Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Marian Sawer, Emeritus Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University

The Conversation is fact-checking claims made on Q&A, broadcast Mondays on the ABC at 9:35pm. Thank you to everyone who sent us quotes for checking via Twitter using hashtags #FactCheck and #QandA, on Facebook or by email.

Excerpt from Q&A, September 12, 2016. Watch from 1.40.

TONY JONES: Sorry, to be fair, you still haven’t answered the question as to whether you think your party should not take foreign donations.

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Yeah, I probably don’t. We’re one of the few countries in the world that does. – National Party Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie responds to journalist Tony Jones on the ABC’s Q&A program, September 12, 2016.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie told Q&A that Australia was one of the few countries in the world that accepted foreign donations.

Is that true?

Checking the source

When asked for a source to support her assertion, a spokesperson for Bridget McKenzie referred The Conversation to data collected by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which shows that of the 180 countries it listed, 114 ban foreign political donations.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is a Stockholm based intergovernmental body, of which Australia was a founding member. It maintains a political finance database covering political finance laws and regulations in 180 countries.

Is Australia one of the few countries in the world that allows foreign donations?

It is true Australia allows foreign donations but it’s a slight exaggeration to say it is among the few countries in the world to do this.

The chart below, created by the International IDEA database, shows that of the 180 countries they researched, 114 countries ban donations from foreign interests to political parties. 55 do not and data is lacking for 11.

Australia belongs to the one third that do not ban foreign donations.

image Which countries ban donations from foreign interests to political parties? International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance

Oceania, the region that includes Australia, has the lowest proportion of countries that ban foreign donations. Only two countries out of 12 in Oceania (Papua New Guinea and Fiji) ban such donations. New Zealand allows foreign donations but limits them to NZ$1,500.

In contrast, 33 of 37 countries in Asia and 31 of 44 countries in Europe ban foreign political donations.

Democracies most similar to Australia, such as the UK, US and Canada, all ban foreign donations.

Other common restrictions on political donations

The International IDEA data also show that of the 180 countries on which data is collected:

  • 87 countries ban donations to political parties from corporations with government contracts or partial government ownership. (Australia does not).
  • 46 countries ban corporate donations to political parties. (Australia does not).
  • 45 countries ban trade union donations to political parties. (Australia does not).
  • 69 countries cap donations to political parties in relation to an election, regardless of the source. (Australia does not).
  • 54 countries place limits on the amount a political party can spend – including Canada, New Zealand and the UK, which also limit election campaign spending by non-party organisations. In Australia, NSW and the ACT have such spending limits‬, while in South Australia expenditure caps apply to all parties that opt into public funding.
  • 120 countries, including Australia, provide direct public funding for political parties. This can include annual administrative funding, as in European countries, as well as campaign funding.
  • 65 countries, including Australia, provide tax benefits for political parties, candidates or donors.

The High Court has recently decided two important cases about regulation of political donations in Australia. In Unions NSW the Court struck down legislation imposing a blanket ban on political donations from corporations or unions or others not on the electoral roll. In McCloy, the Court upheld caps on political donations and a ban on donations from property developers.


Bridget McKenzie was slightly exaggerating to say that Australia is one of the few countries in the world to accept foreign political donations.

Of the countries for which we have evidence, Australia belongs to the one third that do not ban such donations. – Marian Sawer


This is a sound FactCheck. I have reviewed it and the author presents a fair and accurate view of the data from International IDEA.

There may be constitutional issues in banning foreign political donations in Australia. The High Court has struck down a scheme in NSW that banned donations from corporations, unions and non-citizens. On the other hand, the High Court upheld a NSW scheme that imposed yearly caps on political donations and banned donations from property developers, due to the history of corruption in NSW.

So any ban on political donations has to be carefully circumscribed to be compatible with our constitutional freedom of political communication. – Yee-Fui Ng

Have you ever seen a “fact” worth checking? The Conversation’s FactCheck asks academic experts to test claims and see how true they are. We then ask a second academic to review an anonymous copy of the article. You can request a check at checkit@theconversation.edu.au. Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.

Authors: Marian Sawer, Emeritus Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University

Read more http://theconversation.com/factcheck-qanda-is-australia-one-of-the-few-countries-worldwide-to-accept-foreign-political-donations-65343

Writers Wanted

Why Netflix Increased Prices for Australian Customers


Expanding Victoria's police powers without robust, independent oversight is a dangerous idea


New Zealand companies lag behind others in their reporting on climate change, and that's a risk to their reputation


The Conversation


Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

5 Essential Tools for Working Remotely in 2020

The average, modern office worker spends 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in a company building. Since the start of COVID, however, many of these companies have allowed workers to work from home due...

News Company - avatar News Company

What happens to all those pallets?

Pallets — they're not something everyday people often give much thought to. But they're an integral part of any business which receives or distributes large quantities of goods. But once the goo...

News Company - avatar News Company

Ten tips for landing a freelance transcription job

Transcription jobs are known to be popular in the field of freelancing. They offer fantastic job opportunities to a lot of people, but there are some scammers who wait to cheat the freelancers. ...

News Company - avatar News Company

News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion