5 February 2021

Who spent what on the 2020 ACT election

| Ian Bushnell
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ACT Greens members celebrating on election night 2020.

Value for money: The ACT Greens celebrate the 2020 ACT election result. Photo: ACT Greens.

The two major parties spent about the same as each other on the 2020 ACT election campaign. They spent a little more than a million dollars each, but the Canberra Liberals outspent ACT Labor by more than two to one on advertising, according to Elections ACT.

The body responsible for overseeing the election has released financial disclosure returns showing how much all the parties, non-party candidates and third-party organisations spent and where.

ACT Labor spent $1,052,682 and the Canberra Liberals spent $1,066,876, but the ACT Greens got the best bang for their buck, spending only $124,768 for a return of a record six MLAs and a piece of government.

The next biggest spender was the Belco Party, with $56,798, but it failed to get a candidate up.

More than half of Labor’s spending was on consultants’ and agents’ fees, at $561,483, followed by $303,978 on unauthorised materials such as direct mailing – including printing and postage – business cards, T-shirts and balloons.

The Liberals’ expenditure was more evenly spread with spending on authorised and non-authorised materials at $312,211 and $367,981, respectively, and $85,049 for consultants’ and agents’ fees.

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Both parties spent similar amounts on polling and research – Labor with $99,074 and the Liberals with $115,537, but given the Liberals’ optimism going into election day, it may be considered a poor investment.

On the other hand, the Greens spent nothing reading the tea leaves and were the surprise result of the night.

Radio and television dominated paid political advertising, with very few print or online ads. The Liberals outspent Labor in this regard by $186,067 to $71,565.

These amounts are a big drop from those splurged at the 2o16 ACT election, when Labor spent $232,214 on advertising and the Liberals $408,389.

Labor spent $70,015 on broadcast ads, $1000 on published ads and $550 on theatre ads, while the Liberals poured $125,165 into radio and TV, $27,602 into published ads and $33,330 into theatre ads.

In contrast, the Greens spent only $21,981 on advertising – $17,881 on TV and radio, and $4100 on published ads.

Independent Li Fuxin spent the most of the non-party candidates with $27,953, followed by Woden Valley Community Council president Fiona Carrick with $13,693.

Third-party organisations spent $182,062, with the two biggest amounts coming from unions: the Australian Education Union ($41,890) and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union ($39,893).

Unions ACT spent $15,874, including $13,000 on polling.

Canberra Racing Club spent $16,333, Unions ACT spent $15,874, and the Australian Christian Lobby spent $13,144.

The ANU’s Smartvote Australia online platform, which matches voters to candidates who share their policy positions, was the third biggest spender, at $25,080, on consultants’ and agents’ fees.

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