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Enforcing electoral and lobbying laws

It is the statutory function of the NSW Electoral Commission to enforce contraventions of electoral and lobbying laws in New South Wales. Prosecutions of electoral funding offences also cannot be commenced by any other person without the consent of the NSW Electoral Commission. 

Identifying contraventions

Contraventions of electoral and lobbying laws that require enforcement action may be identified from different sources:

  • A compliance audit undertaken by an officer of the Commission 

  • A referral from political participants or members of the public (see report an allegation

  • Reporting by the media or from our own review of public information sources 

  • A referral from another government agency 

Apparent contraventions are reviewed in accordance with our Compliance and Enforcement Policy and Procedures. If we have reasonable grounds to suspect a contravention, we have the power to compel a person to produce documents, provide information, answer questions and attend an interview, or to conduct searches of certain premises.

The NSW Electoral Commission has also issued formal guidelines under section 152 of the Electoral Funding Act 2018, which may have binding application in some cases and must also be taken into account by the Electoral Commission when making decisions under the Act.

Enforcement actions and procedures

When the NSW Electoral Commission is satisfied the law has been contravened, we may take a number of enforcement actions such as:

  • Issue a warning or an education letter 

  • Issue a caution under the Fines Act 

  • Issue a penalty notice 

  • Recover the value of an unlawful donation or electoral expenditure incurred unlawfully 

  • Suspend or cancel the registration of a third-party lobbyist 

  • Place a lobbyist on the Lobbyists’ Watch List 

  • Prosecute in a court (including where the recipient of a penalty notice has elected not to pay a penalty)

Where the NSW Electoral Commission has decided to prosecute a matter in court, or commence proceedings for the recovery of unlawful donations or electoral expenditure, the NSW Electoral Commission’s Legal team will instruct the New South Wales Crown Solicitor. The Director, Compliance is the named prosecutor. 

Statistical information about the NSW Electoral Commission’s enforcement activities, and information about matters prosecuted in court, must be published annually and tabled in the New South Wales Parliament. This direct relationship with the New South Wales Parliament reflects the independence and impartiality of the Electoral Commission and the integrity of its law enforcement activities.