The Greens’ Democracy for Sale Project has been designed to make it easy for you to search for data on political donations. All the data comes from the Transparency Register operated by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
The Transparency Register is designed to provide raw data and lacks the ability to aggregate donations between party groups and readily compare it with industries and corporations. Democracy for Sale exists so users can undertake in-depth and comparative research on political donations.
Democracy for Sale has a mirror of the AEC source information right back to when records began in 1998, and we’ve worked to make sense of the data, tidying up company names, streamlining party names, and categorising the special interest groups.
Each financial year’s donation data is publicly available from the AEC on the first working day in February of the following year. A dedicated team of volunteers work to get Democracy for Sale live with the latest data as soon as possible thereafter.
AEC disclosure thresholds
The AEC requires donations over the threshold to be disclosed, with a rate that rises rising yearly according to CPI. Donations under this amount may be declared voluntarily by individuals, parties, corporations, groups and organisations.
Disclosure Threshold for FY2023 – $15,200
AEC disclosure thresholds – comparison table FY2006 – FY2023
How we categorise donations
We aim to ensure all donors who have given over $100,000 cumulatively since 1998, and have publicly available information on which to inform a category, have been categorised. Originally, all companies were categorised as ‘unknown’. Over time our project team carefully work through categorising the donors. Please refer to the detailed descriptions of the categories for a guide to our process.
Information about the principal activity of a company is gathered from a number of sources. These sources include the Google search engine, Australian Corporate Information, the websites of various professional groups such as Advertising Agencies Online, Australian Stock Exchange, John Fairfax archives, the Australian Business Register, the Bloomberg database and finally the Australian Securities and Investment Commission website. As a last resort when information about a company couldn’t be ascertained from the internet, we rang companies for information.
Financial Disclosure data from the Australian Electoral Commission has been collected, aggregated and uploaded to D4S for every financial year since 1998. The data is primarily taken from party returns.
Parties classify incoming payments each year into “donations” and “other receipts”.
- “Donations” are defined narrowly by the AEC as simple gifts
- “Other receipts” include all other money received by the party – interest from bank accounts, insurance claims paid to the party, sponsorship of party functions and organisations, money received from fund-raising dinners, raffle tickets sold at fundraising events, etc.
This is a major loophole in the current legislation. There is no legal obligation for parties to accurately classify the money they receive each year. Analysis of the donation data shows that just relying on what is declared to be a “donation” will more than likely underestimate the amount of money actually donated to a political party. This is the case as parties and candidates can declare money they receive and then spend on their election campaign as an “other receipt”. Also the AEC sets out in their guidelines that money received at fundraisers is to be classified by parties as “other receipts”.
Given this, we have chosen to upload “other receipt” payments and give the user of this website the option to search for them. We have filtered out payments from the AEC, ATO and money identified as MPs’ tithes (you can edit the filters if you want to explore the data).
Where a donor has declared an amount but the recipient has declared the amount as an other receipt, we have relied on the accuracy of the recipient’s return and classified the amount as an other receipt. Where a donor has declared an amount, but the recipient has not declared it at all, we have classified that as a donation.
In cases where both a donor and a recipient (that is a party) have lodged a disclosure form an entry is only made once. If the two entries are not the same the greater of the two amounts is entered in the database.
We make every effort to ensure the integrity of the data through random spot checks and double-checking our decisions before making a change to our database.
Source Data from AEC Transparency Register: Political Parties & Annual Donors.
If you have any enquiries into the project, have a correction to the data, or have information that can help us categorise a company that is listed as non-categorised feel free to contact us.
Please feel free to contact Larissa’s office with any questions or corrections to the data.
Phone: 07 3367 0566