Thursday 27 October 2022
For immediate release
In August 2022, the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) was alerted to a fundraising website operated by, or on behalf of, the Liberal Party of Australia – Victorian Division (Liberal Party). The website adopted the tagline ‘Ditch Dan’ and has been discussed widely in the media.
The VEC contacted senior party officials at the time and sought assurances that the Liberal Party would comply with its obligations under Victoria’s electoral law.
These obligations include:
- a ban on political donations from overseas donors
- no anonymous donations above the disclosure threshold of $1080
- both donors and recipients of donations above the disclosure threshold must disclose the donation within 21 days of making or receiving the donations.
Political donations are also capped at $4320 for any single donor to any single recipient over the 4-year period leading into the 2022 State election. Donations to registered political parties include donations to any candidate or elected member who is a member of that political party.
Party officials provided the necessary assurances.
The VEC monitored the activity on the website and continued to compare this with political donations disclosed. As a result of this work, the VEC commenced an investigation into the fundraising campaign. This investigation has been underway for some time now.
During the investigation, VEC compliance officers used lawful powers to issue written notices to compel information from individuals and entities associated with the fundraising campaign. These written notices ordinarily require responses within 14 days. However, individuals and entities exercised their lawful right to request reviews of the written notices, which means — even if the notice is affirmed — it may be up to 8 weeks before any information is received from the written notice.
The VEC will not disclose particulars about who has been issued a written notice, and any information requested.
Based on the investigation to date, the VEC acknowledges that the matter will not be resolved prior to next month’s State election.
The VEC makes no allegation of an offence at this stage and will not risk prejudicing the investigation by making further comment.
Why do investigations take so long?
VEC compliance officers can issue written notices to compel information from individuals and entities. This notice ordinarily requires a response within 14 days. Any person compelled to provide information using these powers has a right to request, in writing, a review of the notice by the Electoral Commissioner.
Where the right of review is exercised, the Electoral Commissioner may affirm, amend or set aside the request. If affirmed, the original request must then be reissued.
As a result, the process of requiring information as part of an investigation alone can take up to 8 weeks.
Information obtained by the VEC will often prompt the need to seek further information, usually through further written notices. Investigations must search for factual evidence that is admissible in a court of law. For these reasons, the VEC must not compromise its processes or rush to end an investigation.
Any information collected must be admissible in a court of law should a matter proceed to prosecution. The investigation process must also uphold the principles of natural justice, including the opportunity for those issued with a written notice to request a review.
The VEC will not be influenced by anyone seeking to either hasten or impede any investigation and its process.
Why won’t the VEC provide comment?
While the VEC may confirm it is investigating it won’t provide any details of an investigation if it is likely to prejudice that investigation or any court process. To do so could mean that evidence could be excluded or, in the worst case, lead to the dismissal of a matter at court before it can be properly determined. Providing public details of an active investigation also risks compromising a person’s presumption of innocence.
The VEC’s primary function is to deliver democratic and fair elections for the people of Victoria. The VEC also takes its secondary function as a regulator seriously and has published its regulatory approach on the VEC website.
The VEC is not influenced by the role, status, ambition, membership, or beliefs of any person in the undertaking of its regulatory role.
What does the VEC ask for from the Victorian community?
If anyone has factual and relevant evidence regarding this investigation or any other allegation of an offence against the Electoral Act 2002, they can report it to the VEC through our online complaints form.