About referendum advertising

This page summarises the referendum advertising rules for the End of Life Choice Act 2019 referendum and the cannabis legalisation and control referendum.

There were spending limits and other rules for referendum advertising published during the 2-month regulated period, which ran from 18 August until 16 October 2020.

Candidates, parties and third party promoters must comply with these rules.

See also: About election advertising

What is referendum advertising?

A ‘referendum advertisement’ is an advertisement that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote in a particular way in either referendum.

What is not referendum advertising?

Referendum advertising doesn’t include:

  • editorial content (for example, news items)
  • official government information campaigns
  • unpaid individuals expressing their personal political views on the internet (for example, tweeting about which option you support)
  • an MP’s contact details.

Every referendum advertisement needs a promoter statement

All referendum advertisements must include a promoter statement. This rule applies at all times, not just during the regulated period.

A promoter statement shows the name and address of the person promoting the advertisement.

We recommend wording promoter statements like this:

Promoted or authorised by [promoter’s name], [promoter’s full street address].

If the promoter is unregistered (won’t spend more than $13,800 on advertising) and is a group or organisation, the promoter statement should also include the name of a person who is authorised to represent it.

Ensure promoter statements are easy to see or hear

Promoter statements must be clearly displayed in referendum advertisements. For audible referendum advertisements, the promoter statement must be as easy to hear as the rest of the advertisement.

Not including a promoter statement is an offence

Not including a promoter statement is an offence which could lead to a fine of up to $40,000.

Spending more than $13,800 means you needed to register

You needed to register with us if you spent, or intended to spend, over $13,800 on advertising for either referendum during the regulated period. This rule applies to individuals, organisations and political parties.

On the registration form, you showed whether you were registering as a promoter for the cannabis referendum, the End of Life Choice referendum, or both.

View the Register of Promoters

Costs that count towards the threshold

Costs that count towards the $13,800 threshold include all publication, design, distribution and paid labour costs for referendum advertising published during the regulated period. Separate limits applied to each referendum. For example, if you only intended to spend $8,000 on one referendum and $8,000 on the other referendum, you didn't need to register.

Record your spending

You should keep good records of spending on referendum advertisements in case you reach the $13,800 threshold.

Spending more than $100,000 means you needed to file an expense return

If you spent more than $100,000 on advertising for a referendum, you must complete and file a return by 17 February 2021.

You must not spend more than $338,000 per referendum

The spending limit for referendum advertisements is $338,000. If you were advertising for both referendums, you could spend up to $338,000 on one referendum and up to $338,000 on the other referendum.

You couldn't split costs for referendum advertisements

Costs for referendum advertisements couldn't be split. If one advertisement covers both referendum topics, count the total towards both limits.

Example: a $1,000 billboard could count as both $1,000 spent on the Cannabis referendum and $1,000 spent on the End of Life Choice referendum. If the billboard was also an election advertisement, it would be counted again as $1,000 towards the election expense limit.

Tell us if someone broke the rules

Contact us if you believe someone broke the referendum advertising rules for promoter statements or the referendum finance rules.

Learn more about making a complaint

Different rules applied once voting started

Different rules applied once voting started, and on election day (17 October 2020).

Read the rules that apply once voting started and on election day

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