PART THREE: ACCOMMODATION AND OFFICE FACILITIES
Each Senator and Member is provided with office accommodation in the electorate, together with equipment and facilities (including for personal staff) necessary to operate the office, as approved by the Special Minister of State, for purposes related to Parliamentary, electorate or official business, but not commercial business.1
- an electorate office
- electorate office furniture and fittings
- electorate office equipment, including such items as photocopiers, computers and telephones
- office supplies and newspapers.
A Senator’s electorate office may be located within the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in the relevant State capital, or elsewhere within the State.
A Member’s electorate office must be located within the Member’s electorate.2
A Member representing an electoral division larger than 25,000km2 is provided with a second smaller electorate office within his or her electorate, at Commonwealth expense.3
A Member representing an electoral division larger than 350,000km2 is provided with a third electorate office (consistent with the size of the second electorate office) within his or her electorate, at Commonwealth expense.
Ministerial and Parliamentary Services is responsible for providing electorate offices and does so in consultation with the Senator or Member.
Electorate offices are typically about 175m2 in area. Where an electorate office is located within a Commonwealth Parliament Office, its area may be smaller, in recognition of the shared facilities afforded within the Commonwealth Parliament Office.
Generally, it is expected that an incoming Senator or Member will occupy the office vacated by his or her predecessor. A Senator or Member wishing to refurbish, extend or relocate his or her electorate office should seek advice from the relevant Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager about the procedures involved.
The relevant Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager arranges the fitout of electorate offices after consultation with Senators and Members.
Office layouts usually include:
- an entrance that provides adequate disability access
- a secure reception counter
- a personal office for the Senator or Member
- an open area for employees – individual offices will be provided on request, if possible
- kitchen facilities
- toilet and washroom facilities
- a multi-function room for meetings, interviews and general work
- a storage room.
Ministerial and Parliamentary Services offers advice and guidance on standards of furniture and fittings, office layout and location for electorate offices with the intention of providing the highest practicable degree of work health and safety based on current knowledge.
The Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Managers arrange:
- office fitout
- flagpole installation (but not maintenance)
- office equipment (other than office information technology equipment)
- locksmith requirements (new keys, lock maintenance and replacement)
- security panels, duress alarms and programming of access systems
- installation of signage
- telephony issues (excluding smartphones, mobile telephones and satellite telephones)
- purchase and repair of whitegoods.
The Department of Parliamentary Services arranges:
- installation, repair and replacement of office information technology equipment, software and network infrastructure
- the purchase, repair and replacement of smartphones, mobile telephones and satellite telephones.
The contracted provider of property services arranges:
- air-conditioning maintenance and repair
- automatic, manual and roller door servicing and repair
- building infrastructure services including climate control, fire and sprinkler systems, lifts, plumbing and lighting
- building maintenance services, including for shared areas such as car parks, stairwells and toilets
- cleaning services, including general office cleaning, window cleaning, graffiti removal and sanitary bins
- communication with landlords, agents, bodies corporate and other tenants
- electrical repairs and maintenance
- fire services and equipment, including extinguishers and smoke detectors
- flagpole maintenance (but not installation)
- gardening and grounds maintenance
- general repairs, including carpet and floor coverings, walls, window furnishings, plumbing, signage, ceiling repairs, carpentry, painting, and other internal maintenance issues
- lighting, including changing bulbs and tubes, and emergency lighting
- pest control
- waste removal, including general waste, recycling and secure waste
- water services, including boiling and cold water unit repairs
- window glazing and other repairs.
The relevant Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager arranges for leasing of one car parking space for the Senator or Member at, or as near as possible to, the electorate office. Car parking spaces are not provided for employees or visitors to the office.
Ministerial and Parliamentary Services arranges security infrastructure for electorate offices funded by the Commonwealth. This includes security measures such as a secure reception counter, deadlocks, window locks, security mesh, duress and intruder alarms and programming of access systems.
Senators, Members and electorate office employees should ensure that the office is left in a secure state when unoccupied. Windows should be closed and secured, blinds closed, lights (other than security lights), fans, air conditioners and other electrical equipment switched off, doors locked and the office intruder alarm set. Office alarm codes should be issued to each individual and not shared or used collectively.
Senators, Members and electorate office employees should ensure that they are familiar with, and use, the provided security infrastructure. This includes using secure reception doors, individual alarm codes and knowing how and when to use the duress alarms. Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Managers can arrange new alarm codes and training in duress alarms if required.
Portable and attractive items (for example, cameras, data projectors, voice recorders, laptops, mobile telephones, tablets, remote access tokens and mobile broadband cards) should be kept in a secure place when not in use. Senators and Members can request Kensington cables for laptops through the Department of Parliamentary Services’ 2020 Service Desk. To prevent laptops being stolen, laptops should be securely attached to an immovable object by the Kensington cable at all times in the office or whenever the laptop is unattended.
Protection of Electorate Office Information
Certain information that is routinely collected and stored in electorate offices should be regarded as confidential or sensitive, and protected accordingly. This includes employee details and any personal information provided by constituents.
To protect information held in electorate offices, it is advisable that the following arrangements be set in place:
- an employee should be present at all times when the office is open
- visitors should be supervised while in the office
- sensitive or classified material should not be discussed using a mobile telephone, left on a voicemail system, or sent using email or SMS
- security features on communications devices, such as passwords and personal identification numbers, should be used where available and should not be shared with other people
- papers, documents, communications devices and data storage devices should be locked away when not in use and at the end of the day
- cabinets, cupboards and major items of office equipment should be secured when the office is unoccupied
- employees must ensure any volunteers working in the office have their own computer user account and password and must not use or share accounts or passwords with other volunteers or employees
- computers should be secured with a password protected screen, or turned off, while unattended
- in keeping with the requirements of the Australian Government Information Security Manual (ISM), all removable media (including external hard drives, USB drives DVDs and CDs) should be registered with a unique identifier in an appropriate register to allow their movements to be tracked.4
When sensitive data is no longer needed, it should be disposed of in accordance with section 6.9.6. Particular care should be taken in distinguishing between ‘official’ and ‘non official’ records (for definitions, see section 6.9.2):
- sensitive official documents (either in paper form or electronic format) should be returned to the Government department, agency or Parliamentary Committee in which they originated or were registered
- sensitive non-official documents should be shredded
- non-official data stored electronically should be securely wiped (encryption of data is not a disposal method)
- once the electronic data has been returned or wiped, the storage devices such as floppy discs, CDs or DVDs, USB flash drives, memory cards and external hard drives should be destroyed.
Hard drives in networked multi-function devices are the responsibility of the Department of Parliamentary Services, who will ensure their destruction.
Loss of or Damage to Personal Property at the Electorate Office
The Commonwealth’s liability for loss or damage does not extend to cover cash, stamps, personal items and equipment, including privately-owned computer equipment, kept in electorate offices or Australian Government vehicles. Senators and Members should ensure their personal insurance arrangements are extended to cover such items.
If an electorate office is broken into, or if any suspicious incident occurs, staff should contact the police immediately and, as soon as practicable, advise the relevant Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager, so that necessary action may be taken to secure the premises. Any injuries or near misses associated with the incident should be reported to Konekt Response immediately during normal office hours, or at the first opportunity if the incident occurs outside these hours. If Konekt Response is unavailable, certain serious (notifiable) incidents must be reported to Comcare on 1300 366 979 immediately. A flowchart is available to assist in determining which incidents need to be reported to Comcare.
Each electorate office should have an internal contingency plan for dealing with emergency or security situations, including keeping an up-to-date list of emergency contact numbers (for example the police, ambulance, mental health teams, interpreter and counselling services). Where a formal Emergency Evacuation Management Plan prepared by a contracted provider of emergency management services is in place for the office, all occupants should familiarise themselves with the plan. All occupants must co-operate with directions given by:
- emergency services personnel
- the Emergency Officer responsible for the office, and/or
- a Warden responsible for the building or section of the building in which the office is located.
The Employee Assistance Program is available to provide individual counselling or group debriefing sessions following a critical incident. Group sessions can be arranged through a Ministerial and Parliamentary Services Advice and Support Director.
Public Liability for Electorate Offices
Electorate offices are leased by the Commonwealth and are covered by Commonwealth insurance. In some circumstances, the Commonwealth may be liable for injuries suffered by members of the public while in electorate offices. If an incident occurs, advice should be sought from the Commonwealth’s insurers. Senators and Members and their employees do, however, have a duty to put in place and observe workplace practices that minimise the risk of injury to members of the public.5 See Part 6 of this handbook for further information on public liability insurance coverage while undertaking or carrying out parliamentary, electorate, official and party business.
Ministerial and Parliamentary Services will arrange and meet the cost of advertising new Senators and Members’ electorate office locations or a change in an existing Senator or Member’s electorate office location.
Advertisement of an electorate office relocation may be placed in all major community newspapers in the Member’s electorate. The publications may include a major provincial newspaper serving the electorate, as well as suburban and rural papers, but not metropolitan (i.e., capital city) daily newspapers.
Senators’ office relocations may be advertised in three suburban or rural newspapers as well as in one metropolitan daily paper and a major provincial paper within the State or Territory that the Senator represents.
The advertisements may only be run once at Commonwealth expense. Advertisements are limited in size to two columns by 12 centimetres.
3.1.8 Display of material, including commercial advertising, campaign or political material inside and outside an electorate office
An electorate office is provided for purposes related to parliamentary, electorate or official business and is typically located in Commonwealth-leased premises. The longstanding view has been that, as with other Commonwealth premises, the exterior walls, windows, fences etc. of an electorate office should not be used for commercial purposes, such as advertising or for the display of campaign or political material. Nor should commercial or political material be displayed inside the electorate office where it is clearly viewable from outside the electorate office.
Although it is accepted that a Senator or Member may use his or her electorate office and facilities in support of his or her re-election, in displaying material inside the electorate office, care should be taken to avoid the perception that an electorate office is being used as a campaign office.
The signage for the electorate office must conform to the terms of the lease and any local government requirements.
Signs may include:
- the name of the Senator or Member
- the name of the State/Territory or Electoral Division
- party affiliation
- the party logo OR the Commonwealth Coat of Arms (it is not appropriate to show the Commonwealth Coat of Arms with the party logo)
- an image of the Senator or Member.6
Generally the Commonwealth does not meet the cost of free-standing and illuminated signs. However, if an existing sign is in place, the cost of its conversion may be met at Commonwealth expense.
Signage for a Senator or Member’s mobile electorate office is provided at Commonwealth expense only for the purpose of identifying or directing constituents to its location. It is expected that Senators and Members will only produce small quantities of signs to achieve this purpose. Signs that are issues-based or campaign signage, cannot be produced under this provision.
Mobile electorate signs may include contact details of a Senator or Member as well as those items available on Electorate Office Signs.
Mobile electorate office signage must stand alone and be easily movable, such as an A-frame or pull-up banner, and does not extend to non-mobile signs, such as fixed billboards or signs that are fixed to or incorporated into other structures (such as a caravan, motor vehicle, marquee or tent). Signs that are designed to be towed cannot be produced under this provision.
Mobile electorate office signage must conform to the terms of any local government requirements regarding placement and construction, and protocols for Australian symbols. Using a party logo and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms together is not permitted.
Senators and Members can make their own arrangement for the production of their mobile signage with the costs met from office requisites and stationery within a Senator or Member’s office budget.
Each Senator and Member is provided with a Post Office Box, and the relevant Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager can arrange this.
A Senator or Member may request the installation of a flagpole outside their electorate office. The relevant Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager will organise the installation. It should be noted that the installation of a flagpole is subject to the lease conditions applicable to the particular premises, and any local government or State legislation concerning such installation.7
Senators and Members who are able to have a flagpole installed outside their electorate office should join the Commonwealth Flag Network by registering at the It's an Honour website. The Commonwealth Flag Network provides guidelines that apply to the Australian National Flag (for example, the times of day when it should be raised and lowered) and supplies e-mail notification of flag protocol for national days of significance.
Of particular importance is the guideline that the Australian National Flag should be raised no earlier than first light and should be lowered no later than dusk. The flag may only be flown at night if illuminated. Where installation of a flagpole is possible at an electorate office, Senators and Members will need to advise their Ministerial and Parliamentary Services State Manager as to whether they intend to raise and lower the flag each day or if they would prefer the flag to be illuminated so it can be flown at night.8 The addition of illumination is also subject to the office leasing conditions and State and local laws.
The choice of a flag for display outside the electorate office should be made having regard to the prevailing weather conditions (for example, high wind areas). Where appropriate, a heavy-duty flag should be ordered.9 Where a displayed flag starts to become tattered, faded or worn-out, a replacement flag should be ordered immediately.10
In addition to the provision of a flagpole, Senators and Members may display an Australian National Flag inside an official office.
Flags should be ordered using the flag order form provided by the contracted supplier of flags. Ministerial and Parliamentary Services will, on request, provide a suitable flagstaff for use inside the office. On receipt of flag orders, the enclosed packing slip is to be endorsed by the office of the Senator or Member and faxed to Ministerial and Parliamentary Services to arrange payment.
A Senator or Member is also provided with flags under the Constituents’ Request Program, for provision to eligible bodies and private individuals (see section 6.8).
A Senator or Member may allow community groups to use electorate office facilities for minor purposes, such as to make local calls or small amounts of photocopying, as minor use falls within the broad parameters of electorate business.
However, in doing so judgment should be exercised as to what constitutes minor use, as excessive use of office facilities by community groups or individuals is an inappropriate use of Commonwealth resources.
Electorate office facilities may only be made available to not-for-profit organisations for non‑fundraising purposes, to satisfy the requirement that the activities do not constitute commercial business.
Senators and Members remain accountable for all use of facilities provided to them at Commonwealth expense and should ensure proper oversight of their use. This includes ensuring:
- the safety and security of office equipment, facilities and documents
- that when people from a community group use office facilities, they are supervised by employees who are familiar with the safe operation of the equipment and are able to provide assistance or instruction if required.
Senators and Members should note that, in addition to their duties to workers, they have duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of any person is not put at risk from work carried out within their workplace.
1 Section 4 of, and item 7, Part 1 of Schedule 1 to, the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.
2 Section 4 of, and item 7, Part 1 of Schedule 1 to, the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.
3 Section 4 of, and item 7, Part 1 of Schedule 1 to, the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.
4 ‘Media Security’ section of the Australian Government Information Security Manual (ISM) Controls 2015.
5 Various provisions of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, including sections 10, 19 and 28.
6 Section 4 of, and item 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to, the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.
7 Section 4 of, and item 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to, the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.
9 Section 4 of, and item 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to, the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990.