The Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 (PBR Act) recognises that you should be provided with and be able to use public resources (including expenses, allowances, goods, services, premises, equipment and facilities) to support your work as a parliamentarian, but that you have obligations to the public in how you use those resources.
Under the PBR Act you may be provided with work expenses, allowances and other public resources as prescribed by the regulations or determined by the Minister or the Remuneration Tribunal.
The work expenses, allowances and public resources that are prescribed by the Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017 (PBR Regulations) are of the same type as those available to you under the old framework:
- travel expenses (s30 PBR Act) – Part 2 of the PBR Regulations divides these into your domestic and international travel, and domestic family reunion travel and other family travel;
- travel allowances (s31 PBR Act) – included under domestic and international travel in Part 2 of the PBR Regulations;
- work expenses and other public resources (s32 PBR Act) – Part 3 of the PBR Regulations includes office expenses, postage costs for official duties, photography, chamber flags and additional office leasing expenses for certain parliamentarians;
- public resources determined by the Minister (s33 PBR Act) – Part 4 of the PBR Regulations includes provision of electorate offices; offices for Ministers and office holders; office resources including furniture and equipment; additional resources during an election campaign; mobile phone services for personal staff and exceptional circumstances determinations; Part 2 of the PBR Regulations includes Commonwealth transport (covering COMCAR and special purpose aircraft; these expenses are covered under s30 of the PBR Act);
- other resources (ss 41 and 42 PBR Act) – s41 of the PBR Act provides for parliamentary injury compensation; and Part 5 of the PBR Regulations provides for insurance cover, and legal assistance in relation to ministerial duties.
Most of the specific conditions for these work expenses, allowances and public resources are set out in the PBR Regulations. However:
- work expenses in the nature of remuneration (such as electorate allowance, private plated vehicle), and rates for domestic travel allowance, continue to be set by the Remuneration Tribunal
- work expenses that are provided on a case by case basis, such as certain types of international travel, the provision of office accommodation and the provision of public resources in exceptional circumstances (e.g. a natural disaster), remain subject to approval consistent with arrangements under the old framework.
The PBR Act sets out your overarching obligations that apply when you seek to claim or use your work expenses, allowances and public resources.
As a result, it has been possible to remove various rules and conditions, including some financial and non-financial caps that applied to work expenses provided under the old framework. Although there are fewer specific rules and conditions you must take care in exercising your judgement as to when and how you use your work expenses, allowances and public resources.
In addition to the new obligations on parliamentarians, the new framework implements several changes to non-travel-related work expenses, including:
- new types of expenses that can be met from the office budget, including costs relating to virtual town hall meetings, interactive voice response phone surveys, short messaging service broadcasting and survey services, and information and communications technology and services in addition to those generally provided by the Department of Parliamentary Services
- streamlining the calculation of office budgets from the 2018-19 financial year
- broadening of the Chamber Flag Program to facilitate access by Senators, and
- a new reimbursement for Members of the House of Representatives with electorates between 5,000km2 and 25,000km2 for lease and service costs to establish and maintain a privately-leased electorate office.