A campaign donation return is a record of gifts, donations or in-kind support worth $500 or more received by election candidates for use in their campaigns.
Section 307 requires a council CEO to submit a report to the Local Government Minister stating the names of candidates in the election and the names of candidates who submitted a return under section 306 within 14 days after the period specified in section 306(1).
A council CEO must also ensure that a summary of each election campaign donation return is published on the council’s website.
The transparent disclosure of campaign donation returns by all candidates during the election period is fundamental to maintaining the integrity, of not just the elections but more importantly, the future decision-making and governance of councils.
In 2020, 2,042 candidates handed in a compliant return and 144 were considered non-complaint, a non-compliance rate of 6.6 per cent. This was almost half the non-compliance rate for the 2016 election period.
In 2020, the highest percentages of non-compliance came from four council areas: Wyndham City Council (29 per cent), Moyne Shire Council (17 per cent), Maribyrnong City Council (17 per cent), and Hume City Council (16 per cent). There were four candidates who did not submit a campaign donation return in 2020 or in 2016.
On a positive note, all candidates in 37 council areas submitted campaign donation returns. At Bayside City Council, all 66 candidates submitted returns.