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Caps on electoral expenditure

At New South Wales state and local government elections, there are limits on the amount that political participants can spend on campaigning.

These limits are called ‘electoral expenditure caps’ and there are important rules that apply.

Electoral expenditure caps apply during the capped expenditure period for an election. The caps apply to the electoral expenditure of political parties and their associated entities, candidates, groups of candidates, and third-party campaigners.

‘Electoral expenditure’ means expenditure to promote or oppose a political party or the election of a candidate or candidates. For third-party campaigners, the promotion or opposition of a political party or candidate must be the dominant purpose of the expenditure.

It’s unlawful to incur electoral expenditure in the capped expenditure period that exceeds the applicable cap.

The capped expenditure period for each election, as well as the specific caps that apply, and the rules around how to calculate expenditure, can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission’s website.

There are many different types of electoral expenditure that the caps apply to. Some common examples are:

  • expenditure on the production and distribution of electoral material (such as ‘how to vote’ cards, and advertising on TV, radio, or social media)

  • expenditure used to employ campaign staff.

For the purpose of caps on electoral expenditure for election campaigns, the following exemptions apply:

  • The cost of expenditure incurred on travel and travel accommodation for candidates and staff engaged in electoral campaigning. (Note: this does not apply to expenditure incurred in connection with a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft decorated with or displaying advertising or electoral material for a candidate or party – which must be included in the calculation of electoral expenditure counted towards the caps).

  • The cost of expenditure incurred for office accommodation for a single campaign office for a candidate or a party engaged in an election campaign, including for the campaign headquarters of a party, but only to a maximum amount of $20,000 for the capped expenditure period for an election. For the 2024 Local Government elections, the capped expenditure period is 1 July to 14 September. (Note: such costs over $20,000 must be included in the calculation of electoral expenditure counted towards the caps).

  • The cost of expenditure incurred in raising funds for an election. 

The amounts that are exempt from the expenditure caps must still be disclosed as electoral expenditure. 

The NSW Electoral Commission monitors compliance with the laws applicable to expenditure caps and, if a breach is found, can recover up to twice the value of expenditure incurred that exceeds the cap. Other penalties can also apply.

Aggregation rules apply to the caps on electoral expenditure of candidates within the same group, and candidates and groups of the same political party, at state elections and local government elections.

Find out what you need to know about caps on electoral expenditure