Newsletter 01: 07 Nov 2019

Electoral Act changes

The latest changes to the Electoral Act have passed through the Northern Territory Parliament and will come into force from 1 January 2020.

View information sheets

Third party campaigners and associated entities

The amendments to political disclosure extend the scheme to cover third party campaigners. The Act imposes new requirements for disclosures by third party campaigners and caps electoral expenditure for associated entities.

Third party campaigners and associated entities will be required to register with the Northern Territory Electoral Commission (NTEC). The register will be available on the NTEC website next year.

Caps on electoral expenditure

The reforms introduce an indexed $40,000 cap on electoral expenditure per seat, with a pooled cap for political parties (shared with associated entities). This means the maximum cap for political parties with candidates in all 25 seats will be $1 million. A cap on electoral expenditure works towards the objective of levelling the playing field across all candidates.

The cap on electoral expenditure does not include travel and accommodation so as not to constrain the travel of candidates contesting rural and remote electorates.

At general elections, the cap will apply in election years from 1 January to 30 days after Election Day (September 21). An expenditure report is required from independent candidates and registered parties (which covers the party, endorsed candidates and associated entities). Third party campaigners are not subject to an expenditure cap, but are required to report on their political expenditure.

Political donations

The amendments also focus on increasing the transparency of political donations, particularly in election years, to maximise the availability of up-to-date donation information that can be accessed by the public before and during the voting period.

Under the amendments, candidates, parties, associated entities and third party campaigners will be required to submit the following returns that will be made public:

  • two quarterly reports during the period 1 January to 30 June
  • a report prior to the early voting period from 1 July to the day the writ is issued (30 July for 2020 election)
  • a report prior to election day from the day after the writ is issued to 17 days after that
  • a post-election report from 18 days after the writ is issued to 30 days after election day.

Strengthened routine disclosure requirements

Candidates and donors to candidates will have a new requirement to provide annual returns disclosing gifts received or provided over the financial year.

The timeframes for registered parties and associated entities to submit annual returns has been shortened from 16 weeks (or 112 days) to 60 days to ensure that voters have access to more recent information.

Transitional arrangements for 2020 election

All new provisions in the Act will commence 1 January 2020. Existing obligations in the Electoral Act 2004 relating to the disclosure of gifts under sections 191 (candidates), 192 (persons incurring political expenditure) and 193 (donations to candidates) will end on 31 December 2019.

Non-financial reforms

The Act also includes non-financial reforms which aim to streamline and contemporise voting and electoral processes. Key reforms include extending the election timetable by four days; provisional on-the-day voting; aligning voting provisions for early, mobile and Election Day voting; and clarifying campaign material requirements. Further details on these changes will be included in future editions of the newsletter.

Enrolment

Remote enrolment

Field staff within the Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development will visit communities across the Territory giving people the opportunity to enrol (or update their enrolment details) and learn more about the voting process.

The staff will have a copy of the electoral roll and data to assist in targeting community members to enrol or update details. This program proved highly successful in the run up to the May Federal election and will continue in the lead-up to the 2020 Territory Election.

The LG field teams are scheduled to visit the following remote communities in November. Please note dates of visits may change due to operational reasons.

DateCommunity
Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Minjilang (Croker Island), Warruwi (Goulburn Island), Pigeon Hole, Imanpa, Nyirripi
Thursday, 7 November 2019Minjilang (Croker Island), Finke (Apatula)
Friday, 8 November 2019 Minjilang (Croker Island), Nganmarriyanga (Palumpa), Peppimenarti
Wednesday, 13 November 2019Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji), Lajamanu (Hooker Creek)
Monday, 18 November 2019Bulman, Weemol
Wednesday, 20 November 2019Mount Liebig (Amundurrngu)
Thursday, 21 November 2019Papunya
Monday, 25 November 2019Barunga
Wednesday, 27 November 2019Nauiyu (Daly River)

Enrolment statistics

Possibly the greatest challenge for the NTEC in the run up to the 2020 election will be getting more Territorians to enrol and then to vote. This is particularly the case in the remote regions and with Aboriginal Territorians.

As at 30 September the AEC figures show there were 140,064 on the electoral roll with just over 26,000 eligible Territorians who are not enrolled. This equates to 84.9% of eligible Territorians enrolled compared to a national average of 96.8%. While the NT accounts for less than 1% of the national roll we account for over 5% of the electors not enrolled.

As at 30 June there were over 16,000 eligible Aboriginal Territorians not on the electoral roll. The estimated enrolment rate of Aboriginal Territorians is 68.2%, this compares to a national enrolment participation rate of 76.6%. Since January there has been almost 4,000 new enrolments in the Northern Territory with just under half of those recorded in the months leading up to the 18 May Federal election.

As a number or percentage there are more Territorians on the electoral roll than ever before. At the 2016 election there were 135,506 enrolled Territorians representing 83% of eligible electors.  Federal Direct Enrolment Update (FDEU) or ‘automatic enrolment’ has been very effective in increasing enrolment in urban centres (FDEU only operates areas with reliable mail delivery and in the NT includes Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine and Alice Springs). The following documents show the growth in enrolment since the 2016 election has been in urban divisions that have increased by 4,993, while rural divisions have decreased by 351 and remote divisions have decreased by 811.

Targeted SMS and email messaging

In February 2019, in the lead up to the Federal election, the Australian Electoral Commission sent 10,680 targeted SMS and email messages to Territorians (7067 self-identified Aboriginal and 3613 non-Aboriginal) who were believed to be unenrolled. This resulted in 359 new enrolments (187 self-identified Aboriginal, 172 non-Aboriginal). The response rate in the NT was 3.4% while nationally the initiative generated a 6.9% response rate.

It's important that electors include their contact details on their enrolment to ensure election messaging reaches them. The Northern Territory Electoral Commission uses SMS and email messaging throughout an election to convey important information about enrolment, voting centre locations and opening times.

'Why vote' video

'Why vote' video

A consistent theme coming through post-election remote surveys is that voting is a waste of time and doesn’t make any difference. As part of the strategy to educate remote Territorians a short animated video has been produced explaining that their vote is important and how it can make a difference.

The setting for the video is a football match in a remote community where the local ground has lights. The intention is to show a simple way in which voting could make a difference for communities.

View the video below and let us know what you think by emailing us at: ntec@nt.gov.au

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