This page summarises the referendum advertising rules for the End of Life Choice Act 2019 referendum and the cannabis legalisation and control referendum.
There are spending limits and other rules for referendum advertising published during the 2-month regulated period, which runs from 18 August until 16 October 2020.
Candidates, parties and third party promoters must comply with these rules. Our election handbooks explain these rules in detail.
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 $13,600 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 $13,600 means you need to register
You’ll need to register with us if you spend, or intend to spend, over $13,600 on advertising for either referendum during the regulated period. This rule applies to individuals, organisations and political parties.
To register, fill out our application form:
On the form, you show whether you’re registering as a promoter for the cannabis referendum, the End of Life Choice referendum, or both.
Costs that count towards the threshold
Costs that count towards the $13,600 threshold include all publication, design, distribution and paid labour costs for referendum advertising published during the regulated period. Separate limits apply to each referendum. For example, if you only intend to spend $8,000 on one referendum and $8,000 on the other referendum, you don’t need to register.
Record your spending
You should keep good records of spending on referendum advertisements in case you reach the $13,600 threshold.
Spending more than $100,000 means you need to file an expense return
If you spend 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’re advertising for both referendums, you can spend up to $338,000 on one referendum and up to $338,000 on the other referendum.
You can’t split costs for referendum advertisements
Costs for referendum advertisements can’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’s breaking the rules
Contact us if you believe someone is breaking the referendum advertising rules for promoter statements or the referendum finance rules.
Different rules apply once voting starts
Different rules apply once voting starts, and on election day (17 October 2020).