Electoral expenditure by political parties has increased 144% in 20 years, according to new research by the Centre for Public Integrity.

Analysis of total payments disclosed by parties to the Australian Electoral Commission, with adjustments made for routine expenses and inflation, show that election year spending by Australian political parties increased 144% from approximately $124 million in 1998-99 to $302 million in 2018-19.

The analysis also finds:

  • Over the period Coalition estimated real electoral expenditure increased 80.7%, ALP estimated real electoral expenditure increased 50.4% and minor party expenditure increased tenfold
  • Estimated real electoral expenditure peaked in the 2019 election with the Coalition spending $116.5 million, ALP spending approximately $74.5 million, Clive Palmer spending $92.2 million and other parties spending approximately $18.8 million
  • Major party total real payments have increased inequitably, with Coalition spending increasing 70.6% and ALP spending increasing 24.3%
  • The introduction of spending caps in NSW resulted in a 42% cut in real ALP electoral expenditure from $22.9 million in 2007 to $13.3 million in 2011
  • The introduction of spending caps in Queensland and ACT producing cuts in major party electoral expenditure of 52% and 29% respectively

“Elections are becoming an arms race. The 2019 election set the record with more than $300 million being spent in the campaign,” said the Hon Anthony Whealy KC, the Chair of the Centre for Public Integrity.

“Campaign spending has increased 144% over 20 years and will keep increasing if we don’t act. Our democracy is at risk of being bought out by the highest bidder,” said Mr Whealy.

“We urgently need campaign spending caps, donation caps and real time disclosure to stop our elections becoming political auctions,” said the Hon Michael Barker KC, a member of the Centre for Public Integrity.

“At a state level campaign spending caps have cut spending by half and levelled the playing field. The Commonwealth currently has the weakest laws regulating money in politics,” said Mr Barker.

Read the research in full here