made to political parties, elected members, candidates, groups of candidates, associated entities and third-party campaigners are capped in New South Wales. Indirect campaign contributions made to parties, elected members, groups and candidates are capped in New South Wales. The caps apply to local government elections, State elections and other electoral purposes. Caps differ depending on the type of electoral participant and there are a number of exemptions that apply.

The NSW election will be held on 23 March.

For more information on political donations visit the NSW Electoral Commission website.