Victoria's Electoral Act 2002 provides public funding for eligible independent candidates.
What is public funding?
Public funding is public money administered by the VEC and paid to eligible registered political parties (RPPs) and eligible independent candidates.
The amount of the entitlement is based on the number of first preference votes the candidate(s) receive.
What makes an independent candidate eligible for public funding?
Independent candidates who receive at least 4% of first preference votes or are elected in a State election are eligible to receive public funding.
When is an independent candidate eligible for public funding?
An independent candidate is entitled to public funding once they or their agent (if applicable) apply for public funding. To apply, they must submit a statement of expenditure specifying the amounts the candidate spent or incurred expenditure in relation to the election. The statement of expenditure must be accompanied by an audit certificate from an independent auditor.
The audit certificate must state that the auditor:
- was given full and free access at all reasonable times to all accounts, records, documents and papers relating directly or indirectly to any matter required to be specified in the statement of expenditure
- examined the material referred to in paragraph 1 for the purpose of giving the certificate
- received all information and explanations that the auditor requested in respect of any matter required to be specified in the statement of expenditure
- has no reason to believe that any matter stated in the statement of expenditure is not correct.
The independent auditor can use this audit certificate template (PDF).
An independent candidate who was eligible to receive funding for the immediately preceding election may also be eligible to receive public funding in advance for the next election.
To apply for public funding, including applying for advance public funding, the independent candidate or their agent must apply in writing to the VEC Funding and Disclosure Unit within 20 weeks of the day of the election.
If a statement of expenditure is not provided, the independent candidate will not be entitled to public funding.
There are penalties of up to 300 penalty units or two years' imprisonment for giving false or misleading information in a statement.
How much public funding is an independent candidate entitled to?
The amount of public funding an independent candidate is entitled to receive is based on:
- their audited statement of expenditure for the previous election
- the number of votes they received
- legislated amounts of public funding.
The legislation prescribes that independent candidates may also choose to receive advance public funding for the 2022 State election. The amount that an eligible independent candidate can receive in advance is based on:
- the number of first preference votes the candidate received at the previous State election
- whether the candidate ran for the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council
- funding amounts that are indexed annually according to the Consumer Price Index. To view the current amounts, visit our Indexation page.
The amount paid to an independent candidate who chooses to receive advance public funding will be calculated based on the number of votes they received at the previous State election and the amounts payable for the next election.
Once the next election occurs, a reassessment of the entitlement amount will be calculated based on the actual number of votes received, taking into consideration the above eligibility requirements.
If the statement of expenditure for that election shows the independent candidate spent less than the amount paid in public funding (after the reassessment), we will:
- deduct the difference from the next instalment of public funding
- request for the difference to be repaid.
If after the election, an independent candidate is entitled to more than the public funding they received in advance, and their statement of expenditure shows that they spent more than the revised entitlement amount, we will pay the independent candidate the difference.
For more information, see What if an independent candidate is overpaid because they are paid in advance?
How and when will an independent candidate receive payments of public funding?
We pay public funding within 30 days of receiving a completed statement of expenditure and audit certificate from the previous election.
We pay in advance in four instalments as follows:
- 40% within 30 days of receipt of the audited statement of expenditure
- subsequent 20% payment instalments issued in April in the second, third and fourth years of the election period.
Public funding may be paid directly or through an independent candidate's appointed agent.
Payments for public funding must be paid into the State campaign account(s).
If an independent candidate is overpaid as a result of the advance payments, we can ask for the amount to be repaid or reduce the amount of the next public funding payment.
An independent candidate may be overpaid for a few reasons, including:
- they did not receive as many first preference votes at an election as they did in the previous election
- they did not achieve the minimum 4% of first preference votes required to be eligible for the public funding and they were not elected
- they decided not to run in the next election
- they did not spend as much on this State election campaign as they did on their previous campaign
- they did not provide a valid statement of expenditure by the due date.
What if an independent candidate is underpaid because they are paid in advance?
If an independent candidate is underpaid as a result of the advance payments, we will pay the balance within 30 days of receipt of the candidate's audited statement of expenditure.
An independent candidate may be underpaid if they receive more votes than they did in the previous election.
Could an independent candidate's public funding be reduced?
If an independent candidate accepts a prohibited political donation, their public funding will be reduced by twice the amount of the prohibited political donation.
Prohibited donations are those:
- above the general cap
- from a foreign donor
- above the disclosure threshold from an anonymous donor.
What can and can't an independent candidate use public funding for?
Public funding must be paid into the State campaign account(s).
Public funding may be spent on political or electoral expenditure. This may include:
- office accommodation for election campaigns
- staff employed for election campaigns (including time spent setting-up for promotions)
- equipment for election campaigns (e.g. IT systems, vehicles, office stationery, etc.)
- interest charges on loans for election campaigns
- utilities for election campaigns
- travel related to election campaigns
- advertising related to election campaigns (including production, distribution, publishing, etc.).
The second, third and fourth instalment payments of advance public funding cannot be used as security or collateral for a loan.